The character who saw too much

reading2Writing from the first person point of view routinely goes through periods of popularity only to be followed by a flood of amateurish first person novels. Then, writing “gurus” will advice the beginning writer never to write in first person. However, it is really a matter of whether it fits the story you are telling.

First person is the viewpoint that we as humans are stuck with in real life. Sticking strictly with one person, revealing only what they see, hear and feel actually simplifies the story telling process. This viewpoint works with a strong plot that is driven by character development. Bouncing back and forth between characters tends to increase excitement, but it also increases the number of plot holes.  It is easy to forget that characters possess different bodies of knowledge. 

Recently I was reading a mystery that began in an interesting manner. There were the spooky chase scenes in the fog with shadowy people disappearing around the corner, However, people also disappeared when surrounded by crowds and nobody seemed to notice. 

The villain had to keep feeding the protagonist with clues in an artificial manner to keep the plot going.  To add to the emotion wringer, the hero agonized about not catching the nasty guy rather than buckling down and actually following the clues he had been given. These were clues that even an extremely narcissistic villain wouldn’t have been spreading around so carelessly. 

However the major problem was the characters, who were obviously human and not omnipotent, manage to learn everything that was revealed to the reader.  Of course, this villain’s willingness to give himself away was blamed on the “insane” genius. But the writer was no genius, and seemed to have forgotten which glimpses of the villain were seen only by the readers because the protagonist  became clairvoyant, magically deducing whatever was revealed to us.

Unfortunately, I have read too many similar stories. So I long for the narrow, confined discipline of the first person narrative. I yearn for plots in which the main characters gleans secrets based on their own wit, explaining to the reader how they came to their conclusion. Perhaps imposing the limitations of the first person point of view is a healthy discipline for writers. At least it is a skill they should master before moving on to the more complex view points.

 

This entry was posted in Story structure, Teaching writing skills, Writer's resource and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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