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The Unreliable Woman

Writing my current manuscript has been different from the others as I'm not using my usual organic style but engaging my consciousness more. As a consequence, I go back repeatedly to make all manner of changes to the language, characters, settings (although the plot hasn't changed, which also is unusual for me - typically I only know how a story is going to end when I write the ending.) And yet, more often than not, I revert all my changes, which means I have about three drafts at any one time, and get confused about which is the most recent.

One of the changes I wrestle with is the narrative perspective. I originally set the story in first person, but about three times now have tried to rewrite it using third person. (I am getting very sick of my first chapter, I can tell you!) I keep giving up because most of the characters are women and all those shes and hers become confusing. I do wonder if the narrative style would be better served by third person, but right now it's beyond my patience.

As a reader, I prefer third person. Oddly enough, it helps me get closer to characters. As a writer, though, I love writing in first person. So much can be done with it. I especially love how it allows dramatic irony. I'm using a lot of dramatic irony in my current manuscript, so will probably end up staying with first person for all that the prose reads better in third.

When I began writing Deep in the Far Away, I chose first person organically - in other words, it's just what the story told me to do. As it turned out, that was indeed the best choice, because Emma had no idea what had happened to her, and hopefully the reader could see more clearly than she the mystery and darkness in her situation (especially in the second edition, which is altered slightly for novel rather than serial form.) Third person is better when you want to keep the reader's view obscured, but I've always liked the advice that you should show the reader as much information as you can, because it creates more tension than keeping them in the dark. As a reader, I prefer to have that information made just visible enough that I can guess at it and so be delighted when I'm proven right (or fascinated when I realise I've been fooled by red herrings).

In Emma's situation, dramatic irony emphasised her vulnerability. In my current manuscript, I'm using it for nicer reasons. My heroine is much put-upon, but she isn't in as perilous and lonely a situation as Emma (although if she doesn't get things right it will be the end of the world - either literally or figuratively, which is where the dramatic irony comes in. The reader will think they know which of these it is, and will be proven right or wrong at the end.) This of course is the difference between writing drama and comedy. And I think I have now, thanks to this post, convinced myself I'm following the correct course by using first person. See, this is why blogging is great!


  1. LOL. i suspect that you are correct, and first person is the way to go with this piece of writing... sometimes i don't really know what i think about something fully until i write about it, so this post makes sense to me. it's like seeing the reverse of the knitting, as it were...

  2. I have to say, I prefer reading first person - helps me get straight into the story...
    It's by writing that I figure out what I think, hence I journal - and blog! Keep scribbling/typing, Sarah, and we'll keep reading :) x


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