Get into your character’s mind
– then put their experience in words
In order to really get into my character’s head, to experience what he/she is experiencing in my story. I will often write in first person. When writing in first person I can hear, smell, see and sense everything the character is experiencing. I can feel what they feel and relay their thoughts. I live the part and live through the scenes in which they are thrust into.
I entered the cavernous room with trepidation. The air was clammy and thick with the scent of death and decay. I crinkled my nose and blew three quick blasts of air through my nostrils. Stacks of wooden crates stood like monolithic shadows, hugged by a fine mist crawling through the dark. Something scurried across my bare toes and into the shadows, making my spine tingle. It’s feet pattered away in a frantic race until the ticking of it’s paws against the floor ceased. I heard it screech in agony, but only for a moment. My teeth began to chatter despite the heat…
I know what your thinking – Wait a second, Mike. You said that editors prefer stories in third person! Well, that’s true. That doesn’t mean you have to write it that way. I will often write my stories in first person, then transpose them to third person later.
Clive entered the cavernous room with trepidation. The air was clammy and thick with the scent of death and decay. He crinkled his nose and blew three quick blasts of air through his nostrils. Stacks of wooden crates stood like monolithic shadows. A fine mist crawled through the dimly lit corridors. Something scurried across Clive’s bare toes and into the shadows, making his spine tingle. Its feet pattered away in a frantic race until the ticking of its paws against the floor ceased. Clive heard it screech in agony, but only for a moment. His teeth began to chatter despite the heat.
Your job is to get the reader’s mind into your character’s mind so they experience the same things in unison. The best way to do that is for you, the writer, to be in there first, to experience your character’s plight, and then convert it into a readable story. Sometimes I will come to a certain scene in a story and write that scene in first person despite having written the rest of the story in third person. I’ll do this because that scene needed an intimate feel to relay the subtleties of the situation. I walk into that room as my character, I look around, I describe an odor, I hear things shuffling in the dark, and I see shadows moving on the walls. Later I go back and rewrite that into a readable third person sequence and match it to the rest of the story.
So, if you want to get an intimate feel for a scene, write it in first person and transpose it to third person later.
Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
― Anton Chekhov
Fiction is the truth inside the lie.
― Stephen King
The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.
– Ursula K. Le Guin