Adventures in the 3rd Person – Structure or Chaos

Structure or Chaos

I suppose a story about memory will by its nature want to jump around in time. Even in the 1st person you can flashback to times the protagonist can remember.  So I suppose in the 3rd person it just becomes more complicated. Multiple characters can go back into memory, and the narrator can go wherever they will, whether characters remember or not.

Which is surely a “duh” for those who have written such things and even those who have read such things. Fair enough. But what I think about when I ponder writing in the 3rd person instead of the 1st person is giving what I stated above the possibilities become overwhelming. If I can take characters wherever I want I can see my self getting lost in the maze, getting confused and twisted in circles, descending into chaos or even nonsensical (which might be okay if that is your intention, but I don’t think that is my intention, at least not yet).

And yes, I know that the point of subsequent drafts is to bring order and structure and purpose to the chaos of a first draft. But that is a different discussion.

What I am noodling through here is a recurring theme. How much do I know and when do I know it? Essentially how much structure and plan do I have before I start? I suppose this can apply to 1st person, but my past work in 1st person has allowed the narrator (the main character as a rule) to shape the story to a great deal as it goes along with a basic theme providing context to the choices. There’s not much of a plan.

But part of this 3rd person experiment is to do something new. I admit I have thought a bit about structure and played around with the idea of a plan. I can tell you it is not comfortable. The question I ask is, is it so uncomfortable as to make the exercise untenable, going too much against who I am.

When I started designing and making furniture, I would make a detailed perspective drawing and then a working drawing with all the measurements and such. As I progressed my drawing became less precise and more conceptual and even ending up as three of four lines on a page. Then eventually I just stopped making drawings at all. I am hoping that while I don’t draw anything out, my brain goes through some of the effort without my knowing it. I’m okay with that as long as my unconscious brain doesn’t bother my conscious brain.

So maybe if I go through a structuring exercise once or twice my unconscious brain will take care of it for me in future exercises. Or I’ll just hate it and not make it to the end of the exercise. One way or another, we’ll know something we didn’t know before.  

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