I found a very lovely article by Nathan Long on point of view. Nathan is a fantasy author mostly known for his Gotrek and Felix novels and The Blackhearts Trilogy, both of which are set in the Warhammer Fantasy universe.
From the article:
Some of my favorite writers have worked best when they worked in first person – George MacDonald Fraser with Flashman, P. G. Wodehouse with Bertie Wooster, Kazuo Ishiguro with Stevens in The Remains of the Day, Emma Bull with Orient in her novel, Finder, and I have always found it a very comfortable to write that way myself.
So, how do you write first person well? I’ll give it to you in one word – voice.
Writing in first person is a very natural way of writing for me. It allows you to sit in the driver’s seat and actively participate in the story. When I write in third person I feel more like an observer recording the events, which is classic storytelling, but I seem to enjoy it slightly less. Maybe “enjoy” is the wrong word to use here. Writing in first person allows me to fantasize and emotionally experience what my protagonist is going through and I think that freshness translates to my writing.
And because I write in first person I don’t outline. I just write. Yes, I am a pantser. It’s more exciting for me. I write on a whim and I go where the story takes me. I normally have an idea and writing is me exploring that idea and evolving it naturally. With The Morrigan, for example, I knew from the start how I wanted the story to end. So everything happening in the story, as I wrote it, had to twist back to meet that idea.
I’m currently writing a 12,000 word piece, tentatively titled The Last Devil, for a science fiction anthology coming out later this year. Given the nature of the collaboration I had to submit a detailed plot outline, which I did, and it was my first time creating a story in its entirety before actually writing it. The process was a mix of frustration and fun, but also pleasant discovery. Frustrating because days would pass where I toyed with concepts and ideas, trying to wrestle them into something of a plot, unable to commit anything to paper. Once these ideas and concepts clicked the actual process felt like writing a short story where you tell instead of show.
Writing from an outline is proving an interesting experience. I find it more challenging to weave in the emotional highlights, mostly because I already know where certain things will happen, and that makes it less easy to record the emotions in a true way. Doing research, on the other hand, is far more refined and focussed and you plan scenes more completely. I’m discovering scene-by-scene that there are still surprises to be had writing this way. Previously thought-out scenarios take on a sudden surge in direction or become more colorful as new hues are added. This is quite wonderful.
When the story develops as you write it you don’t know what is going to happen or when, and when something does happen, that excitement or fear or terror is reflected in your writing because you’re just as surprised as the protagonist, and that is rather addictive. You get excited with writing a scene where you feel it raw and you want to convey that rawness to the reader.
Whether you write in first person or third, I think certain stories are better served using the first, while others, especially where you have a large ensemble cast, requires third person. When I began writing The Spirit Bow (My humble attempt at heroic fantasy) I did it in third person, without deciding to. It seemed to fit the story better. I wanted to keep my distance as a way of sustaining mystery and exoticism of the world and people. This is just my opinion, of course. I think my reading habits tend to overlap with my writing habits.
Anyway, I could probably keep on writing about this. Not because I know so much, but because I know so little. Writing is a wonderful way of taking your thoughts and just throwing it out there where you can order it until it makes sense…
And there I go again.