During National Novel Writing Month, there isn’t a lot of time for second guessing yourself. You’ve got to write 1,667 words a day on average to make it to 50,000 by the end of the month, but sometimes you have a realization, like – wait, a second, this book would actually be so much better if I made the HUGE ENORMOUS CHANGE. I’m talking today about why you should go with your gut, especially in the first week.
So we are officially six days into this word count race and last night I had an epiphany, ghost stories can’t be told in third person. Well, they can, I can think of a dozen examples but one thing I love so much about a ghost story is the telling of the story. So screw it, I’m writing in first person. Really when it comes down to it, choosing between first and third person has got to be the most annoying choice. There is no right or wrong answer. Both are good, both can construe beautiful and engaging narratives. It’s a stylistic choice and the decision should be made based on what you hope to achieve.
I already knew I wanted to follow one single protagonist through the story. No fancy switching of points of view for me, I’m sticking with something straightforward. So it could have easily been in first or third. I also had to give some heavy thought to what my novel was about. Third person is a bit more removed, and really the spooky feelings you get in this particular ghost story come from the internal conflict and wandering thoughts. Again, this can be done in third person, but really that’s where it starts to get a little trickier. I didn’t actually want to talk all that much about her job, what she was doing in her day to day, because it matters a lot less than the weird, idiosyncratic fears that are constantly running through her head.
Anyway, I made the decision that first person was going to be a better choice for the particular story I wanted to tell and immediately, I went back to the first chapter. I started rewriting it in first person and immediately I knew what to add. I could just keep writing, layering in voice and thought. I even added a whole scene that’s set right before the opening. I was writing a lot more, a lot more quickly. It became easier to get into this characters head and let her thoughts ramble on. The point is, I had 5 days worth of writing and I went back to the beginning to make the change that I thought would help this story. I can see it working already. It’ll enable me to take the story in the direction I want it to go. I might not make it to 50,000 words in one draft this month, but that’s okay. My novel will probably be better for it down the line.
In the meantime, I’m loading up on caffeine and getting to work.