I’m in the middle of writing a novel in the First Person. I haven’t written in the First Person before because there are limitations. I like descriptive passages and few people go off on long riffs about the colour of the sky and the sumptuous, rolling landscape. The bigger problem is self-awareness.
In my novel Not Always To Plan I had four characters, all members of the same family. Each chapter’s Point of View (POW) was clearly defined and it meant that I could write the same scene from a different perspective, showing how differently things could be interpreted. It demonstrates the mis-communication that is part of the human condition, and the funny, frustrating or tragic consequences. After all, people seldom say what they really mean.
My latest novel is from the POW of one person. It’s a fictionalized memoir of a real person who lived among some of the most interesting people of the twentieth century. But frankly she was not the brightest firework in the box.
And herein lies the problem:
How do you give the detail of all that lively, creative activity when the main character isn’t that aware of it herself?
Without lots of awful dialogue, that is. (“He’s just come back from writing his award-winning novel that will probably win the Nobel Prize for Literature and he’ll go out later for a drink with his very famous artist friends while I get supper ready…”)
I think of Paula McLain’s recent novel, The Paris Wife, a fictionalized memoir by Hadley Richardson, the first wife of Ernest Hemingway. It gives Hadley’s side of their life together which is, of course, famously covered in his fascinating book A Moveable Feast. In McLain’s book, Hadley is a highly articulate and intelligent woman and obviously very self-aware. It’s a very successful and satisfying rendering.
I think I’m on the right track in my novel but I’d be fascinated to hear your thoughts. What’s your experience of writing a First Person novel? Or what are your frustrations when reading one?
Share the pain and the pleasure…