The things that keep me up at night

You know what argument I’m having in my head right now? Whether or not it would be worth it to try to write a story in first person past tense. (So radical, I know.)

I need to get up in the morning and get myself to Heathrow for 9am. I’m a bit discombobulated by all the fandom stuff from this afternoon, including the fact that I randomly told Amanda Abbington that I miss her (I do! I do! I do not tell a lie!), but all I can think about is whether or not a story in first person past tense can work. It’s eating my brain. (Figuratively! Not literally!)

I’m always kind of intrigued when I think something is impossible. This might be impossible, the way I’ve got my head around it. So I label it impossible and then I keep trying to open that box again. Could I do it? Could it be done? How could it be done?

I think I could only write first person past tense if a narrator was really, honestly telling you a story, which I fear would mean that the more visceral part of the story is the present tense of the telling, rather than the story being related, which would I fear feel second hand. Which of course could add a kind of richness to it if the present moment of the telling of the story is interesting enough, and the related story intriguing enough, but i think it would just get distracting, having two timelines. I like the idea of a story told and deliberately framed by a present tense narrator, who knows exactly why she’s telling you what she’s telling you, but I don’t know. I’m not sure. I’m kind of addicted to the YOU’RE HERE WITH ME RIGHT NOW that first person present tense gives you.

People write in first person past tense all the time without, apparently, the soul-searching and hours of internal debate I have. Twilight is written in first person past tense. Is Fifty Shades of Grey in first person past? I presume it is. (Don’t know; haven’t read it.) But who the hell are these people talking to?! And from what point in the future? And why do they tell the story in perfect chronological order? Who does that, in real life? I think a genuine first person past tense Twilight should start If you really want to know how and why I became a vampire, we need to start at the beginning, not it was a rainy day in Forks. I think. Because we’re human beings and we always frame our stories. Don’t we? It’s how we make sense of our lives. Narrative structure. Meaning. Right?

So I’m intrigued by the possibility of writing in first person past tense, but I’m not sure my methods will really work for a story like that. I’ve become a perspective purist, and it’s not really helping me.

That’s what keeps me up at night.

I don’t know: maybe there’s a way. There might be. Maybe not. Impossible things are so attractive.

  1. bucketsofsnow said: Seconding The Remains of the Day - fantastic narrator who doesn’t realise how much he’s telling you, and really beautiful interweaving of the past and present stories. Definitely how first person past should be done. (also Amanda Abbington asxgscf!)
  2. ajournalofimpossiblethings said: Ivy have you read any of the Kushiel’s Legacy novels? Great first-person past narration.
  3. airynothing reblogged this from ivyblossom and added:
    I say again, Ivy: Gene Wolfe, Book of the Short Sun (read Book of the Long Sun first, for context). The narrator is...
  4. owlett said: One of my favourite books Particular Sadness of a Lemon Cake was first person past tense & is deep, and confusing and wonderful. I love it. If anyone could write a strong first person past tense novel it would be you.
  5. shinysherlock said: Seems most engaging to read/write if narrator is either crazy (The Yellow Wallpaper) or doesn’t see something the reader can see (Remains of the Day). Something about conflict between reader’s POV and narrator’s POV. Just my 2 cents.
  6. violettajones reblogged this from ivyblossom and added:
    Why not trying to write it using the voice of a character writing a book and trying to “erase themselves”, just like you...
  7. professorfangirl said: So you’re essentially asking how to write the Great Expectations of fan fiction. I approve. (Hey look! a reason to reread Great Expectations! Woo!)
  8. persian-slipper said: ACD canon. ‘Nuff said.
  9. justgot1 said: The challenge is to determine the narrator’s motives; we all cut and edit our past to manipulate how we’re seen in the present. We warp it through the lens of our desire to be seen a certain way or elicit a response from whomever we’re telling.
  10. jenica704 reblogged this from ivyblossom
  11. roane72 said: FWIW, I’ve written one fic in first person past, if you’re curious to see it.
  12. madlori said: I think of first person past tense as “memoir voice.” My huge-ass gargantuan probably-never-to-be-finished ten-year-project novel is in first person past tense.
  13. sheliesshattered said: Have you read The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny? It’s first person past-tense, a story being told to someone else after the fact. No lead in tho, since that’d ruin the ending. I think Twilight was secretly similar, a story for the demon baby.
  14. ivyblossom posted this