I have been increasingly writing in the 1st-person Point of View (POV). Initially, it was because it frightened me, and I (correctly) guessed doing so would force me to grow as a writer. Now, I am simply hooked. However, there is a new challenge, as I strew together the multiple works-in-progress I have going: how do I write an entire piece and keep one 1st-person POV voice from sounding like another?
I’ve settled, for now, on creating a personality for each. While it is reams easier to just write with Bill’s voice, when I tried it, every work sounded, unsurprisingly, like each narrator was the same person. So I’ve been working, and I think I might have created some spacing between the different voices. If you’re interested (as I hope you are, since you’re here) perhaps you can read the beginnings below and tell me what you think.
Each of these is the opening paragraph to a novel or novelette that I’ve been working.
The Brooklyn Trace – a detective novel that’s now ready to go to editing. Hopefully, she won’t throw up all over it. My narrator is Eddie Daley, an atypical “hard-nosed” detective, in that he actually does have a sensitive side beneath his confirmed bachelor exterior. Eddie is articulate and sometimes lyrical, when he’s feeling emotional about his subject, but mostly, he speaks with an educated, cynical, Southern flair, with a penchant toward making up words when no previously defined ones seem to suffice. Women like Eddie, and he likes them back.
I’d been driving all day, sucking in western Oklahoma road dust, and I wasn’t in the mood for any more damned mysteries. Nonetheless, here I was, at the intersection of a brown field the size of Africa and some grit and gravel road to infinity. According to the signs, I was on highway 56, or 385, or 412, or 64. The hell if I could tell which – they all pointed to the road I was on. None of them told me what this endless cross street was. The Camaro was down to her last quarter tank, and I was running even lower than that. So, here I sat, looking up at thunderclouds gathering in the distant, purple sky, wondering if I should turn around, and shaking the crap out of my useless GPS unit. All it could tell me is I was halfway between Cimarron and West Butthole counties, and this dinkhole of a pockmarked town I was searching for was nowhere in sight. I was just about to chuck the damned thing out over the convertible top and into the field, when a cloud of rick-rackety, noisy dust comes clombering down the gravel road, right in my direction. I swear to God the thing appeared out of nowhere, like kids from a Stephen King cornfield. Just for safety, I reached into the glove box, pulled out my best friend, and laid her under my seat. She was fully loaded and always in a bad mood.
Holy Mother of Selina Sky – a novelette starring Rembrandt Vincent Anderson, a failed writer with an artist’s heart but an accountant’s talent. Remmie is articulate, and his narrative is somewhat stylized, with a poetic flow and vocabulary. I differentiated from Eddie by giving him a very formal demeanor and speech, quite different from Eddie’s grunt and grind life.
It was 6:00 PM on a Tuesday, when, unbeknownst to me, the world came to a sudden start. It didn’t begin with a bang, a pop, or a great reaming gush of ectoplasmic energy; it began with a slap. I am Rembrandt Vincent Anderson. Those who know me call me Remmie, though I’ve always preferred Vincent. My name was a gift from my artist mother, in honor of her Netherlander heritage and in hopes that it would instill in me the masters’ gifts of visual lyricism. It did not, much to her dismay. After a wasted ten years’ of training, she eventually conceded that God did not imbue me with the favor of artistry. My sole sale was of a piece of what the buyer called “provocative abstract art,” but which was meant to be a portrait of my mother. It was a bittersweet success. My attempt at photorealistic art dripped across the soiled canvas like distressed cubist cartoons stained with the multi-colored vomitus from a drunken Jackson Pollock fugue. Upon seeing the finished work, my mother slapped me. Sadly, I have always been thus inept at self-expression, even with speech. I have the words, as evidenced by this journal, but upon speaking, they impale themselves in my mind like iridescent shards, caught somewhere between the bright light of awareness and the deafening blackness of my mute effusions.
Jeanne Dark – the narrator of this detective novel, Foster Cain, is a romantic. He’s also a pragmatist who is more than capable of seeing the world for what it is. However, he is insightful, intuitive, and smitten with his partner, Jeanne. As such, I want his narrative to have Remmie’s lyrical quality, married with Eddie’s down-t0-earth nature. Jeanne is jazz and poetry, and when he’s describing emotive scenes, so is his narrative. Also different is that this book features 2 1st-person POV narrators, with Jeanne making occasional appearances.
It was November before I realized Jeanne Dark had begun to unravel the stitching from my life. On a bitter morn, before the sun dissipated the frosted shivers of the night air, before the crows’ inharmonic chorus disrupted the soundness of my sleep, I awoke to the sound of soft jazz emanating from below me, and for a moment, I forgot that I no longer lived alone. I descended the stairs and followed the music to the large room that took up half the ground floor. It was still stark inside – bare, unfinished wood and dingy white walls – but it whispered of history and potential that the romantic in me found irresistible. The great room used to be an old ballroom, the focal point of the oversized house I’d purchased for a pittance owing to neglect and unpaid property taxes on the part of the previous owner. Bright autumn sun streamed through a series of large, arched windows to create a spider’s web of light-and-shadow markings on the old floor. My new partner was astir, her face hidden by the full umbra of the shadows, with her body in radiant sun. She sat askew in a wooden chair, wearing a green t-shirt, a black fedora with a tan leather band, and long legs that ended in the prettiest feet imaginable. One foot was perched in the chair, forcing her knee skyward, and she held the dainty appendage in both hands. A scar as long as my hand extended from her right hipbone to mid-thigh. My heart skipped, vanished, was lost.