I see I

A reader’s perspective on the narration of life. 

Awhile back I wrote about discovering audio books, which is still a great joy on long car rides. I’ve even gotten Kim into the idea of spending time in the car listening to books and her lesfic list has grown considerably! It’s been fun exploring different stories and we both definitely have opinions about narrators that we like and do not like. I thought it was interesting though, when recently Kim said she had a hard time with one of the stories we were listening to because it was in first person. It hadn’t even pinged my radar that the narration was different or confusing. But of course it made me think, and yeah inspire me to comment on it here.

The Vampire Next Door by [Vivien, Natalie, Essex, Bridget]So the story we were listening to was The Vampire Next Door by Natalie Vivien and Bridget Essex. I thought it was a great interpretation of our current society and the discrimination that still exists and how people fight change so much- especially when they perceive something as dangerous. I mean until something like Twilight was released, vampires were generally the scary monster. Now they are suddenly lovable beings that can have super hot sex! But what if suddenly they did exist? Which side of the table would you be on? They are scary and should be feared side or the they need to be given a chance first side? It could be said for any unknown- I mean an alien race coming to Earth could instill the same fear. But why I was enjoying The Vampire Next Door so much was because it was narrated in first person.

And why first person? Well try listening to TB Markinson’s The Chosen One by [Markinson, T. B.] The Chosen One. The story is fun, funny, well written, but captures different society extremes intersecting in one huge emotional mess. And because when it is all said and done, it is only our heads and hearts that we can fully understand, why shouldn’t the same thing happen in stories? So when Ainsely makes outrageous assumptions as most of us do, we read along with her thought process, get to experience the emotions attached to her decisions and thoughts, and finally are touched by the outcomes of those decisions. Just as we do in our lives- we can only judge what is going on in our own minds and the only actions we can control are our own. First person was the best way to read this story.

Rubyfruit Jungle by [Brown, Rita Mae]I can actually pick out the first story that I read that was told in first person because it was the first LesFic I ever read- Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown. I actually found LesFic soon after I came out. I was blessed with a wonderful woman in my life who was willing to share her own experiences and help me understand my own. One of the best things she did for me was to tap into my love of reading by handing me a book and telling me to read it. And Rubyfruit Jungle, made such an impression! Would it have been as successful if it had been told in third person or some other narrative style? I somehow don’t think I would have connected so closely with Molly Bolt.

The same way that Far From Xanadu by Julie Ann Peters stuck with me years after I read it. When a story needs to connect to the feelings more  than to the action, doesn’t it work better when it is personal? I know there are readers out there who prefer differently but I truly believe the stories that really, truly touch the core of our emotions are told from first person when Snow Globe by [Beers, Georgia]you live through each moment in that characters head.

Seriously though! I don’t think Georgia Beers Snow Globe would even be the same if it was told in anything BUT first person. Which I’m sure, a talented and experienced writer such as Georgia Beers, would have consciously decided, but as a reader I absolutely loved being in Mackenzie’s head as she realigns her world after being dumped by her fiance days before their wedding. Moving through the ins and outs of not only a break-up but a cancelled wedding, a paid for honeymoon, and all the self doubt of being single again are connected so well with Mackenzie’s narration.

Of course with most all the first person narrations I’ve read, I was able to foresee an outcome that I would want and I came to different conclusions than the narrator creating a whole different path than one I may have traveled and that can be a challenge at times. Those moments when you want to reach into the pages of the story and smack the character on the back of the head and point out the obvious that they are missing. I actually love when an author can bring on that reaction from me!!

So what do all you LesFic readers think? First person narration or no first person? Which do you prefer? Do you have a favorite first person narrated story? How about the story that, in your opinion, touched the emotions the best? How was it narrated? I’m looking forward to adding to my wish list!

