This is my story, not yours?
December 30, 2012 § 3 Comments
One thing that many writers seem to actively struggle over is the idea of perspective. This is especially the case in the beginning of a writing project, when all kinds of questions are raised about perspective. Do I write in 1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person? If the former, middle or latter, why that? What purpose will it serve? What benefits will said perspective have over the other perspectives? How will it help me in my storytelling? How will it help my novel and my characters? The questions are endless and they’re all fair questions. Certainly, they’re questions I’ve asked myself before beginning on a writing project.
To this day, my biggest writing project has been my novel is Saoirse, which I’m still in the process of editing. My second draft is almost at an end and I’m already thinking about my third draft (which is actually what inspired this blog post). Here’s the thing. Throughout the whole process of Saoirse’s creation, I’ve struggled with the ideas of perspective, of how to tell the story through a perspective that really shows its assets.
The novel began, in its first draft, with 2 perspectives, both in the 3rd person narrative. It was a 50/50 split between my two main characters Saoirse and Cillian, where insight into both of their minds was shared. When I began my 2nd draft, this saw a drastic shift where I basically erased Cillian’s perspective altogether so that the novel was 100% Saoirse’s 3rd person perspective. The reason for this? Well, essentially I found Cillian’s perspective to be a distraction for the majority of the novel, especially since much of his story could be told through Saoirse, who the novel is really about. But beginning to think about my 3rd draft, I realised that maybe the 3rd person doesn’t serve Saoirse well at all, maybe what the novel needs is a first person narrator. I reached this conclusion because of a bountiful of reasons, most of which would give away the ending of Saoirse, which I would rather not do, so I won’t talk about that.
Here’s the thing though. When I began writing Saoirse, I was unsure about a lot of things – I was unsure about practically all of it. What I wasn’t particularly unsure about, though, was the perspective. I was fully satisfied with how the perspective was going. But this changed with the 2nd draft, and will change again in the 3rd. Maybe by the end, I’ll have come full circle and be back to a 50/50 perspective between Saoirse and Cillian, who knows? The point is that I’ve reached the realisation that perspective is highly important in the art of storytelling, but it also requires a realisation of your plot and characters. In the 1st draft of Saoirse, I was entirely unaware of where I was heading. In the 2nd draft, I was still trying to come to grasp with my plot. My perspective changed as my novel grew and although it requires a lot of work to reshape a 3rd person narrative into 1st person, I believe that ultimately it’ll be wholly beneficial to my novel.
So I’m not saying we should stop asking all the questions about narrative. Rather, we should ask more questions, keep asking them as we write word after word. Maybe we’ll never be fully happy with how the story is told but there’s no shame in changing perspectives, changing narratives and shaping your story in various ways – even if only to see how it reads from another angle.