If you’ve been following the production of Grim Curio, then you already know that it’s a story told in first person, past tense. Well that’s changing.
I’d written 30,000 words before I realized that first person, past tense just wasn’t working out for the story I wanted to tell. I want an epic story told from intimate perspectives, so first person felt like a natural choice when I began.
But I also want the city of Refuge to be a character, and I want to build a world that can engross the reader. And in my execution using first person, that felt clunky no matter what changes I made.
I also want a feeling throughout the second half of the book that no character is safe, but first person practically gives characters narration armor (the idea that the character can’t die because he or she’s the one telling the story).
I considered using this to my advantage buy killing off a character in first person, but in past tense that felt a little off. I could be done, and it might work, but mixed with my other issues, I didn’t think it would be worth it.
After a while, I began wondering if a change to third person, present tense would make things better. To test this, I saved a backup of the first couple chapters and rewrote them from the new perspective. Instantly I loved it. The story feels more in the moment, I’m able to explore the city more, and I build scenes more fluidly in this environment.
Here’s one example. Below is the opening scene of the book which sets the world up in three paragraphs (and one is a single sentence):
The world never ended. When flood came, many survived. The sufferers shuffled about from place to place, some finding shelter, others not. When fire came, some survived. It blazed over continents fueled by primal fear, justice and revenge. Fire has no conscious. When radiation came, few survived. The survivors were not a chosen people. They lived in the correct geographical locations with mountain ranges and northerly winds and had access to a little infrastructure to support a small, terrified wallow of survivors.
Years passed, the pockets of humanity dwindled. Some starved and died, others fought and died, and others fell to indiscriminate forces: massive storms, poisonous air, and not a little stupidity.
But the world never ended.
Scenes like this are nearly impossible to get right in first person, and I was trying so many different ways. The switch to third person was like a breath of fresh air, and these three paragraphs just came naturally without much effort. A good sign.
I wonder what you think of this change? Be sure to let me know in the comments.