I apologize that I've continued to be so sporadic the past couple of weeks. The upside to having a straight job is paying bills, taking care of family, things like that. The downside, especially when it's a management position, is that sometimes it eats up too much of your time and energy. That said, I think it's starting to calm down a bit again, so here's the much-promised post about my thoughts on the transition of Real Stakes to first person.
To bring everyone up to speed, Real Stakes is a novel of psychological suspense. Stylistically, it is a psycholgically and philosophically driven thriller, more in the horror side of the genre than in the literary side. While there are dark happenings, the tension of the story lies more in the characters' internal response to those events than in the events themselves.
In its original conception, Real Stakes was about two high stakes gamblers and the investigator who pursues them. It was told in an intimate third person, most POV's over the the shoulder of those three characters but occasionally over another tangential but important player in their drama. The main scenes focused on Smith (Gambler #1), Jones (Gambler #2), and The Detangler (the investigator, known only by codename).
When I decided to try converting the story to first person, I had about 16K words in and was a brief way into the third chapter.
The change was intense.
I chose Smith as my first person narrator, and so the passages focusing on him were largely a matter of shifting perspective and tweaking voice, but my intimate third person is only a hair's breadth from first person anyway, so it wasn't too terribly difficult. The bigger challenge was what to to with the major passages that were from the POV of characters who were not near Smith. While I could have simply cut those passage (and I did this in one case), there were not only major story elements in those sections, but also some important ingedients of the drama and suspense.
As I worked to find other ways to bring my new first person narrator in contact with those events from afar, at first I was afraid of making it "newspapery." Instead, what I found was that I could have Smith feel the shockwaves of events that were remote to him, and that this was, in fact, more intimate and impactful.
In the end this has meant that, despite the challenges involved in bringing events happening literally hundreds of miles from my main character into the new first person POV, the writing is better.
A few take-aways that may be worth your considersation. I would never suggest that this experiences means everyone should write first person. That's absurd. But the reasons that the writing is better can translate over into your experience. The writing is better because...
- It's in a more natural voice for me to write the genre I'm writing in, so I'm more comfortable with it.
- A lot of the context is now shown by its effect, rather than explicated through simple narrative passages.
- The character has been forced to have a more intimate and more impactful relationship to story elements that essentailly used to just happen elsewhere.