You have a character, someone you’re getting to know, and as you go deeper into this person’s background – the baggage they carry around and the dreams they hold on to or let go of.  You understand the story that needs to be told.  What voice would your character want you to tell it in?  1st or 3rd person?  If you choose 1st person, you are relinquishing control of your omniscience.  You are allowing your character’s weaknesses and the limitations that come with them to direct the conflict of the story – limitations that will obscure logic and truth.  But maybe your character needs to stumble through their conflicts in order to reach clarity and self-knowledge.  Perhaps you need to let them do this.

Decide if the journey that your character is on is so personal that they don’t want you poking around in their perceptions, in their decision-making, in their memories and dreams.  They want to figure things out in their own way, in their own time.  Let them.  The characters in Catcher in the Rye and The Lovely Bones invite us into their worlds of misplaced needs and deeds.  We accept their limitations and watch them hunt down reality with amateur weapons – weapons we’ve used.  How would 3rd person narration have changed these stories?

Here is 1st person narration from The Drowning of Margaret Hannagh

I crept down the hallway which led to the parlor and grand stairway to the second story.  I stopped and sat on the first step to listen.  Hardly a hair of a moonbeam struck anywhere in the house.  I listened to his soft mumbling upstairs.  Then silence again and snoring and more mumbling.  I ascended to the top, then stopped and looked in the direction the voice was coming from.  He was in the room to the right of the landing.  joan was with him.  I couldn’t smell her perfume as I entered the room.

I could barely make out the white linens on his bed and could not define his form. Proceeding to the bed I had to reach out to touch him, to find the curves of his body.  He was reclined, almost sitting up against pillows.  I could smell rum on his breath.   My fingers had no weight as they moved over him to his face.  I smiled that he was sleeping this way, so I wouldn’t have to try to turn him.  I found the half empty rum bottle and poured some on my face. Soundlessly, I removed the knife and let it hover in front of him.

 I moved close while his dreams pushed worried words through his lips.  I moved the blade like a single strand of silk over his face from beneath his left eye to his jaw and felt the blood drain past my fingers into the sleeve of my dress.

He twitched.  His tongue licked at something moist – perhaps rum, he dreamed.  Then the pain, like war-fire, scattered along his nerves into his brain, until he jolted up.  I could hear him scream out as I ran down the stairway and left through the kitchen, throwing the knife under the table where he wouldn’t think to look. He ran after me; I heard him stumble over the upturned chair and cry out.  

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