Swirling the wine in my glass, I take a deep breath. The crisp air fills my lungs and in the distance, the sweet melody of a love song fills the cloudy night. If I listen hard enough, I can hear the dead sing.
– Igraine Althwaite from What Must Be Done
When I sat down to write What Must Be Done, I had a burst of ideas early one morning which ended up on a pile of pink Post-its. By the time the onslaught of ideas simmered, I had nearly the entire story written on these little pieces of paper. The character and her plight was clear, the overall Regency/historic British/Irish feeling merged with fantasy was obvious, and the darkness driving it was expected.
Little did I know it wanted to be written in first person. And not only that, but first person PRESENT.
O … kay.
Don’t get me wrong: that’s okay (small letters). I prescribe to the camp that believes the story tells the writer how it wants to be and we’re supposed to use our skill and tools to craft it into a piece of art. So if the story wants to be told in first person present, I’ll go with it.
I just find it really funny because the last time I wrote a story in first person, it was about 15 years ago. 15. I wrote a couple of them, actually, also short stories. At the time, I was a high school student eager to strengthen my writing skills (yes, I was that annoying girl who hung onto every word in class, took every English course available, and read big
bricks books like they were novellas). I wasn’t trying for them to be that way. They just happened. I think it’s around the same time that I established third person omniscient is my default, or “favourite”, if you will. So not only does it remind me of how long ago that was and make me feel older than I am, it’s a huge surprise.
Even more funny? All of the YA books I’ve wanted to read lately are written in first person and it’s been driving me nuts. I’ve been yearning for these action-packed stories to be in third person. So what does my brain do? Write first person.
Although it ha been an interesting exercise, mostly because there has been NO resistance. None. I just sat down and everything came up first person present (minus a few words here and there). In fact, it has come even more easily than some of the scenes I’ve written for stories in third person.
Huh. Guess it just goes to show you never know. That, and as authors, we need to be open to the unusual. We need to be willing to entertain what is not our norm, especially if that’s what the story (and/or the characters) demands.
Incidentally, it made sense after I started writing a couple scenes. The first person narrative better allows for the fact that Igraine is telepathic: we can be in her head AND someone else’s all at the same time without getting lost in a sea of he thought/she thought italics and tags.
Putting the surprise of the narrative aside, I’m reading over WMBD and enjoying it. It’s creepy but not creepy like J.G. Ballard’s Crash … I’m not even going there … couldn’t get past page 10. Or was it page 5??
I’m also happy to say it weighs in at 8,201 words – well enough under the 10k maximum the submission call wants. I finished the editing side of things about an hour ago. Now it’s time to reformat and send it onwards. I wanted to get it out before Monday morning. Looks like that’s going to happen.
Meeting deadlines FTW.