Off the beaten path

Pacific Spirit Park fallen tree

Karalee’s Post #8

I was running on Sunday with a group and we skirted past a Do Not Enter sign on the trail we usually take and we kept going. A minute later our path was blocked by a fallen tree for a good twenty feet. It got me thinking about breaking the rules, taking a detour, making my own way, and being off the beaten path.

 Well, the latter statement rings true for my writing this novel. To date my well trodden writing path has been in Third Person. Challenging myself to write First Person is, well, challenging. I’m finding myself well into a scene before realising that I need to rewrite it in First Person.

 To show the difference, I’ve copied part of a scene from one of my other novels written in Third Person. Blake, my protagonist, is visiting her boyfriend Mark in the hospital. He’s been beaten and is in a coma.

Third Person:

She focused on the white cotton blanket covering his body. Like a death cloth it accentuated the boniness of his long emaciated limbs, and Blake knew that underneath the covering his dark tan-colored skin hung on him like a large T-shirt pulled over a medium frame.      

“Hi tough guy. Anything new today?” she whispered.

The pressurized mattress whined as it adjusted the air under Mark, its tone the only response to her presence.

Blake reached overhead and pulled the thin baby-blue curtain around them, cocooning their world from sight and touch in the shared space.

She rubbed her palm along Mark’s.

“No news from my end,” she said. “Constable Lowe’s keeping the pressure on the best he can, but the Mounties work like a troop of blindfolded snails.”

Mark’s hand remained limp in hers and Blake squeezed his fingers. They were soft and smooth. Too smooth.

“We both know that if I was running your case I’d have the guilty bastard tagged by now,” she said.

 Here is the same passage written in first person. I’ve italicized and underlined every change needed. Whew!

First Person:

I focus on the white cotton blanket covering his body. Like a death cloth it accentuates the boniness of his long emaciated limbs, and I know that underneath the covering his dark tan-colored skin hangs on him like a large T-shirt pulled over a medium frame.      

“Hi tough guy. Anything new today?” I whisper.

The pressurized mattress whines as it adjusts the air under Mark, its tone the only response to my presence.

I reach overhead and pull the thin baby-blue curtain around us, cocooning our world from sight and touch in the shared space.

I rub my palm along Mark’s.

“No news from my end,” I said. “Constable Lowe’s keeping the pressure on the best he can, but the Mounties work like a troop of blindfolded snails.”

Mark’s hand remains limp in mine and I squeeze his fingers. They are soft and smooth. Too smooth.

“We both know that if I was running your case I’d have the guilty bastard tagged by now,” I said.

 _____________________________________________________

 It strikes me that in doing this exercise that First Person feels more intimate. It also uses more words written in the present tense.

 Another challenge to First Person is that my protagonist needs to be present in every scene with all my other characters, except with my villain. (The scenes with my villain are written in third person.) This makes the organization of my book completely different with regards to  planting red herrings and who knows what when.

 I’ve been told that writing First Person is easier, but I think it depends on what you are used to doing. I’m finding the change of POV is a good challenge and I’m rising to this goal of creating new characters in a new setting and writing in a new style.

I trust that my fellow writing group members are also having fun writing “off their beaten paths” too.

4 thoughts on “Off the beaten path

  1. Depends on the story too. If the story is meant to be first person, then that will work more easily and be more effective than third – but watch just changing the nouns and pronouns – sometimes I’ve found that you need to completely rewrite the scene because in third, it becomes too distant, too far away from the character’s eyes and ears. But you’re willing to stretch yourself and take on challenges – that can only make you a better writer! Just never stop doing it.

  2. Thanks Bev. I’m used to having more POV characters in my stories too so this challenge is focusing the storyline completely around my protagonist seein the world through her eyes and getting to know other characters through her eyes. She has to be everywhere! Happy writing.

  3. Karalee, As you know full well I am not a writer, however, I can enjoy a good ‘read’. I just read your snippet in the third and first persons and I am blown away by the difference the first person makes – to me the reader. The first person is so powerful and draws me directly in to the scene in a way that the third person language can’t.

    [forgive me if this was written months ago – I came upon it (I am such a dolt with my computer and even navigating the web) and have so enjoyed reading it. Hopefully I will ‘come upon’ more in the weeks to come.

    Ciao!
    Rose-Marie

  4. Thanks Rose-Marie. No worries. You are up to-date with this post. my main challenge with First Person is that my main character has to be in all my scenes and my story has to be organized around that. I trust you are being productive with your painting?

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