02 May, 2011

An Infinite Loop of Revision...

I have three major academic projects to write and untold stacks of papers to grade, and instead of doing any of that I'm stuck on this infinite loop of revision ideas on this book-length fiction thing I'm working on. I think the internet acronym I want is FML. I have got to get focused, so I'm calling on you for help. Do me a solid and click through?

I originally started writing this thing in third person and decided to switch it over to first. My reasoning at the time was that I wanted more access to the heroine's internal monologue than I felt comfortable with trying in third person.

Since then, I feel like I've gotten a really good read on my characters' voices. So good, in fact, that I've found myself wanting to get into other folks' internal monologues. Which is obviously problematic in first person.

What's the answer? Or at least, what's your answer? It seems like I have at least five options here:

  • Resign myself to having access to only one character's thoughts and feelings and directing my revision of other characters toward showing their likely thoughts and feelings with descriptions, actions, and dialogue. 
  • Do a massive revision switching the whole piece to third person.
  • Try to manage a shifting first person, where various sections are told from various points of view.
  • Throw the whole thing away and start over from scratch.
  • Discover some other option that has yet to occur to me.

I'm asking for two reasons. One, I really want to know what you think. And two, I need to get this out of my head so I can focus on the forty-two bajillion other things I need to be focusing on. Help me out, wouldja?


  1. This is tricky. Committing to one character first person is always a bummer when you deeply feel the other characters--it feels so limiting. But it's how we live our lives, so I think you could probably handle writing that way (even if it's not your ideal).

    Switching to third person might make you feel a little bit free-er, but it seems like it might be too much work.

    I like books that change voices (or even better, style or genres) throughout, but it's sometimes confusing, and it can come off feeling like a gimmick. Plus you'd have to try to figure out what part each character will narrate.

    Or, if your work is comic, you could write in third person with frequent forays into the minds of the characters. Kind of like Douglas Adams did.

  2. "But it's how we live our lives." That right there is a big part of why I went with it in the first place. My heroine is someone who begins the story not saying a lot, but observing everything. So it makes sense for her observations to "speak" louder than her actual speech, if that makes sense. But I have these lingering feelings that the other main character's observations and emotions might be getting lost. She sees his actions and analyzes them herself, but he for various reasons (mostly because they pertain to her personally) can't or won't discuss his feelings and motivations with her - and while he's in all probability having conversations about them with other characters, he's certainly not doing it where she can witness and report on them. I have a scene where she's essentially eavesdropping on the end of a conversation, and I think that does a good job in that one instance, but a heroine who sneaks in the shadows and spies on people is not exactly what I'm going for. So probably not a ploy I can use more than once.

    I'm not 100% convinced that I can manage a kind of roving third person perspective - I've seen it done really well and then I've seen it just fall flat. And I share your worry about coming off as gimmicky if I change voices. Also, either option means (from a perspective of sheer laziness) that I have to work out not only how another three or four people talk, but how they THINK!

    Thanks for giving me some more to think about; you're lovely. I'll keep hacking away at it.

  3. I like option #3. There could be some very fun post-modern stuff that happens with that. Think Toni Morrison's Beloved!

  4. Thanks Erin. I was talking about this last night with husband and I said that I'd like to try that. I'm not sure I won't just ruin it, but the beauty of writing on a computer is, you can just edit a copy and see what happens. :)

  5. OK, but it better be a new car back there. Or an all-expense-paid trip to Aruba. :P

    But I think I will give a shifting first-person POV a shot and see what shakes out.