Do First Person Narrators All Sound the Same?

I write and read primarily YA. The last manuscript I wrote I used first person, and for the one I’m revising I’ve used a very close third person. Many YA books are told in first person. I’ve speculated before (waaay back in the archives) about how teenagers probably relate best to the first person voice because they really feel like they become the character. Though I think, in general, teenagers don’t think about this as much as the author does. They just know what they like. Barry Lyga has said that people have been adamant that his close 3rd person book, I Hunt Killers, is actually in first just because it’s so intimate and in Jazz’s head. So, basically, using the POV that’s best for the story is what’s important, no matter what the trend is.

All that being said, I feel like every book I’ve read lately that’s been in first person sounds like it’s being told by the same person. I even just finished an adult sci-fi adventure story where the main character was a 30-something woman who still sounded to me like any snarky teen–even my own first person narrator sounds this way. And I don’t know why. Their personalities are different, and they have different ways of speaking. I think that conversational tone just has a cadence that shows up in every story. Female narrators vs. Male narrators are slightly different, but are still similar to me.

My pickiness may have to do with some YA disillusionment I’ve been experiencing lately (and I plan to make this the topic of next week’s post)–I tend to go in phases of highs and lows toward writing, and I’ve been in a low lately. Right now, though, I just don’t care for first person narration, but I’m dying to read a book where it is used well. I think to pull it off you’d have to have a really unusual character to begin with. One that might have done it was Lo from The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison where the narrator has OCD. Does anyone know any other good, original-sounding first-person narrators (modern, not The Great Gatsby or anything, and it can be adult, though YA is preferred)?


Sherlock Holmes: “The Hound of the Baskervilles” (11-12)

Summary: Watson visits L.L. and finds that she is not a Superman villain or love interest…Okay, serious now. She tells him that the old Baskerville had been helping her out. She wanted to divorce her jerk husband and he was giving her some cash. She had made a secret appointment to meet the night he was killed but never went. Oh, and Stapleton was also helping her out.

Then Watson tracks down the mysterious man he kept seeing–and it turns out to be Holmes, who hadn’t stayed behind to work on a case after all. Watson feels used, but Sherlock manages to soothe his hurt feelings in a way only Sherlock can console Watson, by both praising him for his work and one-upping him at the same time. Sherlock reveals that Stapleton is actually married to “Miss” Stapleton and that he is the killer–they just have to trap him while keeping Sir Henry safe.

Except Watson had been away all day, not watching Sir Henry. Then there’s a terrible scream and they see a body that had fallen off a cliff that looked like Sir Henry! But it’s just that convict wearing some of S.H.’s old clothes. A few moments after the discovery Stapleton himself shows. Sherlock and Stapleton exchange some lies, and it is clear the final hunt is on.

Sherlock Rating: 5 pawprints. This was a very exciting and rewarding section. The L.L. interview made me positive of my suspicion that Stapleton is the bad guy, and I guessed that it would be convict dead before Sherlock and Watson realized it. You can check my notes–I have a big checkmark next to (murderer) where I mention the dead body. It’s always satisfying to guess right in a mystery. And then the little quasi-confrontation with Stapleton made it even better. Can’t wait for next section–it will very likely be the end!

Mystery Story Convention: Murder victim mistaken identity. If you find yourself in a murder mystery, never share clothes with someone. You might end up the victim just for wearing the wrong thing!

Do You Plan Ahead or Go with the Flow?

I’ve been thinking about some of my various personality “quirks” a bit lately. It’s something to do when my various projects are unpleasant (read: rewrite I mentioned last week). If you think about me in a “right brain vs. left brain” kind of way I’m pretty split down the middle. I plan things in detail and am extremely organize about some things, but I also get messy and creative. (My room at the moment can attest to the messy part, but dirty dishes in the sink annoy me to the point of stressing me out).

So, in answer to the question my title asks, both. I like to think of myself as flexible and liking to adapt and change when needed. I like trying new things and don’t mind mixing things up and making a new game plan, but that is not the whole of it. I like to have a plan of action. I like to know what is going to happen. When I come into something I like to know how everything is going to unfold–and if something changes and it can’t go that way (especially if I’m not in the best mood to begin with) I get very stressed until a new plan can be made.

For example, Saturday mornings I like to get up, shower, have a relaxing breakfast and start my laundry. Then I’ll get on the computer, catch up on emails and then get down to my to-do list. I write blog posts, update my work website, do whatever various other things I have. Once the laundry’s done and my to-do list is checked off I relax–go outside or lay around and catch up on TV, go on an adventure, whatever. That’s an ideal Saturday. Many Saturdays are not ideal. Sometimes there are Reds games. Sometimes other things come up, like social events. The less warning I have that my Saturday is disrupted, the more likely I am to be stressed. I find time to do the things I need to do–laundry especially–or I let some things be put off for another night or weekend, but I’m not happy about it.

