Friday, October 15, 2010

Fiction Friday: FIRST PERSON

Ah, the great YA-first-person debate! Writers, bloggers, critics and every possible combination thereof have opined on the popularity of first person in YA literature. In last weekend's Wall Street Journal, Meghan Cox Gurdon reviewed and compared three first-person YA's in her "Children's Books Chronicle."

POV has been weighing on my mind particularly since ms I am revising is currently in third-person, past tense, but having some rocky moments. So this morning at Barnes & Noble, as I procrastinated about settling down for my writing time, I decided to read every first page on the YA new releases shelf (really one of my more epic avoidance efforts, still, an exercise both enlightening and fun). As I read, I discovered that, not just many but THE VAST MAJORITY of new YA novels begin, more-or-less, in the "I."

My upcoming novel is written in first person (also in verse) so I'm not throwing any stones here. But, as I read, I noticed that Leila Sales' charming debut, MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS is in first person, along with NYT best-sellers Gale Forman's IF I STAY, Ellen Hopkins' CRANK, and Stephenie Meyers' TWILIGHT. Perhaps its the pervasiveness of this POV that has, of late, lead a few literary heavy hitters to throw punches at the old "I." As a YA-writer, it's made me insecure.

However, the great gods of procrastination pointed my feet toward literary fiction where...guess what? Living-writer- legend Philip Roth's AMERICAN PASTORAL, Ernest Hemingway's THE SUN ALSO RISES, Arthur Conan Doyle's ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, Joshua Ferris's satire THEN WE CAME TO THE END, the framing chapters of Isaac Asimov's I, ROBOT, and F. Scott Fitzgerald's THE GREAT GATSBY all sit happily on the shelves, snuggling first person narrators inside their jackets. So, is the "I" a YA trend?

Happily, I was able to pull myself away from the stacks and get back to wrestling with my mansucript before all that deep thought made me need to nap :) However, I remain at a point of intense conflict, currently writing in third person, past tense but feeling like my character wants to speak for herself--you know, back to the "I." No conclusions here. Just observations...and questions.


Molly/Cece said...

I'm not the biggest fan of first person. It always feels like a straight jacket to me. I like to pull that lens out some and give a omniscient lay of the story landscape. It does seem to be true that the favorite is 1st right now. That pendulum is always swinging, though. M.

Sylvie said...

To me, it's more the first-person present-tense trend that seems a bit much. It certainly can work, as in the case of my current read, Wolf Hall, but I can see how it could get tiring.

RaShelle Workman said...

I like the first person past tense very much, but what kept coming to as I was reading your post was write what's comfortable. That's what will make your writing and your characters shine. =D

ps: my novel, DISTORTED, is adult and it's written in third person. I do believe it has to do with genre.

La Coccinelle said...

I personally like the first person POV (hey, it worked in Jane Eyre). It has to be first person, past tense, though. I detest first person, present tense. It's always seemed a bit pretentious and unnatural to me (and I've noticed a few instances of the author getting his/her tenses mixed up when they write in the present tense).

WritingNut said...

I currently write in first person, and while I have written in third person in the past, I'm most comfortable with first.

Great post! :)

Stasia said...

Thanks, everyone. It's really interesting how strong people's feelings are about first person. I'm still struggling but I have decided to follow RaShelle's advice (can't wait to read your book, btw) and go with what feels most comfortable for my mc. - Stasia