Thursday, January 17, 2008

First Person Speculative

I was thinking about my fiction -- writers are always thinking about their fiction -- and I realized something that had not occurred to me before. Please bear with me for a minute; what follows is not ego but tentative insight. Of the four stories I have in upcoming Bests of the Year, plus the two on the preliminary Nebula ballot, all but one ("Safeguard") is written in first person. And of my previous awards for short fiction, only one ("Beggars in Spain") was written in anything except first person.

Why is this? It's not because readers in general prefer first person narratives; a quick scan of a long list of Nebula and Hugo winners reveals that. I think, rather, that it's because I, with my personal idiosyncrasies, write better in first person than in third.

In first person, I feel more free -- not necessarily am more free, but feel more free -- to go deeper into a character. The character's voice helps me to become him or her, which is my general (if vague) strategy for writing anything. When the voice is in my head, the character comes more vividly to my page.

I could be wrong on this, of course, even for myself (let alone other writers). After all, "Beggars in Spain," my most widely known work to date, is in third person. But nonetheless, the explanation rings true to me.

The work I have just begun, however, is in multiple third. There's no other way to tell this particular story. Ah, well.


Steven Francis Murphy said...

Hmm, I enjoy reading first person stories. On the other hand, I'm pretty well afraid to write my own efforts in that manner. I'm worried the Mary Sue factor will creep into the room.

I've not noticed that with your work though.

S. F. Murphy

Nancy Kress said...

What is the Mary Sue factor?

Steven Francis Murphy said...

Mary Sue is a term I've heard Charles Stross and a number of other writers (not just in the genre) utilize. It generally refers to a story that is too close to being autobiographical in nature.

At least that is my understanding of it. I use third person limited most of the time as a means of avoiding that potential pitfall.

S. F. Murphy

none said...

Mary Sues are wish-fulfilment characters to the max.

none said...

I couldn't find this thread on Critters the other day, but it's popped up again now--people have been posting links to various Mary Sue quizzes.

Might be entertaining :).




The Anti-Sue!