First Person vs. Third Person

Who uses a typewriter?
GIS for “writer” is pretty boring, but that’s hardly a surprise.

Well, first of all, I’ve never liked first person shooters. Bioshock Infinite was a remarkable experience, but more in spite of its mechanics, not because of them. Compare that to Uncharted, which I — oh, that’s not what we’re doing? Well.

The novel I’m working on, The Breakers, is my primary mental focus lately. I have a new opening, which better fits Mira as the lead character, and I’m working my way through what I had written out for the plot and seeing what, if anything, can be transferred over. I don’t want to just take Adam and Mira and swap them, and I don’t want to take a story that was written for Adam and instead have it be for Mira, because both of those are being dishonest to the characters. If I’m going to do this right, and I am, I’m going to start fresh and go scene by scene and figure out how I want to do this.

I’d written down my intended opening line and taken the time to be quite happy with it when I realized how I wrote it. As Adam, the opening line was third-person narrator. As Mira, first-person narrator.

I don’t know why.

I’ve started reading Timothy Zahn’s Quadrail series again. Those are all in first-person, but I only started that yesterday at lunch, and I wrote the initial line for Mira yesterday morning. I’ve been doing the Icewind Dale/Hakuoki LP on Broken Forum, and much of that is in first-person, but I don’t do that to the point where it’s all I write. Also, I am thirty one years old and most certainly a guy, and not seventeen years old and also a girl. So one would think I wouldn’t default to first-person for someone so markedly different from myself.

But I did, and if it happened that easily, then I should let it happen. It’s got its pros and cons, and it’s going to be critical for me to keep them straight.

Pros to First Person Perspective:

  • It lets the writer, and therefore the reader, get more into the mind of the character.
  • It becomes easier to guide the reader’s emotions. You’re not telling the reader that they should feel a certain way, you’re just saying that the protagonist feels a certain way.
  • It lets the writer play with keeping information from the reader that could otherwise be apparent with a third-person omniscient narrator. (Think of Watson in the Sherlock Holmes stories, a smart fellow in his own right, but with little chance of keeping up with Holmes himself. A third-person narrator might show more of what Holmes is doing, thus limiting the impact of the reveal at the end.)

Cons to First Person Perspective

  • The writer’s perspective is limited. You can’t show anything that the viewpoint character doesn’t see. That includes the villain scheming in his ivory tower, the window opening silently downstairs, or the bad guy sneaking up behind her in the night.
  • The writer’s method of storytelling is limited. You can’t show anything that the character doesn’t see, but you also can’t tell a story in a way that the character wouldn’t tell it. If your viewpoint character is a simple and straightforward type, you can’t start using flowery language to describe things. If your viewpoint character is a talented musician, you need to take that into account in how he or she views the world around them.
  • The main character needs to be likable. If the reader is going to spend a few hundred pages inside someone’s head, it needs to be someone the reader doesn’t want to strangle by the second chapter.

Mira’s character isn’t one that’s alien to me; she’s resourceful, witty, idealistic, overly optimistic, and very comfortable around people. She’s perfect for a dialogue-heavy story, which tends to be the types of stories I write. But she’s different from my other characters in a few ways; I haven’t written an adept musician before, I haven’t written a young character without some level of baggage in quite some time, and to address the elephant in the room, I haven’t written a female lead before. But I’m looking forward to meeting those challenges, and it looks like I’ll be doing so and getting as far into her head as I can.

So I should probably get back to it and stop writing this blog, then.


Monday Morning Roundup

Another week bears down on me, a week of preparation here at work for next Monday’s insanity. How did I spend my weekend?

