On Writing in First Person

by Genevieve Fosa - Date: 2008-07-27 - Word Count: 663 Share This!

Writing assignment: to make the story of a famous person into something new and different, bringing out points from various first hand sources and that have apparently been repressed over the years, and most of all to make the action ring in such a manner that people are kept on the edges of their collective seats until they have finished reading the book.

Usually, my clients come to me with at least an outline, something I can build on, even if my first job is to pull it apart and put it back together again, so that it makes sense and keeps the readers wanting more. But this client did not do that. My client asked me to take a man back in time to meet that famous person, only to discover that this person does not look or act at all the way he expects him to.

The combination of story elements could do well with the publishers. It might be worth the risk. But this is all that client has given me to go on. So, I began to write. I open with a few lines of drivel, those first words going through my head. Then I look at what I have and realize that here is a character beginning to materialize on the page. He isn't a saint, but he definitely has a few good points. I'm not familiar with the culture he is from, so the research I will have to do to make him come across as a real person and not a stereotype will definitely hold my interest long enough to get the book written and edited. By page four, I begin to see two more characters in this book, and they will each have unique voices of their own.

I am writing these characters in first person. This could be dangerous, because there are certain problems with first person. For instance, no character can describe something he has not seen, unless someone has told him what happened. Secondly, should you decide to have two or more characters take turns describing the events of the story, and that is what I will be doing with this book, each character must have a unique voice. You do not want your readers to become confused over who is speaking, so I give each character a way of speaking that helps to define who and what he is. For instance, in this book I have one character who is a business man and another who is a teenage boy who happens to be gay. The first one talks like a well educated man, though he is inclined to use strong language from time to time. The second one often speaks in superlatives and is very conscious of the clothes he wears and how other people look.

Usually I avoid writing in first person, as the omnipotent narrator can easily zoom in and out of the various characters' heads several times within a chapter, as long as I make it clear whose head the narrator is in, and why he is there.

Everything written in first person must be based on what that person knows at the time he tells his story. The writer must know what is going on behind the scenes, but the narrator cannot until someone tells him, or unless he is able to infer it. Often the character misinterprets, and that character's take on the situation helps to define him, sometimes even better than the omnipotent narrator could. So, it looks as though I will be writing this book from the point of view of two people who were very close to the main protagonist, had their very different views on what this person was like, but could not see inside that person's skin. I might not have the main protagonist speak for himself at all.

Writing a book can be like putting a puzzle together, one that takes nine months or more to complete. What a fascinating way to earn a living.

Related Tags: novel writing, ghostwriting, first person

Genevieve Fosa is a freelance ghostwriter and editor. She writes both fiction and nonfiction books to your specifications. If you would like to know more about her, please go to www.thebestword.net The Best Word

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