Adventures in the 3rd Person – The Plot Thickens

Who’s in control of the story?

The plot thickens or at least expands for the new 3rd person adventure. It even has a working title, if only for the sole purpose of making it easier to reference. “The Shoe Ghost” seems like a good name as any for a story about memory. In fact since I am a terrible typist and lazy, I’ll just refer to it as TSG, which is easier for me if not for you.

The plot thickens because TSG is about memory and memories lead to flashbacks. Which certainly isn’t just a 3rd person thing, since first person can jump around time just as well. But what’s new to me in attempting 3rd person is that in TSG I have two main characters who are driving the plot: the woman who is struggling with memory and the shoe ghost.

I wrote a bunch of super insightful stuff and eventually landed on the metaphor of chemistry (and threw away all the insightful blather). I saw a difference in how chemistry comes into play depending on whether you are in 1st person or 3rd.

In first person narration of which I am used to writing, the story teller is controlling the chemistry (to a degree). She has a chemistry as a character. She is choosing who she interacts with (the other chemical) and controlling the environment in which the chemical reaction will take place. Now she may not understand the other chemical well enough to understand how it will play out but at least she believes she has control. Which is a great way to let a story unfold. She has to react to the results of the chemical reaction, which may or may not be what she expected and thus opens up threads that were hitherto unknown or unknowable.

Now in the 3rd person and I this case I have two main characters. I can know their chemistry fairly well to begin with. So that’s not new. But who’s in control? They each have their own chemistry and their own agenda. So now that I am the 3rd person narrator how do I balance that interaction? When writing in 1st person, I let the motivations of the character drive. Now I have two people at the wheel.

What role do I as 3rd person narrator play? Do I have motivations? Am I the moderator? To continue the chemistry metaphor, do I play the catalyst? Am I just the observer of the experiment? Do I have an agenda in that I am trying to prove out an hypothesis? What other roles could I play?

Hmm. I don’t know the answer to any of that. Perhaps that will become more clear as I establish the character motivations and arcs. Or maybe the coming together of the episodes along the story arc will shed light.  Whatever the path, I suspect it’s a puzzle where I know the subjects but haven’t seen the picture yet.

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