Imagine your place on the bookshelf of the future

Elizabeth Hay, author of Late Nights on Air

Writing in the first person is like putting on a pair of old slippers. They’re comfortable, but you can’t go everywhere in them.

How do I decide to write in first, second or third person?

This is one of the thorniest questions and I face it with every book. My natural inclination is go with the first – with the direct and immediate and personal. But writing in the first person is like putting on a pair of old slippers, as I say in one of my novels. They’re comfortable, but you can’t go everywhere in them.

So starting a novel, I usually hop from one foot to the other, from first to third, third to first, until I settle into third as the method that will take me the distance. What I’m really after is a third person that has the urgency of the first, yet doesn’t limit me to a single point of view. With the first person, I find it hard to escape myself, hard not to be autobiographical, while the third allows me to move from character to character, slide around them and gaze out from them. One reason for my initial impasse is that I love the voice of novels told in the first person, and invariably when I write short fiction it’s in the first.

 

About Elizabeth Hay

Elizabeth Hay is the author of Late Nights on Air.

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