Writing in First, Second and Third Person

With our Writing a Novel course tutor, Carrie Tiffany, we discussed the pros and cons of writing in first, second and third person. Carrie told us that first novels are often in first person, while novels written in third person are often viewed as more commercial. As for second person…well, the only successful example any of us could think of was Italo Calvino.

We had our first workshop examining the work of one our course members where we took it in turns to explore and comment on each other’s work. Carrie suggested that for our first workshops, we submit something as close to the start of our novel as possible, so that everyone gets a feel for what we are writing. Hopefully our points and ideas were useful for this first one of us to go over the hill. We talked about tense, POV, voice, structure and pointed out characters that we’d like to hear more from. It left me intrigued (and also terrified) to hear what people will have to say when it’s my turn (thankfully still a few weeks away)!

Carrie TiffanyA perk of this course has been the reading list I’m developing of all the favorite books and authors that spin around the room. Carrie has said a few times that one of the most important things we can do as writers is to read, read often and read widely.  She’s encouraged us to read beyond our usual preferences, try genres we’ve previously skirted (hello military science-fiction!) as well as to keep reading what we love, as it’s through reading that we can develop our own voice by taking inspiration from the works we find compelling.

This is my first year out of Uni and it feels hugely freeing to finally be able to read whatever I want; like a kindergarten kid let loose in a sweetshop.  But I’ve also felt that I’ve been flailing a little bit. I’ve gotten so used to having a huge pile of eighteenth/nineteenth century novels to wade through each week, even if it was sometimes reluctantly (I’m sorry Henry James – it’s just never going to work out between us.  You were too mean to Daisy Miller).  But Carrie and the other students are constantly recommending and discussing books they love or hate, so here I am with a booklist after all!

Carrie loves E.L Doctorow and Gustave Flaubert, so I’ve got hold of The Book of Daniel and Madame Bovary. We’ve discussed Anne Enright’s The Gathering as well, and so the blessing/curse of Melbourne’s amazing bookshops has meant that my bookshelf has some shiny new additions to all the birthday and Christmas presents I’ve received since 2007 (who gaze out at me reproachfully but will totally be read any day now, promise!). For those of you playing at home, we’ve also talked about how much we all love Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. When it comes time to leave Allen & Unwin and make our way home, St Patrick’s Cathedral is looking darker and more sombre than ever.  Maybe it’s been reading Flaubert too.

Clementine’s Writing a Novel Reading List – Week 3:

  • The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  • The Book of Daniel – E.L Doctorow
  • The Gathering – Anne Enright
  • Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
  • Atonement  – Ian McEwan
  • The Secret History – Donna Tartt
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