WHY I LIKE AND DON’T LIKE WHAT I DO
I often get asked why I despise first-person in fiction, or can’t stand present-tense in just about anything. Well, truth be told, I don’t despise first-person in fiction, though I don’t like it. I can tolerate it under special circumstances. However, I will say I do despise present-tense under any circumstances that I can think of, as I write this. I can’t stand things like head-hopping, sentences that start with But and And, the phrases started to and began to. I also can’t stand to see liberal, if any use of colons and semi-colons in fiction. Back to POV, the combination of first-person present-tense is unreadable to me as well as second-person.
HOW DID I GET TO WHERE I AM?
How did I become this way? Why do these things bother me so much? Before I became smarter, a more skilled writer and an editor, there were always things about certain books that bugged me. Some books that were wildly popular I just couldn’t get into. Why? What was wrong with them? When the movie came out, I loved them, yet when I went back to read the book, I couldn’t get through the first chapter, and sometimes even the first paragraph. There was something about the writing that didn’t sit well with me, but I didn’t have the skills to figure out what was wrong.
SKILLS COME WITH TIME
I honed my chops as a writer, and part of that involved the editing process. My skills grew, and with that, I not only became involved in writer’s groups, but I took on helping others. I started my editing “career.” It really began long before that, when I was in the military. That’s where I really learned to write, mainly on the technical side. Since I was a supervisor, I had to edit all kinds of written material including performance reports. My skills grew in leaps and bounds.
As my writing and editing chops grew, I found what I was most comfortable with in fiction. Third-person, past tense. This point of view provided me with the broadest and most solid palette. I went back to some of the classic novels I was “supposed” to love to see what was wrong with them. I had a huge epiphany. It wasn’t just something vague about the writing, it was specific styles these authors used that made the stories unreadable to me, no matter how great the actual stories were when converted to film. Two examples are Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea and War Of The Worlds. They’re great classics, but both written in first-person. Looking at them now, I can’t get through the first few pages. Lord Of The Rings? Awful! Though it’s third-person, it’s omniscient, very flat and impersonal. That’s a huge reason why I could never get through more than a page of The Hobbit, yet I loved the movies.
I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE
I’ve done unofficial polls of non-writers just out of curiosity. I’ve asked young and old readers which books they’ve liked, which authors they’ve liked and disliked and why. Many of them can’t tell any difference between styles while others have certain authors and styles they’re not quite comfortable with, but they can’t tell me why. “Just something about them.”
Sometimes it has to do with the story itself or the way the author draws the characters or the author’s voice. However, sometimes the reader loves the story but isn’t comfortable with the writing. Those are the opinions I’m interested in and to which I’m talking about here.
Once in a while, it’s first-person. However, most of the time it’s present-tense. So far, my poll has never found anyone uncomfortable with third-person. I’ve never polled anyone who’s read a second-person book as they’re extremely rare. However, I’ve polled a few people who’ve read poorly written and poorly edited books. I won’t name names but they’re nobody I know personally! I will say that these authors are both nationally and self-published, which may surprise some of you, but doesn’t surprise me at all.
I’M THERE BECAUSE I HAVE THE SKILLS TO KNOW BETTER
People say I’m limiting myself and am missing out on some great stories. I don’t see it that way. I know what I like and I’ve had a lot of time and learning to figure it out. I save myself tons of money that way.
If the author puts up a barrier with crappy writing, or difficult style, I don’t care how great the story is. I’d rather wait for the movie.