A large duck (burger_eater) wrote,
A large duck

This is becoming more like a real blog every day

I keep treating this space like a blog, so I might as well admit that's what it is.

A couple months back, I attended Writer's Weekend and had a chance to meet a some cool writers.

I made it a point to attend only panels about craft, because I need all the help I can get, and avoided the "business" panels. The only exception was Jim Butcher's "Longshot" panel, in which he talks about the trials and rewards of writing and basically gives a big pep talk.

During the talk, he mentioned that he wrote nine novels that he couldn't sell, and that he had a writing teacher giving him advice he wouldn't take because he didn't think it was artistic enough. He finally broke down and promised to write a book that followed the guidelines. That book was Storm Front, his first sale.

Naturally, I wanted to hear all about that teacher's advice, but Mr. Butcher didn't go into it. After the talk, someone else asked him what the advice was, and he said something like: "You know, exaggeration and exotic position, stuff like that."

Shortly after, he was wrapping the discussion up.

Well, I was a little disappointed. I wanted to know what guidelines he was given so I could compare it to my own methods. There's always something new to learn.

This week I discovered that he has an lj, jimbutcher where he posts the advice his teacher gave him. There are only five entries or so, and he seems to do one every six months or so. But I thought it was funny that I could want a thing and then find it so readily, just by learning about lj friends.

Anyway, I think his advice is pretty good, but there's one place where I disagree with him. He believes that a story in first person creates plot difficulties (the POV character has to be present at the major story events) but as a reward it gives a reader a closer bond to the POV character than third does.

I personally find the opposite to be true. I find that reading a third person story lets me get further immersed into a character's psychology and is a much easier way to build empathy than with first.

In third person, we are (to quote Clive Barker in his intro the one of the Marshall Law graphic novels) the "hero's invisible buddy." We follow him on his adventures and see into his head without his knowledge. The reader's experience of him is unfiltered, as if we were his secret angel companion.

In first person, everything the reader experiences is filtered through the POV character. Instead of being an invisible angel, we're sitting across from them at a coffee table, listening to the story. The POV character has acknowledged us and is telling us what they want us to hear.

You can pass on the same information with first person that you can with third limited, but I think the reader gets a deeper experience with third. The attention a first person narrator gives you pushes you away.

Sometimes, however, the standoffishness of first person works, especially if the POV character is especially competent the way some old-style private eyes were. A little distance increases mystique. It also provides a ready format for a character with special knowledge to pass it to the reader.

As for second, I know that some people think the "you" refers to the reader, as though reading "You drink a glass of milk," requires them to go into the kitchen and open the fridge or something.

For me, I'm, again, an invisible buddy when I read second person, but it always seems to me that the narrator is talking to their own alienated self.

I like second person. I think it's a good device, especially for a story that's all about self-examination. "Six years after you married her, you can't remember why you thought this woman would make a good match." And so on.

Okay. It's late and I'm tired. I need to start sleeping more.
Tags: words

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