After putting my first manuscript, The White Room, in a dark corner and leaving it there for the past half a year or so, I have reluctantly unearthed it with serious intentions to re-vamp. As I’m looking it over, I realize how much work it needs before I’m willing to let my publisher come within five feet of it.  For the most part these re-writes should be somewhat simple, easy fixes, but there are a few things that I am really having a hard time with. The thing troubling me most right now is the prologue. The reason it’s so problematic is that I’ve chosen to write it in third person. I’ve made this decision because I feel I need to introduce the concept of the story before beginning the adventures of my protagonist…and he can’t be present in the scene.

I don’t know when, or even if, I ever made the conscious decision to write in the first person, but that’s what I’ve always done. We live our lives first person, so I guess writing from that same perspective just made sense to me. Regarding the books I read, I have no especial preference as to which method is used. If it’s a good story, it’s a good story and I don’t really care who’s telling it, but I didn’t think that in my own writing, shifting my person was going to be this difficult. It has taken me seven days to write six very mediocre pages.

The first problem I’m having is an inability to find my voice. When I write from a protagonist’s point of view, I am becoming the character. I know how he sees the world and how he responds to it. I know the things that fascinate him, and the things that he wouldn’t give a second thought to; I simply get into his state of mind and let him tell his story…but in third person, who am I? This may sound ridiculous, but I’m serious. Who is narrating this story? It can’t really be me, can it?

Another issue is that I don’t know what details in the setting to focus on. This probably ties into not being able to find my voice. Since I don’t know who is telling the story, I’m not sure what to point out to the reader. The answer is obvious: point out what’s important…but my question to that is: important to who? Bob the gardener might care that the fern needs watering, but chances are slim that Rhoda the gold-hearted hooker is interested in ferns…which brings me to my next third person pitfall: point of view.

If I write third person limited, whose eyes do I decide to see the world through, and how can I show the readers anything that this character doesn’t see him or herself? If I write third person objective, I will convey my story with all the emotional zest of a tape recording, and finally, if I write third person omniscient, won’t I be head-hopping? Isn’t head-hopping a big no-no?

Writing this prologue has taught me that I need to expand my abilities. I don’t like being this confused and unsure of myself. I plan to get some books on point of view, as well as talk to some other writers I know who write in different styles than myself. I’m eager to get on with the rest of the story, which is written in the first person, but I don’t intend to simply avoid writing in third person just because I don’t have a firm grasp on it. I’ve been working at it, and am coming to more deeply appreciate all the different styles that are available to writers. As frustrating as it’s been, I guess sometimes you just need to learn to see things from a different point of view…

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Comments
  1. Mimi A. Williams says:

    Some folks struggle with dialog, while others just don’t understand scene and setting. My particular issue in the beginning was understanding how to create a climactic moment and a reasonable ending. Everyone has an area of writing that mystifies them. Study, asking questions, and looking at how other writers handle things is all good, but the best thing you can do to improve is simply – keep writing.

  2. Linda L. Bennett says:

    You can do it !! 🙂

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