I use first person narrator in many of my stories. I find the level of intimacy I can connect with in the character makes the experience feel more authentic.
I also enjoy the unreliability of the first person narrator. Although I don’t intend to make my main characters questionable, all first person accounts must be met with skepticism.
There’s one possible downside to the first person narrator and I’m certain many writers have experienced the fan who believes they understand the author based on a story which utilized the “I”.
One reader contacted me convinced Dad Shining was about me. “This is a true story, I bet!” He wrote.
This is complimentary in the fact that the story must have been realistic enough for this reader to believe and enjoy it.
However, Dad Shining (originally published in The Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Journal) is written from a male point of view experiencing a life event incomparable to what a woman could experience.
There’s not much a writer can do about being mistaken for their narrator except to gently correct the reader without offending them or merely thank them. I said, “thank you for reading.”
My main character in West End is a young woman, and I did use an area close to where I grew up. A number of readers have attempted to call me out on that. One reader wrote, “I know most of this is you, except for the part of leaving the boy.” Another reader, convinced it was me believed I’d been married before and left them to change my name and start a new life incognito.
This did bother me to some extent; the woman in West End is in some ways stuck in life, and while that might be my fear, it is not me.
Still others found the first person narrator unreliable enough to question her sanity and ask me if she was seeing spirits. These questions I rather enjoyed. One character I had intended to be questionable, but when asked about another – I don’t want to say as I don’t want to ruin it for anyone! – I was blown away!
And that is the benefit and, perhaps, curse of first person narrator. The connection is so authentically intimate that you might convince readers it’s you; And you might just convince them the narrator is a little off her rocker!
I grew up in a tough neighborhood. (don’t stereotype me)
I was in a band. (for about 5 minutes)
I was in a few movies. (another 5 minutes)
I wrote my first “novel”at the age of 11. (an angst ridden piece about a girl who is kidnapped because she witnessed a crime)
I was actually kidnapped. (not at 11/that story is waiting for publication)
I always have wanted to own a Munster-like house.
I’ve gotten lost in every major city I’ve ever been (including abroad. Trust me when I say every country/every city has neighborhoods you don’t want to be lost in at dusk)
I keep a lot of random facts as well as insignificant details in my brain. (jokes don’t stick tho)
now the stalkers know – don’t be a stalker….
I’ve been working on a new story – not only working – OBSESSED! I don’t think I left the house for most of January and part of February until the first draft was done. I’m currently working through it again and again. I’ve begun to gather my beta readers, and I’m quite excited.
Weekly, I spend time submitting. This is what a working writer does. Writes and submits. Rejections are no fun, and I get plenty of them. I read one statistic that read, “a writer gets an average of 26 rejections for every acceptance.” Not sure how they came up with that… I feel like it’s three times that much; however, things change!
Malcolm Gladwell, estimates it takes 10,000 hours to master any one thing. I feel like I should have reached those hours long ago; but, maybe, it takes some of us a little longer to get it. (That’s the story of my life!)
So – I have to update you.
My poem, “All At Once”, was a finalist in Medusa’s Laugh NanoText Contest. I didn’t win, but it’s still to be published in their anthology and in an e-book version. This should be available soon!
My poem, “I’ve Never Looked So Beautiful” has just been accepted by Mother’s Always Write. Before you start thinking I’m quite full of myself – the poem is about my lovely daughter! This should be available in the next month.
My story, “How to Throw a Psychic a Surprise Party” has been accepted by The Oleander Review. Sometimes, I write something and I think, this is pretty damn good, and I think this story says a lot about our humanity. I’m so happy that it will be published. It will be available mid-April
Finally, ladies and gentlemen, Writer Advice has just notified me that my story, “Memorial Day Death Watch”, has been chosen as a finalist in their Flash Memoir Contest!
We must have a purpose – I’ve always wanted to reach people, tell them they’re not alone. I think I’m just beginning to do that.
Live an Inspired Life!
When I create a character, I take what I know from personal experience, what I’ve observed in other people (I am an avid people watcher), and what I’ve learned from my continued studies.
With the unnamed narrator/character in West End , it is important to understand the primary relationships and their effects.
In West End, the children are nearly parentless. Mom is an alcoholic who dies from the disease and Dad seems to be a workaholic, seemingly unconcerned about his children.
The article, “Unloved Daughters,” written by Peg Streep, lists some of the attributes the character in West End experiences.
Streep’s list is of 7 attributes. These are a few which I believe my character displays:
“The unloved daughter doesn’t know that she is lovable or worthy of attention; she may have grown up feeling ignored or unheard or criticized at every turn” (Streep).
3. Difficulty setting boundaries
“Many daughters, caught between their need for their mother’s attention and its absence, report that they become “pleasers” in adult relationships. Or they are unable to set other boundaries which make for healthy and emotionally sustaining relationships” (Streep).
5. Making avoidance the default position
“Lacking confidence or feeling fearful sometimes puts the unloved daughter in a defensive crouch so that she’s avoiding being hurt by a bad connection rather than being motivated to possibly find a stable and loving one” (Streep).
It seems the reason the narrator in West End avoids life is an overall lack of confidence. She does not set boundaries; she knows what is happening at the trains and with her sister is not leading anywhere productive or good, but she is unable to set the boundaries for herself, let alone for a sister. And avoidance is her default position in everything.
However, it is my wish the reader can see the hope within the novel, the things that change within the character that can create something positive.