Readers had a pretty good reaction to "Sister Ophelia". In a number of ways, it's a bit different from many of the stories I write. I thought it would be useful to talk about that. This blog post was going to be about two key aspects of "Sister Ophelia" that people remarked on. However, the more I think about it, the more I realize that each of these deserves separate treatment. So, today will be a discussion of first person POV, tomorrow will be on writing in dialect.
Also, this is in first person, which I rarely use. It's a POV that asks the reader to sink themselves into the narrator, which takes time to pull off. I did this and I did that... the reader has to become the narrator, or at least live in the narrator's head while the action unfolds. In a flash fiction piece, there is only minute timeslice of room in which to do that.
I've tried it before, both in flash fiction and in longer pieces, and it's damned tricky to pull off effectively. I have a great deal of respect for writers who can do it. In "Sister Ophelia" I used the authorial trick of having this narrative done in the quasi-epistolary form of an interview. That lets the reader off the hook, and allows the narrator to continue to be Other, even though it's first person POV. Neat, eh?
This approach also lets the reader fill in the blanks as to the questions and reactions of the interlocutor. I believe that this helps to suck a reader into the story, to get them engaged. It's a literary equivalent of the smell of fresh baked bread... just TRY to stay out of the kitchen.
I've also tried to write in what sounds like the second person POV, but is really first person that addresses the reader directly. That was a pretty weird story, actually. Technically difficult, excessively cumbersome as a narrative technique.
Have you written in first person POV? Have you seen examples of it used well? Used badly? Is there a greater immediacy with first person, or is that an outmoded concept?
Share your thoughts!
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