Finding Your Voice: Writing in First Person
By: Sarah Daltry
When I started writing, I never really gave any consideration to the voice of the work. I just wrote it in the voice that came into my head when the story idea popped up. Time went on, I was writing, and voice was still not a factor in my planning. For me, the characters tell the stories, so the voice was whatever voice they were speaking to me in – and that was usually first person.
As a reader, I love first person stories. They feel confessional, like the novel is a big secret that I share with a close friend. When I began writing, I thought of storytelling the same way. I didn’t want to insert myself between the character and the reader. So I continued writing in first person.
Originally, I wrote in first person, past tense. When I started writing erotica, though, it became clear that first person present was a much more “involved” tense choice. Reading erotic stories in first person present really makes you feel like you are experiencing the events in the story and isn’t that the goal of erotica? Crossing over to romance, I had to decide if I wanted to stick with first person present or return to past tense. I had really begun to enjoy present tense because it made the story that much more active to me.
After writing my stories this way for a while, I stumbled upon an article about agents’ pet peeves in publishing. At the top of the list was first person present tense. That was a surprise. I love reading books in this voice, so why would it be a bad thing? I don’t really know the answer, but I worried about this a great deal. Could I never succeed as a writer because I chose the wrong voice? Would readers really not pick up a book because of the narration?
It turns out that yes, there is a group of readers who will not read a book based on the voice in which it’s written. I needed to decide what that meant for me. Should I change what worked for me as a writer – in order to reach more people? Would I feel the same connection to the characters if I changed the point of view?
My final decision was that voice matters, but it matters more to a writer than to a reader. I have never put a book down because of the voice the author chose. I don’t care. A story is a story. My preference remains first person, but I’m not going to ignore a book that appeals to me because it’s in third. I hope most readers feel the same way. On the other hand, the characters need to be free to tell the story. I’m the instrument they use to become real to readers. If they want to talk, and leave me out of it, who am I to argue?
Right now, I am working on a novel that will probably be in alternating third person. I didn’t make the choice because I had heard too many complaints about first person. I made it because it works for the novel. I think when it comes to finding your voice as an author, you need to go with what you feel works. The rest will just have to fall into place.
Genre – New Adult Erotic Romance
Rating – X