Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dead Letter Day, 1st Person and Jennifer Lawrence...

So I haven’t read Dead Letter Day yet as I’m committed to finishing my RITA books first. For now it sits on my Kindle waiting for me to devour. But given this is Eileen’s release week I thought I would talk about my love for the Messenger Series in general and why in particular I think it works.

Oh yeah – and I’m going to try and tie this to Jennifer Lawrence’s Oscar too.

The series is told in first person from Melina’s point of view. First person stories are always hit or miss for me. Sometimes I love them and sometimes I loathe them. There was that point in chick-lit where everything was being written in first person and the heroines were all funny and quippy and snarky ala Bridget Jones.
And that can be a fun read, but often I would feel as if I was missing out on the depth of a person. We’re not funny and snarky and witty ALL the time.
I think that’s why I fell in love with Melina so quickly. There was more to her than just one liners. I felt like I knew her. I felt her struggle and her pain when she lost her mentor. More importantly I felt like we could be friends. We would connect on a personal level… and go kick paranormal butt together of course.
And that’s when it occurred to me why first person can be so tricky. For me, I have to like this person. I have to connect with her. Otherwise I can’t put myself in the character and look at the story from her POV. If I don’t, the funny and the snarky feels flat. The person seems one dimensional.
Which of course brings me to Jennifer Lawrence and what makes her special. Twenty-two and already a two time Oscar nominee and 1 time winner. Why? I’m sure you might say – good acting. That’s a given. But I think it goes beyond that. I think ultimately people identify with her. The person behind the character. She’s real and genuine and if you watched her interview with George Stephanopoulos after she won you totally wanted to hang out with her and be her friend.
I think it’s because of that openness of spirit - it allows you to watch her play a difficult character and still relate to her. I get that with great acting you shouldn’t “see” the real person. But I think people like Meryl Streep and Sally Field and now Jennifer Lawrence have a… quality. An honesty about who they are and that resonates through the character they are playing.
I think the same is true for writers and their voice. And I think this is especially critical in books with 1ST person POV. I have to believe this character. I have to want to be inside their head with him which means to an extent I’m inside the writer’s head as well.
It’s why I can’t wait to read this book. I can’t wait to get back into Eileen’s amazing head through Melina!

4 comments:

Molly O'Keefe said...

I one hundred percent agree with this - and frankly why Urban Fantasy so often DOES NOT work for me - but Eileen's do so well, is that the lead character is so human. Yes, she's tough and kicks ass and has some supernatural mojo - but she's also very human and very vulnerable in a way that's so fresh in this genre. And I think she's written that way because Eileen is so much that way.

Sinead M said...

Such a great comparison, Steph. Love it and it's so true. To Molly's point, a lot of urban fantasy heroines are so damaged, and yet so kick ass they're not relatable, where as Melina is totally relatable.

Eileen said...

Thank you all so much! First person can be tricky, but I always think the trickiness is a plot problem. The reader can't see or know anything that Melina hasn't seen or doesn't know.

I actually think 1st person sort of forces the reader to identify with the protagonist. That's why I get a little annoyed with authors who have one character in 1st and the others in 3rd. I feel like it's cheating. You get all the advantages of both POVS.

Hey, wait a minute! What's wrong with that? Maybe I should try that next time . . .

Maureen McGowan said...

1st person is such a funny thing.

Like Eileen, I've written several books in 1st person and the plot challenges can be HUGE. You have to be really creative to figure out how to tell the story from only one POV. And in present tense it's even worse, (IMO) because sometimes the character doesn't realize what's going on in a scene... Whereas in past tense, the character's reflecting back on events with some hindsight, so there's a tad more flexibility in how to show things, and what a character can think... I think. :)

As a reader... I don't find a huge difference in needing to like a character to like the book whether it's in first or third. I mean, most authors use internalizations in 3rd person too, but maybe not quite as often. Maybe that's what Steph (and others) react to...

It feels like a long time since I've written in 3rd person... but as I typed that, I realized the Twisted Tales books were in 3rd... But each only has one POV character, (except for the prologue in SB:VS) so I had the same plot challenges are you get in first. I more noticed the relief of writing in past tense vs present.

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