When I sat down to write my first book, A Shocking & Unnatural Incident, I planned to have each protagonist tell her story in the first person via alternating chapters. I didn’t do a very good job and a sympathetic editor offered this excellent advice: Pick one character and stick with her.
I’ve since read books that alternate viewpoints with each chapter, and today, being more experienced, I might be able to pull it off myself. But I do appreciate that editor’s advice and have found that sticking with one viewpoint–and especially the first person–makes writing easier.
For one thing, I feel comfortable talking to the reader. I really like it. It’s very personal. Intimate.
In addition, I like the need to contain the action and events to what my main character can see, hear, taste, touch and smell. I understand this is one reason many writers do not like first person narrative. I, however, find it challenging to limit my protagonist’s activities to what’s in front of her.
Of course, this makes writing difficult.
To make a story interesting, action and conversation must often happen beyond the main character’s range of senses.
My protagonist Tess Riley must be sneaky to hear what’s being said inside the neighbor’s house when she hasn’t been invited to the gathering. She must connive to follow her friends’ plight when they’ve been locked in jail and she is left staggering on the street.
To build the story and move it along, Tess often hides below windowsills, dawdles on the steps, or kicks the sheriff in the leg—all to catch a conversation no one’s invited her to hear.
She must position herself and often push herself into both the action and the conversation to keep the story from stagnating.
A first person POV author must be devious because with historical fiction everything the protagonist does must be plausible. This isn’t fantasy or sci-fi.