Friday, August 6, 2010

My name is Katie. And I suck at first person POV.

As many of you know, I started my current wip last week and so far the writing is going…okay.   

I’m at almost 9k. (never used to look at word count so closely before I noticed how much other bloggers talk about it)  So I guess that averages around 1.5-2k a day. 
In all honesty, I usually go by ‘scenes’ in my outline.  Either I finish a scene in one sitting.  Or I don’t.  Or sometimes the scene splits off into another mini scene.
In any case, all of that is going smoothly.   The only thing that’s really bugging me is the first person point of view.  And present tense

The problem is that I’ve never tried either.

So this is really a kind of experiment for me as well as just another aspect of writing I’d like to familiarize myself with.

However, it’s really daunting to be giving a play by play of someone else’s consciousness.  Especially when it’s a teenage boy who’s kind of in a dark place despite a good sense of humor and a respect for justice.

One of the things I loved about the third person is that I could concentrate on the storytelling and have the reader learn about the characters through action and dialogue with some insight into their psyche from time to time.

The story being told from my MC’s point of view is SO different from what I’m used to, it almost feels creepy.  Like I’m in someone else’s skin.

Not to mention, I have in no way mastered the fluidity of ‘I’, ‘Me’ and ‘My’.  I feel like each time they’re used, there’s a big fat fluorescent light around them.   
Anyways, I’d like to know if any of you have a favorite book written in present tense first person pov that you could recommend? 

Or if you first person pov veterans have any tips on making it flow better for this debutante?  

Thanks to everyone who commented on ‘I feel like a sperm’.  I don’t think there’s anything more I can add on the subject. lol. The analogy just came to me out of left field Wednesday morning and fit my mood perfectly :)

 I’m starting to feel a little better about the rejection and I might even take two hours tonight and query a few agents:)

Have a great weekend everyone!



April Plummer said...

You know, I never used to write in first person. Ever. I don't know why. I just couldn't do it. But I've read some incredible books in first person, books with such unique voices and characters, and one day, when I sat down to start a bright, shiny, new WIP...she came out in first person.

And it wasn't that bad! Your blog is great, so I bet your 1st person is pretty damn great too!

Matthew MacNish said...

Well I've got no problem writing in first person, but I can't do present tense. It just feels wrong to me for some reason.

Not that you shouldn't though, I'm fine with reading it. Don't quite know why that is.

Unknown said...

I'm like you and have always preferred writing in third person. I'm reading Kathy Reichs's book Devil Bones, which is a fantastic example of how to handle first person POV. It's written in past tense, but if you click on this link, you can read the first couple pages to really get a sense of what I'm talking about. Also, you'll see why I think her first chapter rocks in terms of introducing the POV (and the POV's voice).

Hope it helps! Best of luck with the new WIP!!

Justin W. Parente said...

I can see this being a huge undertaking after having written 3rd PoV for however long. I think I would have the same issue, but I learned something interesting from a professor in my last term about 1st PoV. She said: "You need to really just change your track. Pull that switch and forget everything you knew (or thought you knew) about writing 3rd PoV and start fresh as if you've never written before. It may sound silly, but this is how most breakthrough writers start. They'll complain that they don't think they can constantly use pronoun reference for their character the entire time. It steals personality and limelight, and all of what you've been building your sketch into. That's not at all the case."

I only know this quote because I wrote it down and kept it, and look, a use came out of it.

My take on that quote: I believe it and I do think this method could work. You'll find yourself itching to write in your MC's name in the scene. But your pronoun replacement's are just as strong. You have to create your own unique way to tell how this character, who we're living through essentially, is doing his/her duty to society. My prime example would be Jim Butcher's Dresden. He's quirky, intelligent, powerful and snide, and at no point do I feel like I am NOT Dresden. It'll take real, hard time to figure out the right way, but experiment. You'll get it.

Jamie Grey said...

I love first person when it's done well. My natural writing style *is* first person. That being said, it can be really hard to pull off - you have to make sure to stay in your character's voice the whole time. The author can come through too often in a lot of 1st Person books.

