Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Current Musings for Today
Happy mid-week, BGs.
It was great reading the comments from y’all yesterday. Emily, Bret and Scott—thank you for posting. Great to see that you’re with us. Tina—sheesh, ya make me nervous. Five books, eh? I’d better come through for you, or you’ll never read my blog again. ’Course you didn’t say which five you bought. I could do some quick back-pedaling, claim I had a ghost writer . . .
Becky asked an interesting question. I thought we’d take a one day break from our Never-Ending Saga and talk about it. Her question: “Since you found it difficult to sustain a first person POV for 4 books, are you back to third person with Paige? And, if so, how will you maintain the level of intimacy, especially revealing internal conflict, as you did for Annie?”
I know the background to Becky’s question. Hope she doesn’t mind my filling y’all in. Becky does not typically read suspense. However, she had read my Dread Champion. (Remember that naggingly as yet unknown Chelsea Adams book 2 in our NES?) Becky also recently read Dead of Night. She loved Dead of Night. Liked it better than Dread Champion because she felt closer to the main character. Here’s the thing—Dread Champion was in third person multiple point of view (POV). The Hidden Faces series, including Dead of Night, is in first person (Annie Kingston’s POV).
When Becky told me her reaction, I thought about it for some time. Now she asks the question that her reaction immediately brought to my own mind. Can a third person multiple story present the characters with as much intimacy as a first person story? Especially the main character?
I’m not quite sure of the bottom line answer here, and I’d love to hear your opinions. If we’re talking about Dread Champion versus Dead of Night specifically, the answer begins with the fact that they’re in very different series with very different objectives. Eyes of Elisha and Dread Champion not only are in third person, but they both feature ensemble casts. And they are bigger, more complex stories. Yes, Chelsea Adams is the main protagonist. But there are quite a few other major characters, and a slew of minor characters. Both of these books run at least a dozen POVs (some of course appear far more than others). Dread Champion is particularly convoluted, with one main plot and three large subplots, all of which finally converge. On the other hand, the Hidden Faces stories are much shorter, more linear, and in Annie’s first person POV. (Except for the short third person “bad guy POV” chapters.) Page for page, the reader therefore spends far more time in Annie’s POV than in Chelsea’s. More time spent in a character’s POV = greater intimacy with the character (if he/she is written well).
So. I look at these two different set-ups, and my first thought is: how could a reader possibly feel as close to Chelsea as he/she does to Annie, just given the difference in sheer number of pages spent with each one? Then I think: Dread Champion was my fourth published novel. Dead of Night was my eighth. Maybe I’m just better at characterization now?
Well, I hope I’m better. Hope to be learning with each book. Maybe now I could write Dread Champion with better characterization than I did at the time. Still, I’m left with the fact that these are two very different kinds of stories.
A reader who likes a big cast, plenty of subplots, and intrigue in each major character’s life may enjoy the Chelsea Adams books better. A reader who loves the fast-paced, high intensity novel that also features strong characterization may like the Hidden Faces stories better.
Of course the whole point of the question is how this effects the series I’m now beginning to write. It will be in third person. However, the cast will be much smaller. Maybe the protagonist’s (Paige) and about three to four others (including the bad guy.) This will give me more pages spent with each character, especially Paige. Still, besides this set-up, I do think my growth as a writer will also play a part.
Does this mean I don’t like Eyes of Elisha and Dread Champion? Not at all. I still really like both stories. I just think their strength lies in the more complex plot and large cast, while the Hidden Faces strength lies partly in the intimacy with the protagonist.
Bottom line question remains. Can the major character within a large cast, written in third person, ever be as intimately presented as a protagonist in first person? What say you all? And second, how much does this matter to you when weighed against the difference in complexity of plot?
Comment away. And—don’t think for a moment our NES is over. Tomorrow, it'll be baaaaaaack.