Writing in the First Person
I recently read a post by a Twitter user who bemoaned the fact that it was hard work to change the narration of her novel from first person to third person. Hard work? It must have been pure hell. Imagine the agony of laboriously amending thousands of personal pronouns and verb endings.
She didn’t say why she had made this huge decision. Maybe she had been advised to use the third person by an editor or a well-meaning friend. If so, I wonder why. I know there is sometimes debate in literary circles about whether novel X should have been written in the first or third person but it’s a debate that goes over my head.
I’ve written my first novel, The Girl with the Haunting Smile, in the first person because, frankly, it didn’t occur to me to do anything else. My main character, Greg, has a problem which affects how others view him and how he relates to them. My aim in using the first person is to portray this poignant situation through Greg’s eyes so that the reader can empathise with him more directly.
In my second (nearly completed) novel, Spring Chicken, I’ve employed the same technique. It’s about an over-70 guy who, on his wife’s death, is urged to put his feet up until the grim reaper calls. He refuses, injects new buzz into his life (including a search for a second wife) and sets out to enrol the stagnating older folk in his community in his get-a-life campaign. I would like readers to feel close to this guy and to understand what makes him tick, so a first person narration seems a no-brainer to me.
Is I versus he/she ever an issue for you?