September 28th, 2006


first person narratives and reader evolution

Based on several of the comments yesterday, I think I need to set the record straight. The panel on which I said that I did not like first person narratives was so many moons ago I cannot even say which conference I was attending. And - here's the important part - it is no longer the case. Really. Just ask some of my current clients...

Going through my agent-shelf (not my to read pile - yikes) here are some first person narrated books: C.E. Murphy's Urban Shaman (from the Walker Papers series), Storm Front by Jim Butcher (and the rest of the Dresden Files series, for that matter), Donna Ball's Smoky Mountain Tracks, Nightlife by Rob Thurman, David Skibbin's Eight of Swords. I suppose I had better let them all know the bad news. I even represent books in which the narrative has more than one approach. For example, Elizabeth Bear's Hammered, in which one character is in first person and several others are not.

First person narratives are lovely - if done well. Which is always the crux of the matter. At the time that I made that apparently infamous remark, I had not read very many good ones. It was, then, a challenge to win me over. The truth is, though, that I have discovered that as long as something is done well, I will read it.

I thought that paragraph I wrote yesterday made it clear that it was an old objection, no longer valid. This is not the first time I have told this anecdote and gotten this reaction. Someone suggested to me that people don't read as carefully online as they do on paper. I begin to suspect that might be true. Does anyone else have that experience? Apparently it can spread misinformation. Be careful in your research, people. I sure hope no one reads this entry and believes that I now prefer first person to everything else. That's not the case either.

Agents are readers first and foremost, before they do the business. Readers evolve, or at least one hopes they do. I would avoid stagnation like the plague. There are books that I loved as a child which still ensnare me, but there are others that I no longer find gripping. I have read books this year (Hal Duncan's Vellum, comes to mind) which I may have passed up years ago. (I thoroughly enjoyed Vellum, by the way.) I would not be at all surprised if other people reading this have, in the past, thought they liked or disliked something and later have proven themselves incorrect. Or worse yet, changed their minds. Perhaps there are some who prefer not to experiment. I am not one of them. Give me the adventure and discovery.
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