I LOVE the Hunger Games as an example of 1st Person Present. A lot of YA books are moving towards first as well. I think I love the fact that it is such a close POV that you really feel like you know the character.

I can't write present tense tho - just doesn't work for me. Good luck with your story!!!

Avo said...

What would happen if you tried pretending to be an actress playing the character as you wrote?
You could go with the method writing approach. become the character and experience it from her perspective as you write it.

But that reminds me of an anecdote: Laurence Olivier and a very young Dustin Hoffman where shooting a movie together. And Hoffman, who at the time was a firm believer in method acting, kept asking the director between takes "What's my motivation? I need to understand why I'm doing this so that I can become my character." And after a while Laurence Olivier looks down at him with a smirk and says "My dear boy, why don't you try acting?"

Have a great week end and gambatte on your work in progress! : j

Sugar said...

I can't think of any books to recommend. Sorry.
I am currently struggling with the same thing. I so brilliantly decided to do the same thing, first person, present tense. It is frekin hard!
We will get through it though girlfriend! We will! And our books will be awesome!!!

Have a great day!

Anne Gallagher said...

I'm sorry I don't have any advice. I tried 1st person last year and although it came out okay, I found I just couldn't remain consistently enough in it. I kept straying.

Just wanted to say good luck. Just keep swimming.

Old Kitty said...

9K is brilliant!!! Keep going!!

As for first person POV - I think just write in the most comfortable person first then on re-draft change third to first. Does that make sense? I only say that because I tended to find writing in first person easier than in third so my tutor said to write in first pov then change to third on re-draft. Same goes for present/past tense-ing. I found that quite helpful - labourious but it made me concentrate really hard!

I hope you find some sound advice - sorry mine's abit scrappy! :-)

Take care

Summer Frey said...

I feel pretty comfortable in both first and third; my current MS is in first.

I like present tense, and unlike some people "say", I don't think you have to account for every second of the character's day. It lends a deeper POV, I think.

I just read "The Adoration of Jenna Fox," which is in both first person and present tense, and I didn't notice the present tense until more than halfway through. If it's done well, then it just fits the narrative.

Laura Pauling said...

Good luck. I enjoy writing in first person. I like the intimacy. I guess, just becareful you don't fall into the trap of telling or the mc explaining too much. But it offers your the opportunity for your character's personality to shine through. Let her or him take over. you can do it!

Is Before i Fall first person/present? Can't remember.

Candyland said...

I always do 1st person, but present tense trips me up. You'll get it:)

Jaydee Morgan said...

I'm also currently writing my first manuscript in first person (though past tense). I'm normally a third-person writer so I understand a little of what you're going through.

Recently, I read Beautiful by Amy Reed (YA) which is written in first person present tense. I have to say, as a reader, at first I was thrown by the first person present style but the author made it work.

Dawn Ius said...

Great start! I love well-done first person present tense. I've never tried it myself, though I have written first person before... I loved Hunger Games which might be a great book for you to read. Keep plugging, sunshine.

Stina said...

My current wip is in first person past tense, but due to some issues with the reader's ability to connect with my mc (there was a reason I did this originally--major fail), Ellen Hopkins suggested I rewrite it in present tense. Actually her words were, "I want you to rewrite this in present tense."

I've been playing around with the first chapter (which needed to be rewritten for other reasons), and love using the present tense. I recommend the book THE POWER OF POINT OF VIEW: MAKE YOUR STORY COME TO LIFE by Alicia Rasley. It doesn't go much into present tense, but it has great advice about writing in first person.

Windy Aphayrath said...

I'm partial to first person and I used to only write in past tense. But the book I'm currently querying is 1st person present and it was weird when I wrote it, but I love it. The thing is, the whole story came out that way. I'm struggling a bit with the wip I'm working on now because I can't figure out which tense it is in.

1st person present is HARD to do and do well. A lot of times it can come off a bit cliche, but it's really up to you. Tenses can grow on you, but work on the creation first, is my thought. Go back and determine what the tense needs to be after the story's done. Then you'll have better perspective.

