Tuesday, August 21, 2012

the cultivation of vanity.

Calida Harper is a mess. But I love her. She's complicated (to say the least), she's insecure, and she never quite knows how to react in a given situation. She has emotional issues leftover from her father abandoning their family when she was a very little girl, she has twisted ideas of success and glory, and she's a perfect basket-case.
But I find that Callie is one of the easiest-to-write characters I've ever created. Because despite all this, the one thing Callie has going for her is a big personality. She's winsome and insecure, frightened, and quaint. And her voice is so distinct that I find the character is really speaking...I'm not speaking for the character. (It does help that Fly Away Home is written in first-person.) Though I'm not a big fan of First Person Present Tense, (i.e. I come in and see that Mr. Barnett is sitting at my desk. "Great," I think, "Now I'm in for it.) I do find that one can get a sense of identification with the character quicker--if written properly--than the usual third-person narrative.

Of course third-person narrative gives you a bit more option as far as POV goes. You can switch from character to character (only one per scene, mind you) whereas in First Person that's a little trickier.
My favorite part of writing in First Person are the clues you can drop as to your protagonist's whole view on life...it's a much more intimate acquaintance with a character--being inside their head:
" 'What will I wear?' If I was like any other woman I would have asked the question of my sister or my best friend or my hairdresser…but my only sibling was dead, I didn’t have friends, and I was scared to death of the German woman who trimmed my hair." 
In just a few short lines you learn a lot about Callie...her mental voice, the fact that she's an only child now, she is lonely, and she has a good sense of humor. This technique is harder to accomplish (I think) when using third-person. Therefore any writer who can accomplish an intimate acquaintance with a character using third-person has my respect. I do use third-person narrative often in my own stories (The Scarlet Gypsy Song, Scuppernong Days, Cottleston Pie) but I knew when I began Fly Away Home that the only way to write Calida Harper was to give her the full stage.
Callie sees the world through a wry, half-smile. She's got a great sense of humor that comes out with her head cocked to one side. I love her so much.

"I was going to have to start scoring some vanity-points. I was in the habit of cultivating a good opinion of myself much as the average housewife is in the habit of cultivating ferns and geraniums and other plants on her windowsill. Recently we’d been in a drought in that category—my battered pride couldn’t take much more of this."

Yes she's vain and she has her faults, but the lovely thing about Callie is that she knows it and she's able to laugh at herself after the storm's over. :) It's a privilege getting so close to a character, and I am enjoying every moment of my time with Callie.

Which style of narrative do you write? What are the pros/cons of it?


Unknown said...

I've done both POV's and I think my favorite is third person. I don't know why but I do. With first person, I do like the fact you are right there watching the events unfold as the character is. As with third person, it already happened. But, I tend to feel (and it could just be me) that it gets rather redundant when using first person since its I all the time. But, that's just me. I could be wrong.

Always Narnian said...

My favorite is Third Person, as I think you have such a wider scope--- you can see more and you can have more intense scenes.
First person is fun, and I know what you mean about knowing a character intimately. But I really only use Third person :) My prologue is first person and then the rest of the story switches to third person.

Horse Lover said...

this is my favorite story to hear about so far, Rachel, I like to read about it.
Personally, I'm not a fan of the first person point of view, especially writing it, because I like to be the all-knowing authoress and I usually know how to convey more about my character's inner-workings that way than if I were to write in first-person. Perhaps that's just me though, because I've never actually tried writing in first person. Again I don't really care for it, but it can be done well, like Robert Louis Stevenson's "Kidnapped" I didn't even notice that it was in first person until my sister pointed it out, or I at least forgot that it was.

Casey Capra said...

I like this post! Really good. Yet again, you say things that are important for a new writer (or discouraged one, such as myself) need to hear.

I haven't had much experience, but I'm working on one in third person. I like that because it's more like I'm a fly on the wall, opposed to actually being her. However, I've been craving the challenge of a first person narrative! When written well, they're incredibly enjoyable.

I love reading about Callie!