Vienna Teng is doing a series of concerts on StageIt, and I caught the Dreaming Through The Noise concert on Saturday evening. Once a month, she plays half an hour’s worth of songs from one of her albums, in new solo piano arrangements. I cringe when I look at that sentence, though, because that sounds like I’m selling them short. It would be more accurate to say she’s performing new solo piano and bizarre technological device arrangements of her classic songs. I read a Sting interview where he talked about the challenge of playing the same songs night in and night out without starting to hate them, and that that’s the reason why we have so many different versions of Roxanne. Vienna’s performance showed a lot of that same creativity; “1 br/1 ba” found new life as a multi-tracked piano-percussion piece, with Vienna recording and mixing herself making no end of hilarious noises live, and “Whatever You Want” became an energetic beatbox revenge fantasy with some real fire behind the chorus. She also played “Recessional,” the first song that really broke my heart, so that was worth the price of admission by itself. She’s got three more performances over the next three months, with the incredible Inland Territory up next, then Covers and Rarities to close it out. She will play her solo piano version of Fields of Gold in one of those and I will sit, entranced, and it will be wonderful.

Magna Carta 2 did not hold up for very long. There’s a set of voice actors that show up in most every game that I play; Nolan North, Troy Baker, Johnny Yong Bosch, Yuri Lowenthal, Steve Blum, Nolan North, Jamieson Price, Michelle Ruff, Nolan North, Steve Blum, Nolan North, Steve Blum, and Nolan North. Bosch, Ruff, Lowenthal, and Price feature heavily in Magna Carta 2, and to be honest — and it pains me to say this — they’re all pretty flat. But I don’t blame that at all on the actors, I blame that on the direction. I play and adore the Dynasty Warriors games, and one of my favorite characters is Sun Shang Xiang, the tomboy princess with the wind and fire wheels. This is despite her voice; she was shrill and unpleasant from Dynasty Warriors 3-5. I just liked the character design. Then I played Warriors Orochi, which had a different voice director for the localization, and he or she let the actors loose, and SSX suddenly became a fiery tomboy with real energy behind her voice as she yelled at Sun Ce about their forced servitude. “Do you think I LIKE fighting in this army? I don’t! But I know better than you that I can’t just turn my back on my family and my responsibilities!” Since then, the DW games have been of a much higher quality for the acting, and I’ve heard Michelle Ruff give incredible performances in Persona 3, Tales of Vesperia, and others. Magna Carta 2, on the other hand, is much closer to the other Michelle Ruff, the flat and uninspired one. Much of that is the material, too; this did not even approach Vesperia’s quality.

They also shouldn’t have named a character after male enhancement drugs. Schuenzeit? Shoe-Enzyte? Really? Really?

Last week in this spot I said that Titan Quest let me “hit a centaur with a club so hard he went sailing at least fifty feet in the air, landing after I killed two other guys.” I found a mod that drastically increases this. I can now spin in a circle, maces swinging, bones from the undead rocketing through the tombs and bouncing off of everything in sight. It is, to be technical, pretty great. Thirteen hours in and I’ve just landed in Egypt — time to go shoot the sphinx in the face over and over again.

I played an entire season of Madden NFL 12 in a weekend. I don’t want to talk about it.

Popular Anarchy And A Lack Of Excuses

I finished the outline for PA’s rewrite, which means I am officially out of excuses for not writing it. I’m trying to think of some; I’ve been helping train a new employee here at work, I have a pretty crucial run of sessions in Final Fantasy Omega that require a lot of work and investment, I’ve started playing tennis again to get back in shape, I’m reading more books lately, I’m playing in a Dominions 3 game with wargame expert and Dominions 3 manual writer Bruce Geryk (and he hasn’t killed me or called me a communist yet, so I think I’m doing well), I’m writing a Hakuoki game diary for Broken Forum still, and I’ve been following the NFL pretty close as free agency is going to be underway in about ten minutes and my favorite team, the Redskins, traded all of the draft picks in the eastern seaboard for Robert Griffin III.

I’ve written a book before. This is rewriting Popular Anarchy for the second draft, which comes with some pretty major changes, but the fact remains that I have done this before. I wrote a book, complete, from start to finish. It’s not like I can’t do this. I know I can do this. I’ve done this. But it’s still surprisingly hard to get started again.

But there’s nothing else for it. I have to get working on it or it’s not going to get down. No one’s going to write this for me, and no amount of hand-wringing is going to do this. Starting tonight, I write.

Right after I finish The Last Story.