I've talked before about how I write. That before anything gets put on paper (on screen?) I've actually written and re-written the story in my head. I work out the main details. Get some plot points or dialog going. Re-work it all over and over until I think I have the bones of a story that I want to tell and then I write it all down. So for this week's prompt I was off and running with a story idea. Things fell in to place pretty quickly, the people, the story I wanted to tell, it was smooth like silk and then a little buzz started in the back of my head..."wait a minute, have you written this before?"
Oh crap. Is that why it was so smooth? Had I actually already written the end of this story before? I knew I hadn't written the beginning or the middle but the ending? It was seeming awfully familiar. So while I was focused on that issue I got an email from Dana, my partner in crime for this endeavor, seems she hadn't really noticed that this week's prompt is in first person. Which if you don't write first person is a bitch to switch to. So we chatted about it, joked around about stretching as a writer and I told her about my search for previously done endings.
Great news! I found the story that I was thinking about and though there is a similar theme, the ending is different. Good enough so now I can write with a clear conscience and ...
Oh holy shit the story I'd been writing in my head was third person. All the way through. Even with talking to Dana about it needing to be first person I was so focused on the end that I wasn't paying attention to the rest. Which really sounds like this is going to be a life lesson blog right? Too focused on the the ending to see what is right in front of you? Well, yeah, that would make a great blog but that's not this blog, this blog is about point of view.
Obviously you all know I write in first person all of the time. I'm doing it right now...it's coming from inside the blog...but I rarely write fiction in first person. I told Dana (my genius friend who is also incredibly witty and way too modest to tell you all of this herself) yesterday that I so much prefer voice of god than first person. I want to move all of the pieces. I want to have control over how they all feel, what they all think, how they all talk. First person narrows your scope. It's all about one person. One character. Everything else becomes something that they interact with. It only comes in to play if they are there. Witnessing it. And even then it's completely limited to their own point of view.
Which is life. That's why my nonfiction is all first person. Because I don't have a choice. I can guess at what you are thinking, but I don't know. And my guess is going to be totally interpreted through my own life. Weltanschauung. Great word. It's means world perception. Everything you do, every belief you have, every interaction in every day is all framed by your own weltanschauung. And your weltanschauung is created through every belief you have, everything you do, every interaction in every day. It is your experiences that make you, you.
Now I wrote not too long ago about how we are all more alike than we are different and how that's actually pretty comforting. But the flip side of that is that we are still different. In the fact that your life is yours and mine is mine. When I am not right in front of you I pretty much cease to exist for you. I mean, obviously I still exist, but you are only guessing at that point. You can imagine what I'm doing, who I'm talking to, what is happening, and you might even get really close to what is actually going on, but you aren't experiencing it. Because you aren't here. Because no matter how compassionate you are, no matter how concerned with the world's problems you are, no matter how much you like to imagine you are all about the greater good you really only have one point of view. Yours. That's it.
Which long way around, is why I write fiction. Because I am greedy. I want more than one. I want them all. I want to know not just what you are thinking but why. I want to know what you are doing when you aren't here, does it change? There is a country song that asks, "Who are you when I'm not looking?" Every parent knows that the mark of a well behaved child isn't how they act when you are there, but what they do when you aren't. What do they do when you aren't there watching?
In fiction I always get to watch. God, that sounds creepy. Let me try again. In fiction I get to make people do what I want. Oh wait, that's worse. Umm ... yeah ... anyway...
First person fiction is hard. That's my point.
So this week when you read my story and my genius friend Dana's story keep in mind that we really worked it out. We took our fiction worlds and narrowed them. Which is as hard to do as it is to take your real world and broaden it. But life is about stretching. That's where the growth comes in. Even when stretching means narrowing...