1. André Serrenho
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    André Serrenho New Member

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    Help me to figure out how can I use a first person POV

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by André Serrenho, Sep 3, 2014.

    Hello!
    I'm trying to write my first novel, and I'm having serious problems to start the story.
    Quickly introducing my story, is about a 42 old man that in the present is in a deep coma, but he's living his life story inside his head. The problem is that some memories are not so clear and there's two persons in his visions: the 23 yrs old him; and the 42 yrs old him. I know it's kind of messy.
    I'd like to use a first person POV because it would be much more intense and real, but the problem is that a disabilitated person that cannot move even a finger, can't write the story. And even worse, he's unconscious, it's impossible for him to tell that story.

    I really want to write in first person, can you help me to figure out a way to solve this problem?
    Thank you so much
     
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I read Joy Fieldings Still Life which was pretty good - it was about a coma patient. But she could hear and see everything around her.
    This sounds pretty complicated for a first time writing project. Does the person have to be in a coma? If he does your best bet is to make everything crystal clear to the reader. Set up the situation first thing so there's no doubt what's going on. Also when you switch between ages do them in separate scenes possibly even separate chapters, this will help you establish a pattern that's easier to write and organize and easier for the reader to keep track of.
     
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  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    My first reaction is: why is it so important to you to write it in first person? When I choose to write in first person, it's almost always because I want to take advantage of the fact that a 1st person narrator can be less reliable than a 3rd person narrator. But in your case, since the mc is living his life story inside his head, there is no room for withholding details (as an unreliable narrator) anyway, so I don't see the advantage. The same sense of intimacy that one perceives (and it is only a perception) in 1st person can be just as easily achieved with 3rd person limited. So, I'd consider that, were I you.

    But you have another problem, a much more serious one. While it is possible to have multiple 1st person narrators, one has to be careful to make sure that the reader is absolutely clear at all times which character is narrating. That's almost always done with separate well labeled chapters. But having two separate voices for the same character, just at different ages...hoo boy. I'm not saying it can't be done, but I'd be very concerned that you'd have to be so careful explaining which version of the mc was narrating at a given time that it would stilt your writing unnecessarily.

    One other question: do you really need two different narrative voices? Why can't the 42 year old version simply be reflecting - or reliving, doesn't matter - his life at 23? After all, when we reflect back on our earlier lives, we may feel some of the same emotions we did at the time of the event, but that is leavened by our subsequent life experiences, good and bad. It is impossible not to see old events in a new light.

    I agree with @peachalulu - it sounds very complicated for a first project, possibly without needing to be. My advice is to sketch out the story you want to tell, first - your character's story, regardless of age - and then figure out the best way to tell it. But please don't lock yourself into a particular way of telling it because you think that particular structure hasn't been done before. Rule #1 of writing (and maybe the only real rule): tell a good story.

    Best of luck.

    ETA: Jimmy Breslin took an interesting approach to writing his memoirs, entitled I Want to Thank My Brain for Remembering Me. The touchstone was the development of an aneurysm and the surgery it required. He mixed reflections on his writing career with a narrative of the process from initial diagnosis to recovery, and included what he remembers from the time he first came out of anesthesia in the recovery room until he was moved to ICU. The suggestion is that he recalled some aspects of his career during this time, which may or may not be true but you may be interested in reading how he handled them.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2014
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  4. André Serrenho
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    André Serrenho New Member

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    Thank you very much for the answers. But I didn't explain my point in an appropriate way, sorry for that. I forgot to tell a fulcral fact in this story inside his head. He is mixing versions of his own story in two separated times. In the 19 years he was in coma, he listened the news that people were telling to him. He didn't live anything new since he was 23 yrs old, but he knows things he didn't know before. When re-living his own story inside his memories, he will be confused by the new information he knows of the "future". There are no two narrators. It's only him (a 42 yrs old man, only with 23 yrs lived). Inside his head he will live his memories, but he will meet a 42 yrs old man, that is himself in the present. But until a certain point he doesn't know that. So in the story, the 42 yrs old him, is an external character of himself. It's just a strange man, with a lot of things in common. I know it's a hard plot for a first time but I'm ambitious ahah Anyway thank you for advice, writing in 3rd person it's probably the best way to conduct the story. But it will be much harder to get inside his head. Ah! And my original idea was no to tell the reader he was in coma. That would be a revelation in the end of the story, when every questions and doubts of the holes in his memories would be explained and justified.
     
  5. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    It sounds interesting! I read one fiction book where a girl woke up from a coma and went from 12 to 19 and had a hard time giving up playing with Barbies and dating. It was quite good.
    Let us know how it goes.
     
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  6. JamesBrown
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    JamesBrown Active Member

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    If he's been in a coma for 19 years wouldn't he really in his mind stay as a 23 year old? He presumably hasn't seen himself in all that time and isn't going to develop much mentally.

    I would say write it as if he's still a 23 year old, living in 1995 or whatever, and then build a surreal world based on the droplets of information he's been obtained lying in his hospital bed.

    I think it would work best if he only regained any type of fully cognitive functions (though not actually waking up of course) at the age of 42, and all this information he's been fed by TVs left on his room/visitors speaking to him etc. suddenly gets processed into this new reality that he's trying to comprehend. Maybe he lands in a war zone in the Middle East somewhere or something like that.

    I wouldn't reveal he was in a coma all along until right at the end.
     
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  7. André Serrenho
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    André Serrenho New Member

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    James Brown, that is almost what I pretend to do. But my point is not to focus on the development of the world. Only on the development of his own memories and life. The main plot of the story should be around his love relationship with a girl that he cannot remember how they break up. He knows she is not with him anymore but can't remember how the relationship come to an end. But the truth is that she's not with him anymore because she died when he became in coma. Do you think it's too much cliché?
     
  8. JamesBrown
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    JamesBrown Active Member

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    Depends entirely on how well you do it. Sounds a little bit like Vanilla Sky or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
     
  9. André Serrenho
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    André Serrenho New Member

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    yes, you're right... I need to figure out something to make it different...
     
  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    This is a common misconception among new writers. I get inside lots of characters' heads with 3rd person limited.
     
  11. André Serrenho
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    André Serrenho New Member

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    I'll do my best then :)
     
  12. Pashabhai
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    Pashabhai New Member

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    Does this person in comma recover in future and then write his story. That recovered person can your first person POV.
    I feel this will be simple and east to understand.
     

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