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6 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your views regarding first person narrative, Erin. I’ve heard more protestations about “I” novels than I’ve heard positive remarks, so it’s refreshing to know that someone agrees with the narrative style I’ve used quite naturally, almost intuitively in my novels. Using “I” instead of the third person puts me into my main character’s head, soul, and skin. I’ve tried to begin a story in the third person, but to no avail. It makes connecting with the character unnecessarily challenging.
    Thanks again for this post as well as many others.

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    • Thanks Renee! From some of the comments below it sounds like there are more fans of first person out there. I love what you said about first person putting you in the character’s head, soul and skin when writing. That is what I love about reading- it captures that.

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  2. Last week I (finally!) listened to “And Playing the Role of Herself” by K.E. Lane. Loved the book, and the wonderful narration of first person. Maybe audiobooks work particularly well for first person? The first audiobook I listened to was “Blackmail My Love” by Katie Gilmartin – also first person. With a narrator who really gets into her role, maybe first person and audiobook are a match made in heaven?

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    • I think I am probably the only lesbian out there who has not read that story! I enjoyed listening to the first person and I enjoy reading it as well. For some reason it really didn’t resonate with my wife though and she struggled to make it through the whole story.

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  3. For me, everything comes down to whether or not a novel is good and well-written. Well, also things like having intriguing characters and an interesting premise. I actually prefer first person narratives even though I read everything, including second person narrative novels. But, most of what I read in lesbian fiction is in third person. Because most of what is written in lesbian fiction is in third person.

    Even so, I have many first person narrative lesbian novels on my TBR list by EJ Noyes (Turbulence), Harper Bliss (Love Without Limits), KE Lane (And Playing the Role of Herself), S. Renee Bess (Breaking Jaie), Camryn Eyde (Tricky Wisdom: Year I), Georgia Beers (Right Here, Right Now), JM Redmann (Death by the Riverside), Jacqueline Carey (Kushiel’s Dart), Catherine M. Wilson (The Warrior’s Path), Eliza Lentzski (Winter Jacket), and Julie Cannon (Wishing on A Dream) who uses alternating dual first person narrative, which I haven’t encountered in lesbian fiction outside of lesbian/bi young adult (where it’s still rare) in the novels “Of Fire and Stars” by Audrey Coulthurst, which I’m currently reading and enjoying, and “The Gravity of Us” by Kristen Zimmer, which is on my TBR list too.

    The argument that you can’t get a true handle on all the characters in a story if the POV stays solely in one character’s head-space is valid in most aspects, since you’re extrapolating the non-POV characters’ motives, thoughts, actions and opinions if they don’t spell them out, usually explicitly, in dialogue or through tell-tale behaviors or whatnot. But, when first person narrative is done right, it’s especially immersive; you do feel a sense of knowing the characters. First person is, quite possibly, one of the best ways to immerse a reader into a story… when it’s well-written. All the action and description is filtered through one person’s, well, everything. Feelings. Thoughts. Desires. Worries. Judgments. Fears. Interpretations. In her own voice (yes, the voice the author gave her, but still, lol). It’s as if you’re living the character’s life. Real time. Real talk. So, yes, you gotta find the character and her narrative voice interesting enough to embark on that first person narrative journey. (And that’s not to say you can’t live the characters lives through third person narratives, because you can. Because, bulk of the bestsellers list. It’s just, for me, the reading experience is more immersive, by a noticeable degree, when it’s in first person.)

    I’d actually like to see more first person and alternating dual first person narratives—and maybe even some fourth wall breaking… hey, it could work in a rom-com, lol—in lesbian fiction. But, I understand why most lesbian fiction authors shy away from first person anything; it seems the norm in best-selling lesbian fiction is third person. Plus, the bulk of reviewers for lesbian fiction seem adverse to or apprehensive about first person narrative novels. Writers take a gamble with anything they write, but getting an alternating dual first person narrative lesbian novel to the top of the ratings seems like a brave uphill battle.

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    • Oh my goodness Cristina! I love how you described this so much better than me! Thanks for reading this episode of the blog and if you ever want to write (which you do eloquently!) it would be a joy to read your perspectives.

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