for writers and readers….
Write two versions of the same scene. The setting is a work place and the main character is someone who turns up very, very drunk.
First version: write in the third person…
he stumbled.. her mumbled speech was slurred…
Second version: write in the first person…
I wanted to tell them… my head hurt….
Remember the advice Michael Caine gave to students in an acting masterclass: ”Don’t act drunk. Your character is drunk trying to act sober.”
I’ve used this exercise a lot in classes and it is a pretty good way of exploring the advantages and disadvantages that different points of view offer.
There’s nothing quite like the intimacy of being in someone’s head. Some authors have used it to give a voice to the voiceless, or to give the reader the feeling of being there, transported to a different time or a different way of being.
BUT you only have the vocabulary of your character to work with….you only know what your character knows or, in this case, understands. Is the inebriated office manager aware that his speech is going on for far too long?
Third person is the observer. It allows for description in a way that is often not possible in first person. Getting your ‘I’ character to look in the mirror is a cliche that is so tired and lifeless, it should be allowed to go away and lie down. (And, anyway, what do we really see when we look at ourselves in the mirror? Sad, hazel eyes and long blond hair bleached by the Italian sun…or split ends and reminder that a trip the hairdresser is over due… ).
BUT there is a certain distance in telling a story that way. Can you be as bold and as adventurous in your writing as stories that emerge from a central character? In this example, the author – and the reader at their side – writing in third person is looking at someone one not entirely in control. Writing in the first person, however, you are feeling what it is like to be out out of control
Point of view is a tool and in the end what kind of story you want to tell determines which perspective you choose. Think about it. But I think it is easier to think with a pen in your hand – hence this exercise.
Just thought I’d mention that my writing guide Back to Creative Writing School (30 exercises, 140+ reviews on Amazon UK)
It’s now at its lowest price ever £4 in the UK and $5.84 in the US . There, said it, advert over. Phew!