After finishing what I thought was a standalone novel called The Dance Floor Wars: Dispatches From the Front, I was pleased it was done and breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Within a week, though, one of my main characters, Lucinda, told me the story was just beginning and how dare I leave readers hanging. Lucinda was correct.
Therefore, since it was Lucinda’s idea and she had given me some things that needed to be revisited, I thought the book should be written from her point of view, first person. I named the book Lucinda’s People, and let Lucinda get busy writing.
The first book, DFW:DFTF, was written first person from Gordon’s POV. Gordon is a journalist. Gordon is used to doing research. Gordon knows how to interview people. He told a very good story as well as emotionally satisfying.
Lucinda was not a writer and couldn’t carry a whole chapter herself. Her effort to do so was boring, pedantic, yawn. The book came to a screeching halt and it had hardly begun.
In the first book we see Gordon’s view of Lucinda. She is this awesome, wonderful, wise, sexy — almost idealized — woman that he falls in love with. But all he knows of her and her past lovers is what she chooses to show him. Though never dishonest or deliberately misleading with Gordon, she is incomplete, shallow. Though we like her okay, we much prefer Gordon.
Lucinda, while seeing everyone else clearly, nevertheless does not know her own self so well. Being incapable of writing anything except a short letter, and not being one for deep personal analysis, there is no way she could ever tell us about herself nor carry an entire book.
The problem, of course, was that Lucinda’s backstory needed to be told simply because Gordon would never have fallen for someone so perfect. Gordon had a deep understanding of himself and others. He could not have been such a successful journalist in The Dance Floor Wars otherwise. Therefore we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is more here connected to Lucinda that we need to know.
How to tell Lucinda’s story, though, became a big problem.
Gordon couldn’t do it because he cannot read her mind. Besides, he had left the scene to go nurse his wounds and write other books.
The only other viable alternative was third person, the omniscient narrator, the God in the story that sees all, knows all, and tells all no matter how difficult or ugly, and who has no pony in the race.
I revisited that horribly boring chapter from God’s POV and there she was; alive, vibrant, vulnerable, scared, worried, not so wise, much needful, furious. A human in full. The book now had a way of being written.
Third-person omniscient narrator also gets us into the minds of her ex-lovers to see her as they did and tell us their stories from another perspective, even if they couldn’t put it into words themselves, that omniscient narrator knows.
Unbeknownst to herself, Lucinda has a big ego, and it would hurt her feelings to tell these things about herself even if she was capable of knowing them. She would never have given Gordon permission to tell all that.
Lucinda as a catalyst works very well. Lucinda as the storyteller sucks wind big time.
Second person is the second most difficult method of telling a story as it is a hybrid combination of God and limited-first-person points of view that are not easy to navigate.
First person is the easiest but is most limiting as, without hard evidence to the contrary, we can only guess at what someone is thinking or planning. Building that chain of evidence can be tricky and, as we’ve seen with Lucinda, can be impossible since the character might not have anything interesting to say.
Though the possibilities expand exponentially when telling a story from the God perspective, it is the most difficult method of writing because one can never be dishonest in the telling. Too many people have agendas based on their personal feelings that when they try to write these as if from the omniscient mind, the story comes across as manipulative. The reader feels that manipulation, will not like it, but won’t know why. The ick factor can be huge.
But executed honestly, even if the reader disagrees with the storyline, the reader can still thoroughly enjoy it because they know they are not being lied to. That is third-person done well.