Putting the “I” In Vree
I know, I know … you would rather see my artwork and photography than read my writing. At least, that’s what the few views and modest amount of likes tell me every time I post in my writing section. So, for the handful of followers who enjoy my writing, here’s the continuation of my attempt to rewrite Night of the Hellhounds, or accurately, Margga’s Curse.
Not long after I published Night of the Hellhounds with its new title at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and other ebook outlets, and felt done with it, ready to work out the kinks in the second novel, a fan of my stories—and probably my only fan—admitted that he liked my short story better than the novel.
“What’s wrong with the novel?” I asked.
“I don’t like the parts with Vree being a wimp and running away from her problems. Or the parts with the Roualens—they don’t seem important to the story. You should get rid of them and the spaceship … Lenny too. His parts in the story were boring when it was about him at the dinner table and the restaurant. This is Vree’s story and her problems with magic and dealing with Margga who wants to take away her magic. You should have told it only from her perspective.”
Finally! Some honest criticism, albeit late in the game.
“But, not everyone likes reading limited point-of-view stories,” I said. Especially me. And especially when the narrative is written in first person.
“I do,” he said. “I don’t like stories that go off in tangents. Tangents tend to reveal information early in the story that takes away from the surprise and drama at the end.”
“Would you like to read an earlier draft of Margga’s Curse?” I asked, pulling an ace from my sleeve. I have a habit of writing in first person point of view when I write a first draft, then change everything to third person point of view by the final draft. I still had the draft with everything told from Vree’s point of view.
He said he did, so I gave him a copy. Weeks later, he said it was as good as the original short story and a lot better than the novel, though he still didn’t care about the Roualens.
But was it better? I had my doubts.
By 2016, I still hadn’t finished Vree’s second novel. I had lost interest in the character, so I moved on to other projects. Over the summer, I was cleaning files from my computer when I found all the drafts of Night of the Hellhounds/Margga’s Curse. I read the first-person draft again, found I liked it, and made a 5-point list why.
- The introduction of Vree extends a friendly hand to the reader—a much warmer intro than when she was introduced in third person point of view.
- Because first person point of view is a limited scope to work with, Vree cannot tell the reader things that happen offstage. She and the reader are kept in the dark and must rely on revelations. Revealing actions create suspense or foreboding, and empathetic curiosity. A little mystery keeps everyone wanting to find out more.
- Vree’s voice makes her identifiable and adds to her personality from the start, which was something I had to build when I wrote her as a third-person-point-of-view character. And because she’s a constant active character, we have a stronger sense of her as a real person who has choices and can make decisions of her own free will. We see the experience from her immediate perspective.
- Vree can confide in the reader with secrets and intimate revelations, creating curiosity and making the reader invest in the story.
- Writing in first person point of view allows me, unfortunately, to use filter words. Filter words are I saw, I heard, I smelled, I thought, etc. I find it necessary to reread my first-person stories and eliminate filter words, to let the reader see the action through Vree’s eyes. “I saw the brown and shaggy dog,” makes the reader watch Vree see the dog. “The dog was brown and shaggy,” lets the reader see what Vree sees, and closes the distance between the reader and her. “I heard the music, tinny and spooky and weird,” vs. “The music was tinny and spooky and weird.” One is outside, watching Vree listen; the other is inside her head, hearing it with her. Filter words aren’t always bad. “I see the shelves, and I see the counter, but I don’t see the magic potion.” This is describing the act of seeing explicitly and conveys Vree’s frustration at not finding what she’s looking for.
So, for the sake of experiment, I am publishing the first-person story at my website/blog, after making a major change: I swapped the Roualen story for one of Margga’s hellhounds nosing the grounds and being vicious.
Night of the Hellhounds 4.2: Margga’s Curse, 2015 (first person point of view)
I have decided not to publish this version at any of the ebook outlets I use. This version is exclusive here, presented over time at one chapter at a time. A drawback when telling a first-person POV story is dealing with backstory information. It needs to be sprinkled about—never clumped in the middle of a story. Many unskilled authors clump their backstory—it’s like a mandatory siesta from the main problem and goal, and it makes me impatient for the main characters to wake up and return to action. Another thing about backstory—excuse me for climbing on my soapbox—but too many serial television programs are killing their shows with excessive character backstory. I remember it happening a lot in the series Lost. Now it seems that everyone writing TV shows is doing it. And I’m tired of it. As a viewer, I’m not in love with the main character’s personal life as much as the script writers are. Stop it. Stop reasoning every main character’s action with pseudo-psychology and get on with the plot. Give us character details in small doses, told (or shown) to us over time.
’Nuff said. Now
AT 2:50 P.M. ON JUNE nineteenth, while I readied the backyard for my fifteenth birthday, I dodged mowing over an exposed tree root, but I didn’t see my brother’s baseball glove until Daddy’s John Deere riding mower was inches away. Then … BAM. The leather glove wedged inside the mower’s deck and stopped the blade.