Also, a great 1st person present is SOMETHING, MAYBE by Elizabeth Scott.

Theresa Milstein said...

Hi, Katie! (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

I've done two first person manuscripts but never present tense. It must be hard!

Suzanne Collins does it in The Hunger Games. It took me two pages to get used to it, but then I didn't notice it. If anything, it made it more exciting b/c I felt like I was in the middle of the actions.

Sounds like you're writing a fair bit. Good luck!

Theresa Milstein said...

Hi, Katie! (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

I've done two first person manuscripts but never present tense. It must be hard!

Suzanne Collins does it in The Hunger Games. It took me two pages to get used to it, but then I didn't notice it. If anything, it made it more exciting b/c I felt like I was in the middle of the actions.

Sounds like you're writing a fair bit. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I've never tried writing in the first person, mainly because it seems daunting in a way that makes me nervous.

It's not YA, but Karen Marie Moning's Fever series is written in the first person. It's a good one to check out because she hadn't done FP before and was still finding her way with DarkFever, the first installment. The POV becomes more solid with each book, and it's now of my favorite series ever.

Kathryn Rose said...

It's not my strongest writing POV either. I'm always thinking about my main character and then I wonder why I'd use certain words or descriptions if they're coming from his/her head. What if he/she isn't a writer like me? Wouldn't the storytelling be, well, amateurish? And then that brings out all kinds of self-inflicted annoyance...

Stephanie Thornton said...

I prefer to write third person past tense, but I started a new WIP in first person past tense. It doesn't feel natural for me to write that way, but it seems to be how the book needs to be written. I'm not far in though so we'll see if I stick with it!

Jolene Perry said...

I love first person, I love being in their head. It's harder from a male perspective but I'm working on one like that right now and enjoying it.
Water for Elephants is a great book, written in present test, first person AND by a boy.

My favorite part about writing first person, is observing people around the MC and giving the reader clues as to what they're thinking. Fun stuff.

Good luck with you current project. I too, work in scenes, not word count.

Steph said...

I am working on a first person, present tense right now. I didn't set out to write it that way, it just came out that way. I have tried rewriting several chapters in past tense, or even in 3rd person and it just doesn't feel right. But even still, sometimes i look at all the, "I say's" instead of "saids" and think, wtf am I doing?
2 of my fav 1st person, present tense books are WINTERGIRLS (Laurie Halse Anderson) and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (Levithan/Cohn). Both told perfectly (imo) in first person/present to where you don't even notice it, and I think that's the key...

Good luck!

Tracy said...

I'm much better at first person, because it feels the most natural to me. Then again, I also prefer reading first person narratives so that might have something to do with it.

Present tense is difficult to pull off.

As far as books to recommend for both.

YA - Simone Elkeles "Perfect Chemistry"

Adult - Philipa Greggory "The Boleyn Inheritence"

Both writers had me forgetting about tense within the first five pages, they are THAT good at it.

Hart Johnson said...

Katie-I totally hear you. My WriMo from June was intended to be first person (the prologue was) but I just couldn't keep it up. I ended up with 3 MCs instead of 1, so I think in the rewrite I will change the ghost to first person and keep the other two 3rd. It's mostly her journey, thought she changes the two other lives, so I like including them. I am always deep 3rd person--I know all the thoughts of the one whose perspective I am covering, but it feels very unnatural to change to 1st person.

As for present tense... probably not happening. Probably 80% of the time I read it, it bugs me--has to be a truly GRIPPING story (worked in Hunger Games) and I am just not that confident. I see it more in YA than adult, so if I were writing YA, I might be more open, but I just put a book down (the first True Blood) because it was annoying me.

Joy Tamsin David said...

Hi Katie,

My crit partner is writing in first person present and I found this article for her but I thought you might want to look at it too. It mentions things to watch out for in this POV.

Good luck with your WIP.

Anne R. Allen said...

I tell editing clients who are having trouble with point of view slips-ups to rewrite a chapter in first person as an exercise. It usually brings a lot of clarity.

