So I'm reading David Morrell's The Successful Novelist, and I love it. He knows his stuff. DEFINITELY worth a look-see, even if you don't read many how-to-write books. He writes about writing practically, kinda in the way Stephen King did.
I was, however, surprised at some of his thoughts on first person.
I agree with most of what he said. I believe it's much easier to write badly in first person than in other POVs, and I agree with most everything he said. I disagree with a couple things, and I think he missed the boat on the whole point of First Person.
First, he says that every first person protagonist needs a reason for spending the months or year to write down their story. The protagonist needs a reason for telling their story, like ... in Morrell's first-person novel, the protagonist is journaling for his counselor or something. (I haven't read it, that's just what Morrell said.)
He gives the example that one writer prefaces his first person novels with a fictional letter from a lawyer, saying that now that the protagonist is dead, he wanted his journals published.
99.9% of the first person novels I've read have not had some such manufactured reason. For me, the above would feel too manufactured.
The boat he missed is the experience of the reader when reading first person. Like I've frustrated before, I don't know the minds of other readers; I can only surmise from my experience.
But the experience of reading first person, for me, is a closer way to experience the story as if I'm the protagonist, almost as if I'm living the story. I'm completely in the mind of the protagonist, and I see, feel, hear the story as if I'm the protagonist.
It's the difference between watching the story and feeling like I'm the one living the adventure.
To me, the closer I can get to taking my readers on a vicarious life experience, the better. Even close third person is a little more distant than first person. We get over it, but it's more distant.
Some readers are vehemently put off by first person. I don't know why. Doesn't matter. If you're writing in first person, you're not writing for that reader, LOL.
Morrell makes a GREAT point about the "I" factor. When writing in first person, I make a game of seeing how long I can write without using the word "I." The "I" can be incredibly annoying.
He also makes a great point about it being easier to slip into "telling" in first person, as opposed to "showing."
But I also disagreed when he said that in a thriller, first person takes the suspense away, because the reader knows the protagonist lived to tell the story, because you're reading it.
I disagree with that statement, mostly because the type of reader I'm writing for expects that all is going to end well. They already know the protagonist is going to live, because those are the standards of the genre. Yeah, sometimes, you can take the happy ending away. At your peril.
Typically, though, it's a given the protagonist is going to survive. So knowing that fact because they're using first person is not, in my opinion, going to make a difference in the level of tension in your story.
Just my thoughts, though. What do you think? Agree, disagree? Thoughts on first person? Do you enjoy reading it?
And how does your experience of reading third person differ from your experience of reading first person?