experimenting with first person – the current first draft

I’m not generally comfortable with first person. It’s like using “I” makes me too close to the work. But I’m trying it for my newest project because that’s what Aoide (Ey-OH-dee), the main character, seems to want. Here’s a couple hundred words from yesterday. What do you think?

“Hey Frank, isn’t it about time you were getting home to that little piece of yours?”

Eew, I thought. I knew the voice – Darryl Tomlin, one of the less savory townies and a fast friend of Frank’s.

“Nah,” Frank grunted. I heard him hack his smoker’s cough and spit. “Got rid of her.”

“If you don’t want her,” Darryl said, “I’ll take her.”

“You don’t want her,” Frank said, his voice dark. “She’s needy. Kept telling me to give back what I stole. I didn’t steal anything from her.”

“So, uh…where is she now?” Andy, the third member of their trio. Not a bad kid per se, but he definitely made a bad life choice when it came to his preferred company. I didn’t even know Frank had had a girlfriend, which is normally the kind of thing he’d crow about. He’d at least bring her to (the bar) and make her sit on his lap to show her off. He’d done it before.

Yes, Frank, I wondered, stepping around the corner of the building, where is this girl now? Frank saw me step into the light and caught back whatever he was about to say.

“Don’t know,” he said. “I dropped her at the bus stop and that was the last I saw of her.” He reached the door and pulled it open, touching the brim of his grimy baseball cap at me as he passed. I noticed the care with which he avoided my eyes. Darryl and Andy trailed after, following suit.

Had she been a tourist, here for the summer? I knew she couldn’t have been a local – I was pretty certain Frank had been through all the local girls who would touch him with a ten-foot pole. But if she’d been a tourist, why would she (a) go out with Frank, and (b) become some kind of secret shut-in at his place?

Something was really, really weird about the whole thing. I remembered how Frank had acted when I’d first come to town five years ago – he’d been married then, but that hadn’t stopped him from laying his hands all over everything within reach. I’d grabbed his wrist and let my glamour down just enough so he could feel the wet clamminess of my skin and see the blackness of my true eyes. He hadn’t touched me since. He’d mostly ignored me, in fact. But he’d never looked at me and away like he had a secret – that was new.

I went back inside and slowly wiped down the empty tables, keeping an eye on the three men while they ordered drinks from Jeff at the bar. They took their beers to a dark corner booth away from the windows and kept their voices low.

He is definitely avoiding me. I wonder who the girl really was.

They left after a couple of beers, shutting the door on last call. I almost wished they’d caused some kind of trouble – it would have been an excuse to go after them. But in this small town, if a strange girl turned up in a ditch, word would spread quickly. With a sigh, I resigned myself to waiting.

Turns out, I didn’t have to wait long.

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2 thoughts on “experimenting with first person – the current first draft

  1. You have a good start, but a couple things to point out.

    When using first person, you don’t need to add in “I heard him hack…” The audience knows who is doing the hearing so you can tighten that up by just saying something like “Frank grunted then hacked his smoker’s cough and spat out the results.” Or you can make it more personal by saying how the hack affected the narrator: “The hack of his smoker’s cough grated on my ears” or “the spit turned my stomach.”

    Second point, for internal dialogue when using first person, you can cut the tags such as “I wondered.” The italics set off the internal thoughts, making the tag redundant.

    Good job, though. Just keep practicing. I personally love using first person for it’s sense of immediacy and intimacy.

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