But I wrote one of my own books in first person and then converted it to third because a number of agents said first person sounded too much like the dreaded "chick lit". But the book didn't sell anyway.


I prefer to write in first person/past tense. I can't write in third person, I feel way too disconnected.

I guess my advice would be to really get to know your character. You have to step out of yourself and be them. It's a very personal way of writing.

Lindsay said...

I prefer to write in first person, but I'm trying first person present tense with my new wip (which is also at 9k like yours, scary).
I think it's trial and error. Sometimes I write a paragraph and realise it's in past tense. Oh well.
Just keep going.

Izzy G. said...

Ugh, I know exactly how you feel. My middle grade WIP is written in third person, and though I've used that POV for short stories, I've never done it for an actual novel. First person just always came more natural to me, but I feel that third person is better for this WIP.

I can't think of many present tense, first person POV books off the top of my head, but there's one called Friction by E. R. Frank, Atwood's Cat's Cradle, Looking for Alaska by John Green, I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak, Nick Hornby (the author), and Water for Elephants.

Brad Jaeger said...

I'm nearly halfway done my current WIP which was written in present tense for no other reason than it intuitively seemed like the right decision.

There's an immediacy with present tense that I quite enjoy, and I think that novels that execute the present tense well stand out exceptionally well.

Best of luck on the new WIP, and try not to worry about the word count too much, after all you'll be chopping your manuscript into tiny pieces come revision time anywhoo ;)

Mel Chesley said...

Woot! Brave girl, tackling this sort of writing. I love reading it, but I too struggle with writing it. It would be fun though, I have to admit and someday I may try it. One of my favorites is one I just picked up the other day. "Bloody Jack" by L. A. Meyer. YA, ver, VERY good. But it might mess you up as the language is from the point of view of an English girl, street urchin and how she speaks in the 1800's or 1700's? Can't quite recall. Sorry, it was brand new to me and became an instant favorite.
Good luck!

Aubrie said...

Third person is the easiest way to write for me, but my current WIP is also first person.

Present tense I've never tried. That must be soooo hard.

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Looks like you already have gotten a ton of great advice. I currently have two projects in third, started one in first. Not sure what more I could offer other than 9K in a week. Nice job!!

Lisa Gail Green said...

First of all, YEAH!! Good for you trying something new and exciting!! Personally, I think that's the best way to grow as a writer. So congrats.

I happen to LOVE first person, but I believe it all has to do with my acting background. I really get into character. Pretend you are him (I know it sounds weird). You have to experience it all from his point of view. I also thought writing present tense was strange at first, but find that now I prefer the immediacy of it.

I suppose I should try third person next time to stretch my own muscles, eh?

RaShelle Workman said...

Hey - Yes Suzanne Collins, the author of The Hunger Games and Cathing Fire pulls it off beautifully. Good luck!!! =D

Emily White said...

Need, by Carrie Jones is an EXCELLENT example of 1st Person Present. I didn't think I could really get comfortable reading that kind of style, but I loved it! She's pulls it off beautifully. And...I just happen to be giving it away on my blog. :)

Unknown said...

I always write 1st person present tense, it's just the sort of characters that I create and it actually feels weird to go back to past. At first I kept slipping back and forth in tenses, but now it comes easy, so it's pretty much practice and write the way you would speak.

There are a lot of great examples out there at the moment. I just read a great one called "The Chosen One" by Carol Lynch Williams, or there's "The Forest of Hands and Teeth" or "Hunger Games", if you're not used to it, I'd suggest picking up at least one to read and get used to it or it will nag at you through the entire novel.

Susan Fields said...

I've actually been thinking about trying to write in first person, present tense after reading The Hunger Games (if you haven't read it yet, definitely read it!) I'm not so sure about the present tense, but I'll definitely give first person a go. I've tried it in the past, and it just seems more natural to me than third person, like I can carry on a conversation with the reader.

Anonymous said...

cool blog!

trying to be a writer myself

Meredith said...

