What is the best voice to choose for your story? By which perspective do you see the world? In the mist of your imagination, you came up with a plan (or something like it) and you wish to write with the flow of your project. But something may stop you quickly. Third person or first person? What difference does it make?
You don’t write the same way when using the first or the third person and that is something authors need to know about themselves. Some may prefer one or the other, but most importantly, you must know what they allow and how you treat them differently unconsciously.
It’s not because you are using the third person that you can’t access the character’s thoughts and see the world through their eyes. It is even possible to write with the first person and provoke in the reader a strangeness with the narrator, as if he or she is a spectator without interiority. It all depends on your focalization : are you focusing on the fictional world through the subjectivity of a character, or from an outside point of view (like God), or are you having a neutral focalization, describing everything without a point of view? Those are the three options you may have. Usually, authors use simultaneously the three in a story (for example, descriptions are often neutral), yet using the first person may be difficult for an outside point of view, since you are stuck with the narrator’s point of view.
For this month’s workshop, you will experience with different narrative voices to find out your choice of predilection. It is very simple. With this exercise, you will find out more about yourself as a writer and how you write. Writing is something so natural by times that we need to experiment on our creations to see what we are able to do and how to grow as a creator.
Write a short story or a part of a novel with the first person. Afterwards, replace every “I” by “he/she”. Change the narrative voice without changing anything else (except the verbs of course). Does your text feel the same? Do you have the impression that you need to rewrite your sentences? You can try the exercise the other way around. Take notes.
Pay attention to the tone of your text. See where it feels odd when you change the narrative voice. And determine in which voice you feel more comfortable with. Playing like this will help you know how to present your story, since you will understand what is possible with each different voice.
And if you really can’t choose, well, you must know, great others use more than one voice! Some use the second person, others alternate between the first and the third (Anne Hébert is a master in this). This can make your style all more interesting!
But the essence of this exercise is to have a better grasp on the possibilities of narrative voices and identify which focalization you use and when. Feel free to use this exercise for every possible person! Also, this exercise may be used for verb tenses as well.