I have noticed a huge increase in stories written from the first person narrative perspective. I think the draw of this perspective is that it can create an immediate intimacy between the reader and author without a lot of background work to achieve this intimacy. I also think it is a perspective that builds tension.
Dean Koontz, in his book Seize the Night, utilized this perspective flawlessly. Years though it has been since I first read it, I can remember the involvement I had in Chris Snow’s story.
Other books aren’t quite so successful, to be sure.
After careful thought, I believe a first person narrative has to do the following to be successful:
- The author has to constantly remember the absolute limitations of the narrative voice. Unless the narrator is a mind-reader, there is no way he or she can be positive of any perception save their own.
- The narrator’s vocabulary should always suit the narrator’s character during the narrative. Dialogue can be slanted, enhanced, changed up, but the thoughts of the narrator have to be consistent with this character.
- Sensory perception has to be balanced with discussion to some degree. Too much of one or the other leads to an unbalanced narrative.
- The protagonist in the first person narrative should have their eyes open. If not for their own edification (they can be confused about events, or uncaring about details they note for the reader) then for the audience.
- The author should try very hard to continue to work on the characterization of the entire cast of his novel as seen through the eyes of the protagonist. Doing so makes the story more well-rounded.
I think, for me, this is a lot of work. I know of writers who prefer this perspective, but I am not gifted enough to share a whole world solely through one pair of eyes. I need at least the distance of a third person perspective, with the ability to call upon ways of describing things, saying things, that are not limited by my characters’ limitations.
Don’t know if I’m lazy, exactly, so much as I am more confident in third person. But there are drawbacks there, too. I’ll tackle them another day. 🙂