I love writing in first person, but I'm always afraid the character is going to end up just being me or one facet of my personality, so that can be challenging. I've never tried present tense, and it can be incredibly tricky, but sometimes awesome! I love Gayle Forman's If I Stay, for example, which is present tense but uses past tense for all the memory scenes. Good luck!

Will Burke said...

Never tried the 1st person POV, but I had to go back & read the "sperm" post. If there's a better metaphore, it would take years to find it!
Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

I write in first person present tense. This is my preference, and I reveal other people's thoughts through their dialogue and actions.

I've done third person, but now I'd have trouble getting back to it since I'm used to writing this way.

Sharde(Shar-day) said...

First, I read your sperm post. Second, my side still hurts from laughing. Good metaphore.

I love reading 1st person, it's so personal. But I get what you mean about writing it. That part can be tricky. I'm no pro but the best advice I know, which has been beat into me, is practice. Just make sure your MC doesn't morph into you:-)

Jemi Fraser said...

I prefer writing in 3rd person, past tense. It flows so much more easily for me.

But 1st person & present can cause a real connection with the MC. The best example I can think of is Catching Fire/Hunger Games. She is a master.

Diane J. said...

Keep sending those queries. Remember Decca turned down the Beatles.

Glad you're trying a new POV. Cool.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I have two books to suggest :
1) SANDMAN SLIM : a tale of a living man first condemned to Hell, then making his way back out to be P.I. in Los Angeles, seeking his lost love and revenge

2) YOU SUCK : much of this book is told through the voice of Abby Normal, a goth girl finding her dream job, being the happy minion of two newly turned vampires in modern San Francisco.

*) Both have humor YOU SUCK more than SANDMAN. Both are a hoot and a half.

Anonymous said...

Your name and About Me got me giggling.

I'm very much a 3rd person POV user too, always and forever. I write in multiple characters, and that's easier with 3rd person.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Katie!

I'm glad to hear that your WiP is moving along! I don't know many books that dive into first person POV and present tense, but I've done first person POV many times.

So, I eventually tried third person and found it somewhat of a daunting task at first, but I got used to it eventually.

You got to learn how to go with the flow when writing in a POV that you are not comfortable with at first.

By going into first person, it's somewhat of a closer relationship with your character, because you're putting yourself in their shoes.

So, I wish you luck with it and write on!

Dianne K. Salerni said...

The more you practice at it, the better you will get! And even if you ultimately prefer writing in 3rd person, trying out the 1st person will be a great learning experience for you.

I have always written in 1st person and only recently have I tried switching to 3rd person. It really does take a different mind set.

I am also toying with learning to write in present tense. Now THAT is something I'm struggling with! Yikes! I am finding it much harder than switching POV.

Unknown said...

I hope you're having a fabulous weekend!!!!

I write first person but I never thought I would, I loved to read third person but realized that wasn't the style for me. However I do mix pre tense and past tense, so that's something I need to work on, I'll get there!

PS stop by my blog tomorrow to hear about the Informal Book Club, I'd love for you to join in on the fun!!!!

LTM said...

that's funny! I write by scenes, too, but I'm super uncomfortable writing in third person. It feels weird to me... I don't know why.

But I flip back and forth from past to present tense--and it's done all the time in books if you notice. Just depends on if it's a memory or if it's currently happening.

Good start on your book, though! 9K is not shabby. (I feel like those annoying runners who talk about their split times, etc., when I start talking about word count. Yes? ;o)

query on, querygirl! :ox

Denise Covey said...

There's some cases where first person/present tense adds a lot of tension to a story. I sometimes use it and I love reading first person. Usually the action is fast!

Melissa said...

First person is intensely intimate but I think that's what makes it so special. It can be weird yes. Just remember you don't have to give an entire play by play of your characters conscious thought, even though it is first. The storytelling and pace are still as important and while we should see MORE glimpses into the characters psyche than in a third person POV it doesn't need to be endless (and honestly, I don't really like first POVS that drag out the internal dialogue endlessly). Like any other writing, its about balance.


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