Saturday, 9 April 2016

I like to write first-person because I like to become the character I'm writing. —Wally Lamb


I've had several emails asking me what the heck I am talking about with my revisions—close third to first person. Wha? I forget that many of you are not writers and have long ago forfeited the structural analysis of writing for the vagaries of day-to-day living. You are not wallowing in the debate of the worth of your words. You are out in the world, making your way and working hard. But, I like to think, you are hoping a good book awaits you as a reward at the end of a weary day. That's where my gnashing of teeth and biting of nails come in. And my revision.

I initially wrote Lizzy's story from her point of view but not from her headspace. While the story unfolded from her viewpoint, Lizzy was she and her. It was close third POV but there was still an element of a camera watching. It was also told in the past tense. So she said, he looked, they went. Contrast that with first person present where the action is happening now, and the reader is in her head—I say, he looks, we go.

Once I started the rewrite, I was addicted. I began to see what Lizzy sees, feel what she feels. When I looked at scenes directly through her lens, I found I needed to flesh them out more fully, to delve more deeply into the dynamics of her interactions with others. It has resulted in several thousand more words. I think they're good words. Strong words. Words that better convey the layered agonies of Lizzy's world.

Below is the first page of Cutting to the Chase. The first is my original opening in third person. The second is the revised first person. Hopefully, it lends clarity to what I have tried to explain above. If you feel comfortable, let me know what you think.

 

THIRD PERSON POV

Lizzy lay the steel against her leg, its smooth metal a cool caress. The slight scrape as it dragged across her skin sent a chill down her spine and she shivered, anticipating. Spreading her legs wider, she allowed her hand to slip to her inner thigh, inhaling deeply before edging the corner of the razor into the soft flesh.

She held her breath, riveted, waiting. The first crimson drop hit the water—the silent splash echoing in the small room, shouting in her mind—then it dissipated into watery nothingness, becoming whispers of agony. She exhaled slowly, drawing the blade in a straight path, fascinated as always by the gentle folding away of skin. Like pulling the strip on a Babybel. Except, she was the cheese inside out.

“You’ve been in there 30 minutes!”

She pulled the roll of toilet paper and pressed a clump of it against the cut. The little shit could wait.

“I timed it. Thirty stinkin’ minutes. You don’t own the freakin’ washroom!” The door reverberated from his banging.

“Shut up.” She wiped, but she’d gone deeper this time and it kept dripping. Grabbing more tissue, she managed to smear the blood, the mess looking a lot like her watercolor attempt last week. Mrs. Opal had described it as a sailor's warning, whatever the hell that meant.

 

FIRST PERSON POV

The metal is cool against my leg. I want to put it away, shove it back in the cabinet out of sight, forget it exists. But, I can't. Instead, I tip it and drag it across my skin, scraping slowly. Chills run down my spine, making me shiver. I spread my legs wider, allow my hand to slip to my inner thigh, totally giving in to it, edging the corner of the razor blade in. It's easy. Flesh is soft.

I hold my breath and wait. The first crimson drop hits the water—the silent splash echoes in the room, shouts in my mind—then it disappears into watery nothingness. The buzzing in my head softens Mom's angry words to whispers. I can breathe now and my heart starts to thump normally. The sharp pain eases. I draw the blade in a straight path. I love how the skin folds away. Like pulling the strip on a Babybel. Except I'm the cheese inside out.

“You’ve been in there 30 minutes!”

I pull at the roll of toilet paper and press a clump of it against the cut. The little shit can wait.

“I timed it. Thirty stinkin’ minutes. You don’t own the freakin’ washroom!” The door reverberates from his banging.

“Shut up.” I wipe, but I've gone deeper this time and it keeps dripping. Grabbing more tissue, I manage to smear the blood, the mess looking a lot like my watercolor attempt last week. Mrs. Opal had described it as a sailor's warning, whatever the hell that means.

 

***I submitted my first page to the Secret Agent Contest at Ms. Snark's First Victim. It was an amazing experience. The secret agent critiqued the first pages of forty writers. I learned so much from reading the submissions as well as the thoughtful and thorough critiques. I was so pleased to discover that, not only is the secret agent one I would love as my representative, but she also picked my first page as a runner up—which means she will now definitely be reading my query, first five chapters and synopsis. It makes me feel really good about the hours spent on revising to first person.

 

4 comments:

  1. Rose, you have the first POV dead to rights! You know how much I love first POV. ;-)

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  2. Replies
    1. Somehow I can't write a comment but have to reply to yours. The technical aspects of your blog and my comment writing never cease to amaze me ;) Anyway, I knew what you meant with close third and first POV, but wow! I would never have imagined that a change would make such a big difference. To me as the reader it feels much closer, livelier and imminent. My favorite sentences were the two about Babybel, and the last sentence is also great.

      Keeping my fingers crossed for your submission to the agent!

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  3. Nicole,

    I get a lot of people who email instead of comment here. No one has mentioned that it's because it's hard to use the blog but perhaps others are having trouble with the comment section too. Now, I'm curious. :-) Thanks for the feedback. I feel the same way about the change in POV so it's good to know it works for someone else.

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