Finding the Words

a blog devoted to the art, craft, and frustration of writing

Ah, sweet muse. July 12, 2007

Filed under: writing — itsy @ 10:29 am

I woke up a couple of nights ago I had an intense dream, and on waking, knew I had to get it down on paper. And I’ve been writing it ever since. Besides the premise and four of the main characters, I know little else about the story, or even the world it’s set in. I’ve never quite felt like this before, not even in the giddy moments of Nanowrimo, but the story is coming so smoothly. I usually write things in piecemeal, as a scene comes to me, and then another, regardless of where they might be in the book. But this one, the first four chapters so far have rolled out for me, even before I know what I’m going to write, I’m typing away.It’s a great feeling.

Mary Renault must have rubbed off on me. I definitely hear both Theseus and Bagoas in my style and the voice for this book. I’ll have to watch it–I don’t want to sound identical to her, much as I admire her.

This is also the first fictional piece I’ve written in the first person, and I heartily recommend it to people who are having trouble, as I did, with story crafting and controlling narrative.

Here’s the thing. First person has an enormous amount of power because it lets you play with the omniscient without letting go of a close POV, because your narrator is your character. The very flaw of first person, is also it’s greatest strength.

So some people say first person is doubly artificial in fiction. First, there’s the fictive past, which, in the lives of the characters, is really the present. Then, because the narrator is telling a story as if it’s happening, but if it’s written in the first person, the narrator already knows what’s happened, and they are telling the story. Which is why I think that some of the most compelling and effective uses of the first person narrative are for books that span a great deal of history.

Again, I’m heavily influenced by Renault here, but take a look at her novels The King Must Die and Persian Boy, Steven Pressfield’s The Virtues of War, John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meanie, and Jaqueline Carey’s Kushiel Series. Each of these is told in the first person, each spans many years, and in each, the author effectively weaves the past together with the character’s “present”. It’s a commentary, so we get the benefit of the character’s having lived through the entire experience. They drop in comments–“Had I known then as I know now I would have…” or something to that effect.

I’m having great fun with it now. It really forces you to think about how to plant information, how to form the story structure.

Anyway, this is a lot less articulate than I wanted, but I’m eager to get back to my work. Maybe I’ll clarify this later.

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