I'm pleased to share a great article on Point of View with you today from the award-winning author, Christine Amsden. Welcome back to MB4, Christine!
Mind Games (Cassie Scot Book 3)
Beware your heart and soul…
Evan broke Cassie’s heart two months ago, and she still doesn’t know why. She throws herself into family, friends and her new job at the sheriff’s department, but nothing helps. The only thing that finally allows her heal and move on is the love of a new man, mind mage Matthew Blair. Cassie finds him…irresistible.
Matthew may also be the only one who can help keep the non-magical residents of Eagle Rock from going crazy over the murder of a beloved pastor’s wife. It looks like a sorcerer is to blame, but while Cassie tries to figure out who, others take matters into their own hands. With tensions running so hot, a single spark might set Eagle Rock ablaze.
Guest Blog by Christine Amsden
First Person: A Matter of Perspective
Whether a writer is a panster or an outliner, there is one question she must answer before getting started: First or third? For some the answer is simply a matter of personal preference, but even if that's the case it's important to think through the implications.
First person is a compelling viewpoint for many authors because it is easy to imagine ourselves as “I” and to tell a story that way. It's sort of what we do, isn't it? Play an elaborate game of make believe? But unless you're a dedicated hobbyist, you're not just telling this story for your own amusement. You're writing to an audience, and your audience may have a different perspective.
As a reader, I usually prefer third person – and I don't say this lightly because my Cassie Scot series is told in the first person (I'll get into why in a bit). I enjoy third person because in my readerly games of make believe, it is a little easier for me to pretend to be “he” or “she” than “I.” It also has the clear advantage of allowing me inside the heads of more than one character, deepening the story by bringing in multiple perspectives.
The third person limited omniscient is a great point of view which eliminates the distance between readers and characters. It puts us straight into their heads in a way that makes it a more intimate reading experience than first person. First person used to be the “close” point of view, but that's when it was competing with an omniscient version of third person. Nowadays, we have better options. Modern limited omniscient third person gets as intimate with the character as first person, but it eliminates distance in time. A first person narrator has, presumably, already lived through the events of the story and is telling them from the future. A third person narrator is right there in the moment.
But don't take this to mean that first person doesn't have a place. Of course it does! There is power in the first person narrator, but it has to be harnessed well and used wisely. As a reader immersing myself in a first person novel, it's more like a close personal friend is telling me their story in intimate detail. To get into it I have to like not only the story, but the person telling it and the way it's being told. Or to put it another way: Your narrator had better have character.
I'm just going to go out on a limb here and say this: If you can substitute “he” or “she” for “I” in a first person story and it's still basically the same, you've chosen the wrong point of view. If this is the case then you've thrown away all the advantage of first person while embracing all the disadvantages.
A first person narrator isn't just a narrator. He or she is a character telling a story. Their character will influence how they tell the story – including voice, style, and presentation method. First person narrators can get away with asides to the audience, or drop dark hints about what is to come (since they have already lived through it). A first person narrator can be unreliable – he can even lie to himself and believe it. He can also withhold information from the audience.
You can get away with breaking more rules in the first person than you can in the third. Ironically, this makes it harder to write. It's easier to effectively break rules once you know them and understand what they're for.
The power of a first person narrator is freedom of style.
I chose first person for Cassie, after a lot of agonizing deliberation, because she needed to tell her own story. It helped that the story (by which I mean the prominent series arc; the individual books are mysteries) is entirely about Cassie coming into herself as an adult. But you can tell a great story in the third person, even if it belongs to only one character. A first person story needs more. It needs a character who desperately wants to tell her own story. Cassie's got attitude, and she's talking right to you. “My parents think the longer the name the more powerful the sorcerer, so they named me Cassandra Morgan Ursula Margaret Scot. You can call me Cassie.”
I said earlier that as a reader, I usually prefer third person. I put the “usually” in there for a reason – I usually prefer third person because I run across too many first person stories that don't harness the power of first person. That don't have the right style or perspective, or that differ from a third person story only in the pronoun choice. The whole truth is that when first person is done well, it's my absolute favorite to read. But of course “done well” is also a matter of perspective.
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Christine Amsden has been writing fantasy and science fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and relationships, and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.
At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that effects the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams.
In addition to writing, Christine teaches workshops on writing at Savvy Authors. She also does some freelance editing work.
Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children.