Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Storm Front

Storm Front by Jim Butcher continues to be an interesting and basically good book. It is, however, displaying some of the problems I have with first person narration. It is written in a casual style which might work fine for Garrison Keillior but makes it a little difficult to get into a supernatural thriller. The problem comes from what us third person practitioners call authorial interference. This takes place when the author speaks directly to the reader in one way or another. First person almost demands this constantly. The major problem with this is that if the protagonist is telling me about the battle he had with a demon, then he must have survived the battle and therefore there is no suspense about the outcome. In my opinion, this is the biggest drawback to first person narration.

Anyhow, I'm picking up my copy of The Blood Knight from B&N today so I'll likely put Butcher's work down for a while.

3 comments:

Dawn said...

I would love to write in first person but I have a nasty feeling that it would always come out sounding like me. Somehow, third person gives me the ability to separate myself from the character.

Seren said...

First person almost demands this constantly. The major problem with this is that if the protagonist is telling me about the battle he had with a demon, then he must have survived the battle and therefore there is no suspense about the outcome.

Au contraire, mon ami. A clever author might have killed him off and have his ghost/spirit doing the narration. Equally, if you are using third person it's hardly likely that you'd kill off your hero, if that's what this character is, when he fights the demon.

First person narration can be interesting because the narrator might be blind to a situation developing right under his/her nose, or have misinterpreted/misunderstood something significant which leads to interesting consequences later on. Also it can be more intensely personal than 3rd person. I can't imagine that e.g. 'Jane Eyre' would have been anything like as good in 3rd person.

OTOH, e.g. 'The Briar King' and sequels would not work in 1st person because there's too great a scope of narrative involving many characters.

I think that the kind of narrative you choose to present depends a great deal on whether you want a character driven plot with a narrow focus (as in 1st person narrative to a large extent) or whether you want events to drive the characters (as is the tendency in 3rd person narratives).

IMHO there's a time and place for both. I don't favour the one above the other. I think that as a writer you should challenge yourself to try and write in as many different ways as possible. Granted we all have a default mode, but trying out different styles expands your range of skills and experiences. What's that old saying - 'Variety is the spice of life'. Very true. SR, I challenge you to do a story in first person!

Scriptorius Rex said...

I've actually started a couple of stories in first person but I keep wanting to expand the POV so I can never stay with it. The other problem is that some descriptions of actions get clunky if they are in first person. Talking about yourself can get a touch egotistical as well.