Monday, January 21, 2013

That Beautiful First Person Vibe

Being the charitable, patient and well-beloved writer that I am, I've been to at least one writers group recently, spreading the fruits of my wisdom and just all around giving back...or showing up for the free Diet Coke and Goldfish Crackers. Six of one...

Anyway, here's something I've seen pop up more than once:

A story with beautiful, technically polished narration: flowing phrases and subclauses, apt metaphors, telling details that glow with vivid imagery, told from a first-person POV.

All well and good...unless that first person is a sixteen-year old child soldier who's been training relentlessly since she was seven, or a twelve-year old tagger who plays hooky from school and whose mom works twelve-hour days.

It's a natural mistake. Writers love language, and there's a sensual pleasure in pulling out all the stops on your metaphor engine and cranking up the elegance function to ramming speed. And younger characters in violent situations are often the source of more extreme and dramatic stories than, say, settled, well-spoken characters in their 40s.

But you can't believe that that character is speaking those words. Let it go.

Suzanne Collins didn't make that mistake. She wrote The Hunger Games, and the POV narration there is truly in the voice of the main character, and it works. Collins deserves her success.

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