Once I make a new plan, then I can go with the flow of this sudden change in my day. So apparently I’m only flexible as long as I can recover control with a new plan.

I think my book needs some recovery time so I can make a new plan for it…

That’s all. Just a little introspection. (FYI, this post was written on a Friday night before a disrupted Saturday).

Sherlock Holmes: “The Hound of the Baskervilles” (9-10)

Summary: After some more regular old investigating, Watson and Henry Baskerville have a stakeout to figure out what Barrymore is up to and learn that Barrymore’s wife’s brother is the escaped murderer and they’ve been feeding him. Watson and Henry try to catch the guy, but he gets away, though Watson sees some other mysterious guy on the moor. Also, Stapleton yells at Henry for trying to date his sister, though they kind of make up. Then Barrymore tells them to let the murder alone until he gets away–he won’t hurt anyone there, and the Barrymores don’t want to get in trouble; in exchange he tells them the old Baskerville had been out to meet a mysterious woman, L.L. the night he was killed. Watson figures out that this was probably Laura Lyons, a lady with a questionable reputation from the next town over.

Sherlock Rating: 4 pawprints. (I feel like I’ve been forgetting to call them pawprints…but they are still supposed to be pawprints, so pretend like any past mistakes were right–and I don’t feel like going back to check and fix them either) Anyway, 4 because there were some exciting bits for sure. I feel like Stapleton just pretended to make up with Baskerville so he can get a better opportunity to sick his big dog on him–he’s still my number one suspect. And this L.L. clue is promising. The Superman creator must have been a fan of this story, since all significant Superman characters have L.L. initials. (Except Clark, of course)

Mystery Story Convention: The stake-out–nothing like staying up and sitting around waiting for something exciting to happen. Luckily in a story we can skip to the good parts and block out the boring stuff.

What to Do When Facing a Full Re-Write

I think I’ve known this a while, but I’m now positive that I will be re-writing both the beginning and end of my book. I have an idea of where to start with the beginning, but I’m still not sure what to do about the end. And all this probably means the middle has to have just as much done to it to make it consistent. I’m okay with this, but it’s just like, sigh, here we go.

So the beginning doesn’t introduce the conflict fast enough, in my opinion. I think it’s interesting from a character standpoint, but it doesn’t get into the story fast enough, and that’s a problem.

And the end isn’t believable enough–even for me, and I my imagination gives things a lot of leeway.

What do I do now that I’m facing all this? Well, I’m going to finish typing it all up anyway, and as I’m doing so, I will be keeping these problems filed in the back of my head. Hopefully my head will work it all out during this time. And if it doesn’t? Then I’ll just start writing anyway. Sometimes when you’re stuck you just have to write your way out of it.

So here’s to my second first-draft. Can’t wait. (At least I can get plenty of use of my main character’s new name.)

Reds vs. Brewers 5-11-13 Scorecard and May Festival Chorus

It was a sweep weekend for the Reds! I was at the game Saturday, but I had to leave early to go to the May Festival Chorus. I changed my shirt and shoes, but still had on jeans with my high, red baseball socks under them. Needless to say I was not the target audience for this thing (old snooty people). But it was still an excellent performance. I learned that french horns barely play at all in the orchestra (or this particular composer didn’t like them), yet there were still at least five of them. And I learned that tubas have mutes and they look like giant chocolate cupcakes. Also, subtitles that are above what you’re looking at are called “supertitles.” So much learning.

So anyway, here’s the scorecard of the amount of game I saw. The Reds kept their lead and ultimately won 13-7.

5-11-13 Scorcard

Sherlock Holmes: “The Hound of the Baskervilles” (7-8)

Summary: First, Watson meets the Stapletons–a brother and sister who live deep in the moore. The brother claims to know the Moore so well that he can even navigate the dangerous bog where ponies go to die–well, they don’t want to die, but they go there and fall in and die. Poor ponies. The sister seems intimidated by her brother and tries to communicate with Watson without his knowledge. Suspicious. And then the next chapters are in the form of letters Watson sent back to Holmes. He says how suspicious Mr. Barrymore, the main servant guy is. That he seems to make stoic Mrs. Barrymore cry in the night and that he sneaks around in empty parts of the house. And Henry Baskerville likes Miss Stapleton, but the brother doesn’t seem to favor this at all.

Sherlock Rating: 3 pawprints. Nothing too exciting here, but suspects are created and made more suspect-y. (I guess suspicious would be the real word to use).

Mystery Story Convention: Suspects doing suspicious things. Do all people act so suspicious as a person named as a suspect? Because when there’s a mystery to be investigated, suspects, whether they’re ultimately involved at all or not, choose to do things that make them look super guilty.