Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Third down

William Godwin on Caleb Williams (1794), from the invaluable Light Reading:

I began my narrative, as is the more usual way, in the third person. But I speedily became dissatisfied. I then assumed the first person, making the hero of my tale his own historian; and in this mode I have persisted in all my subsequent attempts at works of fiction. It was infinitely the best adapted, at least, to my vein of delineation, where the thing in which my imagination revelled the most freely, was the analysis of the private and internal operations of the mind, employing my metaphysical dissecting knife in tracing and laying bare the involutions of motive, and recording the gradually accumulating impulses, which led the personages I had to describe primarily to adopt the particular way of proceeding in which they afterwards embarked.
* * *

Over at Ought, they once posted John Irving's explanation of rewriting Until I Find You: After it was all done, he decided something wasn't right, so he went back and changed it from first person to third.

A character in Harry Stephen Keeler's The Mystery of the Fiddling Cracksman (1934) has a similar revelation:

"[...] You see my publishers [...] finally decided that my book would be more subtle—yes, I know I haven't even told you yet what it's about—but I will—well, they decided that it would be more subtle if narrated in the third person form instead of the first person. And so since they want to slap it on press inside of ten days, I've been sitting in a hotel room there on Broadway with a coffee percolator, changing tenses, pluperfects, points of view and whatnot for three days and nights, and having to retype the whole 80,000 words because nobody alive could read my revisions [...]"

* * *

Dizzies Trivia: Which Stephen King book goes from first person to third person?


Blogger Thomas Beard said...

Christine, right?

9:30 AM  
Blogger Ed Park said...

You are right, sir! Very impressive. (In my mind, Christine went from 1st to 3rd and then *back* to 1st, but could that possibly be correct?)

10:03 AM  
Blogger Thomas Beard said...

Yeah, it moves to the third in the middle when the narrator ends up in the hospital.

11:12 AM  

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