Writing Acrobatics

I know readers seldom think about a writer’s thought process when creating a book, but since that’s what I do all day, that’s what is on my mind most of the time. So pardon me for occasionally wandering off on mental writer acrobatics.   typing in water
I am currently drafting the latest genius mystery. These are told in first person from my main protagonist, and third person from whichever of her family has a point of view in the story.

evilgenius200x300Studies—and sales—have shown that readers generally prefer a book written in past tense. In third person, that’s fairly standard: “He loved her; he had always loved her.”

But in first person, everything is filtered through one person, someone who is presumably living and breathing as they tell their tale. When I first started the genius series, I wanted Ana to tell the tale in present tense, as if she were writing a diary. But that’s really really bad for action scenes. “I am punching him in the nose…” Uh, probably not as she’s talking or writing.

So I switched to past tense and rolled happily on, except… Ana exists in a continuing series of books. She cannot say “I was a cynic” in one book because she’s still a cynic in the next book. Right? That’s where my head starts spinning. “I knew he loved me” vs “I know he loves me.” Because he’ll still love her in the next book. The tale isn’t over.

And yes, I know few people care how authors torture themselves over such idiosyncrasies of language. I’d be better off looking for typos because I can tell from my mailbox that readers obviously care about them! Thank you for letting me rattle on as I puzzle out how things work. Is there anything else that bothers you in first person tales that I can fret about?

16 thoughts on “Writing Acrobatics”

    • Many of my books are out in audio. I’ve tried to mark them on the website but sometimes it’s hard to keep up! But Audible is getting more difficult to work with, so the latest volumes probably won’t be out in audio anytime soon, sorry!

  1. Speaking of language…. as a self-confessed “grammar Nazi” I have to point out that in “Magic In the Stars” at Kindle location 4511, immediately following the centered three asterisks you wrote:

    “Remembering the night months ago when she’d rode ….”. I believe it should be either “…when she rode…” or “…when she’d ridden…”. Sorry … I just had to say something.

  2. I’m so excited to hear you are working on another installment of the Evil Genius series! I feel your pain with 3rd person versus 1st person. I’m a technical writer and we have switched the writing style of our documents from books in 3rd person to individual topics in 1st person, as it has been found that readers connect better with articles this way. It gets really tricky though when you are reviewing old content; you constantly need to make sure you haven’t switched back to 3rd person. Of course you then have to worry about making sure you are using present tense versus past tense and not mixing the two.

    Of course my biggest issue with writing has always been the prep-work. I have a tendency to get lost in the research and then need to scramble to get the finished product out.

  3. I love first person narratives, although I absolutely agree with the majority about present tense. I prefer a romance told like a story, like the teller is sharing a happy memory. Present tense just seems dark to me. (Perhaps why it’s so often used in young adult fiction?) Not something that bothers me, but I love when the character describes something and you know that character is only telling and seeing what they know and understand. But there’s MORE, and you know it, and the other characters know it, but the teller doesn’t see it. That’s extremely deft writing.

    • I hadn’t thought about first person being “dark” since a lot of chicklit is written that way. But it certainly does make it easier to darken a character by really getting inside of them.


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