The First Person

I'm ambivalent towards myself, or at least I'm ambivalent about writing about myself; and no this isn't going to turn into an about page. I think we learn a lot of things from reading high quality work, but on the same token I think we learn even more from reading lower quality work. From this we can figure out what not to do, and learn from mistakes before we even have a chance to make them.

One thing that I saw a lot during my examination of the various crap that's floating around the web is that the first person is a delicate thing that can easily be used to create complete crap. What ends up happening is that rather than create the impression of a fictional world and story, the author isn't removed from the story and it seems very false and autobiographical, even when the author doesn't intend for it to be.

Additionally, it's far easier to write "I think, feel, act and breathe like this," rather than work on writing something that's more removed and distant. Using I statements is a crutch that too many authors, in my opinion, rely on without reason, and so their choice of narrative person isn't based on what's going to make the story most effective, but what's easiest to write.

For these reasons, I'm don't like writing fiction, or more properly haven't yet gotten to a point where I'm comfortable writing fiction in the first person. I think that the second half of the next novel project will be in first person, perhaps the whole thing, but I'm not sure at this point. I think distance and a level of experience with third person can give the proper amount of skill and ability to successfully pull off a story in first person.

On the other side of the coin, writing non-fiction in first person can have a very nice effect that can make some essays personal and hard hitting, but it can also make an otherwise effective piece of prose completely pointless. Because I'm writing so much stuff for school, and because I tend to err on the side of perfection and cautiousness, it's become hard for me to write in first person, morso in non-fiction than in fiction, but it's a problem in both.

Also my normal mode for non fiction is this pedagogical air about writing that I haven't been able to shake. Maybe it's Robert's fault for roping me into that column three years ago, but it probably runs deeper. I really don't mean to try and teach and correct everything but it seems that that's just what comes out.

I'm stopping now while I'm ahead. Or something.

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