Determine a voice

For salable novels, you need to resign yourself to either first person (Let me tell you about the time I found a diamond in my soup, and almost got killed by a hit man.) or third person (The stranger picked up his spoon and stirred

Holly Lisle it through his chili. He chuckled and glanced up at the waitress. "Let me tell you about the time I found a diamond in by soup, and almost got killed by a hit man.") Second person, the voice so popular in those choose-your-own-story adventure juveniles (You stir your chili with your spoon, then turn to the waitress and say, "Let me tell you about the time I found...") turns off readers so quickly that, unless you're a screaming genius, your editor will bounce it back to you unread. It's ugly and awkward.

So figure out which one it's going to be. First or third. When you're a bit more experienced, it can be both in the same book.

First person is great fun to write, because the narrator will develop a distinctive voice with shocking ease. Its limitations are that you can't know anything except what your main character knows, and, because the main character is narrating, you're almost certain she survives the novel. Agatha Christie did some funky things with this, but I thought the one where the first-person narrator turned out to be the killer (surprise!) was kind of gimmicky.

Third person is broader in the scope of what it allows you to do (multiple points of view, varying emotional distances, shifts to omniscient viewpoint). It is easier to write a literary novel in third than in first. There are exceptions. Its drawbacks are the ease with which you can be drawn off into tangents, the ease with which you can fall into passive voice (boring) and the way that characters can proliferate, to the point that you start losing track of them.

I've written books in both, they each have their uses, and you will discover that one fits what you're writing better than the other. Give it some thought.

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