Sunday, May 02, 2004

On writing

I was going to write up a post on self-editing and my great big epiphany last week that was mostly jemima's fault, but that I have yet to share with her or any of you. However, given the lateness of the hour and the relatively fluffiness of my brain that ensues as the clock approaches bedtime, I will instead discuss death and POV. There are two things I bet you never expected in the same sentence, huh?

Today I read an X-Files story where there was a lot of dying. When I say a lot of dying, I mean a lot. My issues with all of the dying and angst will probably fill another blog entry, but I mostly took issue with the perspective of one of the parts of the story. This was another one of those pieces where the POV changes from part to part; first it's Mulder's 3rd person narration, followed by Scully, then Skinner, and whoa, now we have Mulder's first person narration in the form of a journal, and so on so forth.

My issue is with first person narrative. There are some very good reasons to use first person. For instance, you can get inside of the head of the main character, look at things from his/her perspective, describe feelings and settings from one consistent POV. Some people think first person POV is relatively easier than the others to write because iit is possible to write the character from within rather than without. I don't have a firm opinion on what POV people should use in their stories -- whatever works best for the story you're telling and for the character who is telling that story, that's what I would recommend.

The only exception is if there is character death and the character dying is the first person narrator. If the character is telling the story from a retrospective, then okay, that'll probably work. But having the first person POV actively telling of the death of the narrator? That doesn't work so well. First of all, if the narrator is in the act of dying, who is telling the story? How in the very short time preceeding realization of death does the narrator manage to squeeze out all of his/hir story and then still have time and clarity of mind to talk about it while dying?

As with most things writing-wise, this is my personal opinion and I honestly don't think there's a wrong way or a right way to write anything, but some ways make more sense than others. If your main character is going to die at the end of the story, I would suggest a third person narrator or a telling "in retrospect."

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