Monday 15 February 2016

Two types of first person

Personal and point of view

I’ve been working with my students a lot on voice recently. I’ve linked this with point of view for my first years. Whose story is it? That is the fundamental question that keeps them on track. Then, which narrative voice is best for telling this story?  
We discuss the merits of the first person, third person – close, distant, omniscient or intrusive and even of the second person.
Then there is the question of tense – present of past.  Or what about future? Many first novels are told in the present tense and it’s getting a bit clichéd.

Problems with the first person

It’s unreliable they tell us. Well, yes, you can only get one point of view at a time but this is also true of the close third person. And at least it reliably shows your character.
For me a greater problem is that the reader cannot enjoy the growth with the protagonist. The latter has already had the growth.  The third person close is much more effective allowing us to enjoy the adventure with the hero.

A special voice for young adult literature

The first person is popular in young adult fiction, however. This is partly because the reader wants a close emotional relationship with the story-teller.  Rarely is the author a young adult but s/he must seem like one as the tale is told.  It becomes like a best mate who has a bit more of an adventure than the reader telling her all about it. That narrator has not rationalised the experience, though, and the writing of this book is partly an attempt to do so. So, when we have a series, such as Twilight, it is probably that the protagonist has the first adventure and tells the story of that before embarking on the second.
I’d like to call this voice the immediate first person.

The distant first person

This is what I’m using in my current work in progress. That probably means that my novel isn’t young adult or even new adult though may be enjoyed by both. It‘s being told from the point of view of an older adult looking back. Think of the voice-over on Fetch the Midwife or even on Hetty Feather.  What’s being described happened a long time ago and the narrator has rationalised it.  However, we can still leave the rationalisation to the reader. Show, don’t tell even here.       

Saturday 6 February 2016

News 6 February 2016

2016 has got off to a hectic start. I’ve been away from my writing desk for quite a bit as I’ve had a fair chunk of marking coming in. It’s still critiquing and giving feedback on mainly fiction writing, so it’s a little like editing and is certainly a “writerly” activity. But I’ve been away from my own writing and for once found it difficult to get back into it.

Last semester I had that extraordinarily demanding piece of admin to do for the university. That took up the time I would normally use for writing. When I did have the time, I didn’t have the brain space. I also had the flu two weeks ago. That didn’t help either.

However, today I may be turning the corner ….  I’m on a “read aloud” edit, I’ve written a blog post and I’m writing this ….                       

Bridge House

We’ve decided on the theme for next year. Baubles. Short, snappy, sparkly stories that brighten up the darker nights like baubles enhance the Christmas tree. We’re not talking about things that give you a good belly laugh nor anything that is overly sentimental. Feel good is fine, yes, but just a light touch. You’ll know it when you think of it. Check out full submission details here.  
We’re changing the way Bridge House is administered slightly. We’re getting rid of the LLP and Debz and I are working on a simple partnership basis. Because of this, any projects I work alone on will probably go to Chapeltown and joint projects will remain as Bridge House. New titles for The Red Telephone will go to Chapeltown.    


Remember, we’re always open to submissions. Find out how here. I’m now making the selection for The Best of CafeLit 5. Today I’ve been encouraging students to submit. I hope to read some of their work there soon.


We’re currently looking for collections of Flash Fiction. See our submissions page here.
We’re also looking at creating another imprint. We’re not sure what to call it yet.  Maybe “Revive” though that may be a little too obvious. It’s all about republishing books that have gone out of print. This is sparked really by what I’ve said about Spooking below.          

Creative Café

We’re always looking for new cafés.  If you visit one of the cafés in the project and would like to write a review of between 250 and 350 – nice, too to have a couple of pictures – send it to me here. Do the same if you find a new café.
I’m now going to send out a welcome letter to each new café that’s added. This will also offer them the opportunity to join the mailing list. 

School Visits

I’m proactively promoting my school visits associated with The House on Schellberg Street project. I’m still offering visits on this for a donation towards the project. I’ve devised a whole interactive workshop. It would be a real asset for any school teaching the Holocaust at Key Stage 3. Even if a school can’t afford a donation, I’d be happy to run the project.
Here’s some further news about the Schellberg project. I’ve added in  a page referring to “deleted scenes”. You know, just like you get on some DVDs.
Query for a school visit here.

The Red Telephone

There will be a new call for submissions next autumn. We’re leaving it quite a while now so that we can give our current authors all of our attention.  
I’d like to remind you of our new enterprise - something between a mentoring system and an online course. Though publication is not guaranteed, we will at least look at your full book if you’ve attended one of the courses. We’re offering it for free to a few people at first. We’ll refine as we go along based on feedback from our clients. We’ll then continue to offer it at a discount for a while before going to full price when we’re completely happy with it. We’re not sure what full price will be. Again, we’ll be guided by our current clients. Find out more here.      

Books and short stories

I’m now on the penultimate edit of Girl in a Smart Uniform. This is the one where I read it aloud. Oh, I do miss our cat. She used to listen quite patiently. But what about this for serendipity? I’ve had to have some severe dental work done recently - in effect I’ve had a   new tooth built.
“Read out loud as much as you can to get used to it,” the dentist said. Well, well.
I’ve now signed off the proofs for my German science fiction stories. I am rather pleased with them and I did write the bulk of them whilst on a writer’s retreat. Hmm.    
Sadly, Spooking goes out of print in February. Yet in a perverse way I’m rather excited. It means I can deposit all of it in the repository at the university. It also means I can give it another edit and republish it. I was really pleased with what Crooked Cat did with it but now it’s time to move on.     

Looking Forward

I’ll gradually drip feed my future plans, but alas, for the moment they’re under wraps. Watch this space!


This month I’m giving away a copy of Going Places, a Bridge House publication. The first person to message me via Twitter that they’d like the book  -  @gilljames – gets it.