I have decided to write a new project, which I am going to be doing far differently than my previous novels. For a number of reasons I want to push outside of my comfort zone and try something new.
One way in which this will be different is that I am writing it in the third person. Already, though, I have run into a snag, which is something that I have never seen anyone discuss before. So maybe it’s just me.
I don’t know who this Third Person is.
It sounds funny when I say it like that, but it’s a real problem for me. I’ll try to explain. When I write, I am acutely aware of the narrator’s perceptions of reality. Who we are determines what we see.
Suppose that I am writing a scene of a person walking down a city street. How I describe that scene is going to depend entirely on who is seeing it. A native of the city isn’t going to notice the same things as a stranger. Someone in the construction trade is going to see the buildings differently, an automotive mechanic is going to see the cars differently, a fashion designer will see the people’s clothes differently. All of these things show up in how the scene is written.
Suppose the character comes to a stop outside a particular shop. Is it:
That old junk store on 5th that had to be a front for something.
An ugly building that seemed to held up by the dirt caked on the front windows.
Beside a cab idling uneasily by a fire hydrant.
In the shade of a tattered awning that advertised whatever it was that used to be here.
These are all valid descriptions of a rather rundown section of city, but they all tell paint a different picture of who it is that is describing the scene. Deciding which details to include and which to ignore is a big part of how I give the reader a feel for my narrator. I don’t have him say, “I am a loner who can’t relate well to other people”, I show it by describing the cracks of the sidewalk in detail while only describing the people walking by in vague terms. I want my reader to get to know my narrator by seeing the world through his eyes.
Writing in the third person doesn’t give me the same access to a character’s perceptions. Granted, most (maybe all) of this book will be from the Point Of View of a particular character, but using “she” instead of “I” means that someone other than the character is describing the action.
I don’t have a good handle on who that someone is. And that keeps tripping me up.
Does that make any sense at all to anyone?
I don’t usually ask for comments, but in this case I would really like some feedback on this issue, so please, any thoughts that you have would be greatly appreciated.