Thursday, 25 November 2010

First versus Third part two

I tried rewriting the first part of the new book (needs a name) in first person, but to me it's missing something. You can judge for yourself beneath, both the starts are there. I think what it's missing is what some people call voice.

You see, the main character Jim was written in third person so he's never really had his own voice or way of talking. It's always been the storyteller telling his life and the mess he's made of his first hit and the subsequent dash for cash to repay the money he was advanced. Trying to suddenly rewrite it in his style doesn't feel right. I'm kind of drawn into using my stock first person style, but I know it's not right for him.

The other way it probably won't work is later on when someone else becomes involved heavily in the story. I suppose it could work in first person, but it would get messy and there is certain things the reader should know before Jim does.

Anyway, here's the start in third

Muscles Jim never knew he had continued to twist his stomach.

Looking again at the clock, it still showed half six. Thirty one minutes to go. He pushed the second button again, convinced for the third time it had stopped. He kept telling himself digital clocks don’t just stop. If they break, the display doesn’t work, it doesn’t just freeze. But, he had to check again.

He knew it shouldn’t be like this. He should be looking forward to the first day of his new job. It definitely shouldn’t have made him physically sick with fear. After all, it’s the chance to meet new people, the start of an adventure. Maybe that was the problem with contract killing; the only new people you met, you killed.

The clock that was definitely working showed thirty minutes until crunch time. Everything had been prepared and checked many times yesterday and last night. As he sat on the corner of the bed, Jim knew all he could do was wait. Waiting would give him plenty of time to think what he was about to do. What he was about to become.

and the start in first

They told me to expect this, but it doesn’t make it easier. Sat here in this murky hotel room, my brain’s cranky from last night. I got to sleep about three, maybe four. Sun starts rising early here, not that the day ever really ends in a city. The bustle’s all night. Busy, busy people. Busy important, or self important, people.

It’s half six now, thirty minutes till crunch time and my stomach’s twisting itself up in some sailor’s knot that my bowels are trying to undo. Suppose physical sickness’s just another part of the job. First day of a job shouldn’t be like that. Should be the start something new, the chance to meet new people, that’s what they say ain’t it? Guess that’s the problem with contract killing. Only new people you meet, you kill.

I’d got all my gear together last night, too. Should have left that for this morning. Could have been a job to eat up the time. As it is I got nothing to do now but wait. Wait for the clock to strike seven. Then, I go for a walk.

Anyway so that's it. It's going to be third person.

I've finished editing Too Big To Fail, though the start needs another look at. I'm also re-writing a short story I found hidden away from last year from third to first, which definitely does work.

Friday, 19 November 2010

First or third?

Person that is. Forget second, to me it just reads like one of those old Fighting Fantasy books, not that there was anything wrong with them back in the day. But, what makes you decide whether to write in first or third?

I've always been a third person kind of guy. One of my earliest short stories was first, a meeting of two young people, written from the view of both of them, one after the other. Obviously, it involved pies as everything from that era seemed to. But apart form that, everything's been third person since. Until recently.

I suppose my interpretation of writing comedy chose that way. Most of the jokes come from the narrator who keeps butting in. Some people scream, you can't do that, but it never hurt Douglas Adams (not that I can compare myself in anyway to him.)

Recently though, about march I guess, I started a little story about a Private Detective. It was hard work writing it in third person, like most PI's most of the action goes on in his messed up head. I gave up on it, but it keeps coming back to me, a little voice in my mind saying, 'write me, write me.'

My fairly recent discovery of the masses of excellent first person crime stuff out there made me have a go myself. Got to admit, I love it. Written about six little stories now, some work some don't

So is it horses for courses? Does the story dictate whether it's first or third. Or, is it the genre? Or even the main character? How messed up and complex does the character need to be before it needs writing in first?

Now that I've finished writing Too big to fail. I'm at a loss. For the past three months I've written a few thousand words each day, and just stopping dead is leaving a big hole. A couple of short stories have been written, but I'm looking more towards the next book.

The failed-newbie-contract-killer-come-wideboy-grifter book was started back in the summer. I got to about 35,000 words then put it on hold. I'm starting to wonder now if it would be better in first instead of third?

It seems a waste to dump nearly half a book and start again from scratch. But, then again, first person let's you get closer to his head, his thoughts without having to use those annoying He thought tags or italics all the time. Third person though, lets the reader see things the character doesn't. You can give little hints to the reader the character's unaware of.

Dunno is the answer. Maybe I'll re-write the start of it in first person and compare them?

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Is it worth it?

A new winter coat and shoes for the wife.

I'll stop there. Robert Wyatt or Elvis Costello I am not. I read a post yesterday that didn't so much as depress me, but made me wonder if the direction I and no doubt others are taking is right.

The post in question was discussing the current state of publishing. It said that publishers (i.e. mainstream publishers) are currently only really interested in books they know will sell over 50,000 copies. That certainly would explain the lack of new writers the big publishers are publishing. I don't know if this link will work properly or not, but of the 538 best new sellers on amazon, only 1 is humour. And of the crime thrillers I bet none of their hardboiled main characters have diabetic pony's, dual personalities or fixations with smoked herring.

What genres would sell so many for a new author? Mainstream thrillers (anything to do with Terrorism or Afghanistan seems popular at the moment), ripoffs of proven subject matter (I'm thinking all those Da Vinci style books), chick-lit (no chance) and whatever they reckon will be in fashion next year.

So, do you play the game to get known? Or write what you want in the hope they'll change their policy and open the floodgates soon? Am I being ignorant in thinking that my non-specific genre comedy spy thriller or failed contract killer turned wide boy books are going to make a publisher say, scrap everything else, we were wrong, this will sell millions. It's very unlikely, isn't it?

The other options are smaller publishers. Little or no advertising budgets will unfortunately in this world mean little sales. The print runs won't be big enough for them to discount heavily or supply The Works and other cheap sellers at 3 for a fiver prices. The final option, Self Publishing. Not really much you can say about that is there. At one time I was all for it, but someone talked me out of it. Again, it's the advertising budget and inability to price low that makes this not really an option.

I guess it's all about building a following, isn't it? Without something substantial to read, your following won't get large enough for a big publisher to publish. The smaller publisher route could help build that following over a series of books.

Either that, or play the game. Write want they're looking for. Or, just sell it yourself and make a few quid.

Anyway, cheer up, here's a picture of a haggis, neeps and tatty pie.