Thoughts on First Person.

If I did everything I ever wrote about … I would be dead. In an introductory fiction writing class years ago, novelist, professor, and sometime outlaw Chuck Kinder once said that in fiction writing, all your characters are you; but you are not your characters. I believe Richard Dean Anderson crossed that boundary with his character MacGyver, but I digress.

I tend to write in first person. I like first person because it limits the world to the solely experiential. The reader only knows what the character is aware of, and what the character becomes aware of. Simply, for me, first person is so much more believable. There are problems, impasses, and informational gaps inherent in writing in first person. One of which is how to tell a critical part of the storyline wherein the main character is not present. But that only invites creativity. How does the character find out? The answer to this question creates unique possibilities that often tend to drive the story or add drama, action, or intrigue.

For this case example of first person character assassination, I will discuss Charlie, the main character in Perfect Solution, and Dire Requisite. Charlie is a character much like myself in real life, at least in the way her perceives the world around him. My misanthropy and apathy are quintessential facets of his makeup. But I stop there. Readers will wonder, and sometimes ask me (thanks for reading, Mom), “What does Charlie look like? How can we learn more about Charlie?”

But that’s just it! What kind of narcissistic character would describe himself? “I stood looking into the mirror at my wiry, Spider-Man build, dark eyes, winning smile with glistening white teeth and combed my hair, parted to the right, gently.” I mean, really? What kind of story would that make for?  The same would apply for other characters speaking to Charlie about his physical traits. It just wouldn’t sound natural.

So, we know precious little about Charlie’s physical attributes, but I contest that Charlie is far from an empty shell, as the character of Bella has been described in a scathing analysis of the Twilight series books. Although to be perfectly honest, I haven’t read more than a few chapters, so I am not an authority on the subject.

Charlie is every man. The whole purpose we never learn his last name is because it would serve to identify him in some way. Charlie is always sitting on the fence in life, and is always thrust into situations that cause him to make a choice, despite his indifference. All the characters around Charlie are quite dynamic and multi-faceted. Charlie just exists. Orphaned and left with a modest trust fund, he doesn’t work. He drives a modest car (Volkswagen GTI), and when he finds love, it is taken away.

But despite Charlie’s efforts to remain uninvolved, circumstance forces his hand time and again, much like real life … well, mine at least. As a writer, I feel very connected to Charlie, but know that he is nothing like the real me. (Also as a writer, I sometimes wonder if my readership thinks I think I am my main character. To which I say, “I do not suffer MacGyver Syndrome.”)

Charlie has taken me from my debut novel, through my second, and I feel vastly superior novel. He has let me explore the world not as it is, but as it oughtn’t be, and I am very grateful for the experience. I think, however, that the time for Charlie is at its end. New story lines, characters and scenes press in on my mind, and as I create worlds out of the synaptic machinations of my mind, I find that Charlie is not a part of them. This, as a writer, is great! New characters, new challenges to face as an author. Charlie will go away for a while, perhaps forever, perhaps not. But writing in the first person through him has made for a great start.


About waronliteracy

Storyteller, teacher, author of "Perfect Solution" and "Dire Requisite," I stand alone in the aftermath of the war on literacy, looking for other survivors ... we are out there ... somewhere.
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1 Response to Thoughts on First Person.

  1. moses485 says:

    One of the great things about writing in first person is that your reader, by reading in first person, takes on the character and fills in any gaps in description with facts from their own lives.

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