For weeks I’ve been struggling with the point of view of my current short story. For a Story is a State of Mind exercise, I chose a first person central point of view, but that exercise has blossomed into an unruly narrative with over 8,000 words of freewriting that I’m now trying to rein in. And I can’t tell you how many times I cursed the chosen point of view for that exercise – which was my doing in the first place, and my decision to stick with once it evolved into a much longer, much larger story.
Why did I chose it in the first place? I suppose for a challenge. I know I shy away from this type of point of view because I think it’s a weak spot. I tend to use either first person peripheral/witness or third person limited omniscient because they allow me more distance, the latter which, contradictory as it might sound, actually makes me feel like I know the characters better. I like the distance of the observer or the witness position.
And why did I stick with that first person point of view? I spent two weeks asking myself that same question because it blocked me – or rather I blocked myself and blamed the point of view I’d chosen. The central character is a 14-year-old girl. It shouldn’t be so challenging because I was actually one at one point, but every time a phrase or sentence popped into my head, I dismissed it, I judged it, I stopped it from going down on the page because it didn’t seem authentic. That’s not, I told myself, what a 14-year-old girl would say.
And there was a bigger problem: she believes something I never could. And I thought, If I can’t believe her, how can I convince anyone else she is worth listening to?
I showed up. I was there. But I wasn’t listening. I was essentially sticking my fingers in my ears and going nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-I-can’t-hear-you while also asking her, Why aren’t you talking to me?
We finally came to an understanding – just as I was at the point of putting aside (or, most likely, abandoning) the story. I agreed to write down whatever it was she said no matter what, as long as she understood that once it was all out I might change to a different point of view if I felt there was a stronger way to tell the story. And she’s been talking ever since. A lot. I guess she doesn’t really have anyone else to talk to so she tells me lots and lots of things in really long sentences, sentences so long she’s breathless by the end of them.
I still can’t believe what she does, but I know why she believes it. I’ve felt that same why.
So she’s been talking, as I said, a lot. And I’ve been listening. She has my undivided attention.