As promised, I'm kicking off a little run of posts dedicated to the topics from David Madden's essential Revising Fiction: A Handbook for Writers. I'll touch on a few of these, and in no particular order, so here goes:
3. If you have used the first-person point of view, have you realized all its potentials?
The novel in progress, otherwise known as #GhostofBigDamnEpic, features a first-person narrator. This is pretty unusual for me. Most of my work tends toward the third person, such as The Book of Elizabeth. I chose to tell the new novel from the first person because of the opportunity the character presented me. The main character lives in isolation, exiled from his memory and every other concept of life that we take for granted. His voice is his only constant; it's repetitious, a trick against forgetting. It had a music and an energy that made it compelling to pursue.
Where I rely on Madden is asking myself some key questions:
1. If the narrator is speaking, who is he speaking to?
The main character s not telling the story. There is no one to relate it to (he is, to his knowledge, alone).
2. Why is he speaking?
He speaks to himself, again as a defense against his strained memory and senility.
3. What is the effect, in general and specifically, on the reader?
The effect then is stream of consciousness. I have to be conscious that this doesn't become rambling, wandering, or pointless, even though for the character (ok, his name is Fin) it actually is.
By asking these questions as I revise (or even as you are generating the work, as I am now), I am crafting the story. I am opening doors on the story that otherwise remain close. Does it matter that he's speaking to himself? It matters a great deal. The engine of this behavior is his circumstance, and the motivation for the story; I can't understand one without the other.
The first section of the Madden book deals with point of view - check it out. Come back next time for more!