A Book and A Dream: An author’s adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl

She or I: Changing Perspectives

October 14, 2020 Megan O'Russell Season 1 Episode 47
A Book and A Dream: An author’s adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl
She or I: Changing Perspectives
Chapters
A Book and A Dream: An author’s adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl
She or I: Changing Perspectives
Oct 14, 2020 Season 1 Episode 47
Megan O'Russell

When building a book from the ground up, there are a few fundamental decisions that are required to create a strong foundation.

One of those choices is between telling your story from a third-person or first-person perspective. Both have advantages, but which is right for your project?

Show Notes Transcript

When building a book from the ground up, there are a few fundamental decisions that are required to create a strong foundation.

One of those choices is between telling your story from a third-person or first-person perspective. Both have advantages, but which is right for your project?

Megan: [00:00:02] The cat is back, if you hear any weird mic thumping, she's trying to bite the mic. She's biting the mic. This is my life. Yep, that's happening.

 

Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and a Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.

 

Megan: [00:00:27] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell and welcome to Episode forty-seven of A Book and a Dream. She or I: two little words that can make a huge difference. Lately, I have been working on my new dystopian series. I'm really, really excited about it. Theoretically, it will be out in December of 2020. I have learned through the process of 2020 not to promise such things.

 

Megan: [00:00:53] Now, it's a little weird for me to be starting on a whole new series without really knowing exactly where I want it to go. The last series that I started from the beginning was the Ena of Ilbrea series, and because I wrote Guilds of Ilbrea first, I knew exactly where I wanted that series to go. I knew what what Ena's voice was, the whole plot of the story starting out.

 

Megan: [00:01:13] Now, for this new series, I do know where I want it to go, but there are a lot of options open to me because these are characters that I've never used before. So I can really take the time to build the series from the ground up. And one of the ways that I really wanted to build that series...I'm sorry I'm laughing. There's a cat on my microphone. The way that I really wanted to build that series was by figuring out who my protagonist is going to sound like.

 

Megan: [00:01:38] What is her voice? The cat is pushing the microphone around. This is amazing. She just needs love. Now, one of the decisions that I had to make trying to figure out how I wanted my protagonist to appear to my readers is to decide do I want it to be a first person story, or do I want it to be a third person story? And the easiest way to put that is do I want to use I or she?

 

Megan: [00:02:03] Now, there are huge benefits to working in first person and in third person. First person is great because you really get a very deep look at the character. You're in their head, you're seeing everything as they see it. You're feeling exactly what they feel. The drawbacks to working like that is that sometimes you are very limited as to what you can give your audience.

 

Megan: [00:02:26] So, for example, since we're working in a dystopian world, the characters are going to be focused on things like food survival. Are there enemies around the corner? What disaster is coming next? Which is great to have that visceral reality of needing to figure out where your next meal is coming from is an excellent way to engage the reader. But it also limits you a little bit, because in order to set them up so that they can, for lack of a better phrase, stop and smell the roses, they have to be in a comfortable enough position where they have the brain calories to spare to notice roses.

 

Megan: [00:02:59] And they're also from a certain area of this world. There are things that they're not going to have words for. So, for example, if they've never seen a helicopter, they've never heard of a helicopter, then in order to explain that to your audience, you have to use a lot more words than just saying "the big helicopter." You have to say "the flying machine with the rotating blades on top" or something like that. I would do better if I wrote that in a book. I promise, they would be more eloquent. But that's the sort of thing you have to do. So if they don't know what a painted portrait is, if they don't know what a fainting couch is, if they've never seen a pumpkin before, you have to find ways to describe that within that character's vocabulary. And that can be a little bit exhausting for the author. And, if you don't do it well, exhausting for your reader, too.

 

Megan: [00:03:50] Now, third person is great because you can use the word "pumpkin," you can use the word "helicopter," you can use words that the character wouldn't know because you are outside the story.

 

Megan: [00:04:01] Your narrator is coming from outside and looking in from above. So they have a much bigger map. It's not all knowledge that your characters would have. Now, granted, usually it should be something within the character's reference. So unless you're, like, doing an aside scene or a flashback or a dream sequence, it should all be things that are reasonably in the vicinity of your protagonist. Or if you're doing a multiple point of view, third person story, then protagonists. You really shouldn't just, you know, jump off into a weird room unless you're setting it up that way for your reader. You've got to, like, use it somehow. You can't just, like, jump out for no reason.

 

Megan: [00:04:41] But it is possible and you can use different words. You can expand the world. You...it's easier to have more characters if you're doing third person. So it gives you a lot of leeway for an author as to where you want the story to go. I was looking at doing third person for the new dystopian series, and I was looking at doing first person for the new dystopian series because Girl of Glass is in the third person. But I really enjoyed writing Ena in the first person.

 

Megan: [00:05:08] So I actually went in and I wrote the first chapter in third person and I was really happy with the sequence of events. It's engaging, and there's a little bit of mystery, but you kind of get what's going on. So it's enough to snag the reader and draw them on. And all of it relates to the worldbuilding and what's going to happen next. And it was fun, but I didn't know if first person could be better. So I went in and I actually rewrote the entire first chapter from the first person perspective. And I had my lovely husband, who is the most tolerant human in the world, read both versions to see which one he liked better. And we both agreed that, like, well, first person is a little bit more engaging because, you know, you're in it and there's there's more depth and it's a little bit more visceral and there's more fear. But the third person gives you more options.

 

Megan: [00:05:57] And so I didn't really know which to pick. So I went to the good old author standby of checking on Amazon, yep, that's right. Went on Amazon and looked at the top dystopian series to check through them and see how many were written in first person and how many were written in third person. Because if you can't make the decision for yourself, let the market choose for you. And I wasn't too surprised to find that most of the top-seller, well-known dystopian novels are actually written in first person, which makes sense because when there is a lot of death and hopelessness and fear, getting really into the character's head allows your readers to feel those emotions without having to try as hard as they do when it's written in third person.

 

Megan: [00:06:42] So the new dystopian series will, in fact, be in first person. So the third person version of that first chapter is just going to sit on my laptop for posterity's sake. I'm really excited to dive further into this world in the first person, and because I am writing in first person, it creates a lot of interesting decisions for me as sort of the stage manager, set designer, and casting director of the series. The cat is back. If you hear any weird mic thumping, she's trying to bite the mic.

 

Megan: [00:07:14] She's biting the mic. This is my life.

 

Megan: [00:07:18] Yeah, that's happening. Anyway, so if you are interested in how writing a story and creating a narrator is a lot like being a set designer and casting director for a show, make sure you tune in next time, because it's exciting. It's interesting. And we love linking art forms. In the meantime, stay safe. Don't forget to register to vote if you haven't done it. Make sure you vote early and make your plan to vote. And I'll see you next time.