I’ve been working on cleaning up my mss of Whatever Else (for some reason, a lot of periods were deleted) and that led me to think about writing first person rather than third.
I have a limited number of stories in which I used first person, and for most of those, I was trying to portray a specific ‘voice’.
For example, A Hand for Each was written to sound similar to the writing of Richard Dana (Two Years Before the Mast). I wanted the narrator to sound like an English seaman.
After five long years of herding freighters about the Indian peninsula, we had finally been given orders to return home. How I longed to see England again. My family wrote to me but their letters often went astray, likely arriving in a port we had just left. I knew that I missed many of them.
The Stains of the Past was meant to sound more like a young woman with a past:
I believe in redemption. Every week when I go to confession, the priest tells me my sins are forgiven. I am a new person now, he has explained, and my penitence has created in me a clean heart. Unfortunately, my sins haven’t been forgotten. My past will always be with me, at least as far as Kiya is concerned.
In The Nature of Demons, I wanted the hapless narrator to sound a bit like Dr. Watson. I was thrilled when one of the critiquers actually mentioned that my Dr. Antris sounded like…Dr. Watson!
A more educated man would have recognized the signs, I thought. Only a week before, the king had forced Menhas’ company on me, naming him a shaman among his tribe — a storyteller and healer. As such, I expected him to have at least a passing familiarity with the hundred forms of demons. “Do your people not have stories of these creatures?”
In Fleurs du Mal, I wanted the protagonist to be disdainful and cold.
I looked at Anne instead. She clung to Jeremy’s arm with one hand as we walked, her hips swaying as if she still heard a tango in the night air. I couldn’t decide what to make of her attachment to him. He is far out of his league, I thought, my trusting little brother.
And in Whatever Else, I wanted my main character to sound…a bit helpless. She’s in a society where women are chattel, and has never been trained to do more than be a wife. So it was a difficult voice for me to write, but I hope I cam up with the right one:
His sudden claim baffled me. Arras had been my husband nearly four years. Three years older than my nineteen, Seyvas was of an age with him; even through the worst of our peoples’ squabbling, he and Arras had remained friends. Since our wedding, though, Seyvas hadn’t come to the manor at all. Not until now.
I turned back to him and whispered, “What are you talking about? You’ve known Arras all your life.”
“Arras is dead,” my brother answered in a flat voice, his eyes gone bleak
I stared at him, mouth agape.
So for me, the choice of first person is usually tied to the fact that I want the POV character to sound different than me. I want them to have a very distinctive personality.
What’s your reasoning behind the times that you chose to write in first person?