Hi guys! Today I am very excited to welcome J.L. Merrow and Josephine Myles to the blog today! They are here as part of their Hot Pressure Blog Tour for new books The Hot Floor and Pressure Head. Today they are talking to us more about first person POV. Jo and J.L. have also brought a great giveaway! So please join me in giving them a big welcome! (and be sure to check out my reviews for The Hot Floor and Pressure Head)
One of the first choices an author has to make about a new book is the point of view. Who gets to tell the story—one main character alone? The two romantic heroes each getting to put their viewpoint in turn? Some other combination of characters? (In older works, you’ll often find an omniscient narrator, but that’s largely out of fashion these days.)
And… will the story be told in first person (I), or third (he)?
A lot of romance readers are resistant to first person narration. Part of this is probably down to genre expectations—in het romance, for example, it’s usual to have the point of view alternating between hero and heroine, which is extremely hard to pull off in first person—no reader wants to have to continually remind herself which “I” is speaking now.
M/m romance, however, is not so prescriptive, and many might say the better for it.
JL Merrow (Jamie): I’ve always been a fan of the strong first person narrative:
THIS WILL NOT be a funny book. I cannot tell jokes because I do not understand them. Here is a joke, as an example. It is one of Father’s. His face was drawn but the curtains were real. I know why this is meant to be funny. I asked.
Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (Vintage Childrens Classics) (p. 8). Random House UK. Kindle Edition.
Would The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time have worked so well without its first-person narration? I doubt it. You learn as much about the character from the language he uses to describe things as you do from his actions. (And yes, the way I wrote Muscling Through was undoubtedly influenced by this book, among others.)
First person isn’t without its limitations, though. In getting the story across you’re restricted to what the narrator directly experiences, or is told. In romance, that means the reader’s only insight into the second hero’s state of mind is through what the narrator sees of his actions, hears him saying, and what the narrator might think about them.
But done well, I think, first person narration can add an extra dimension to a romantic story. Isn’t that what real life romance is like—struggling to work out what your partner’s thinking? Does he like me as much as I like him? Can I trust him? Did what I thought I heard/saw mean what I thought it did?
Josephine Myles: I agree that it does put you very much “inside” the romance, as it were. You’re left wondering so many things, and clever authors can hold back all kinds of information about the romantic interest to give the plot intrigue and suspense. I mean, just think what a letdown Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca would have been if Maxim had been given his own point of view sections. Instead, we are left in bewildered ignorance, jumping at shadows, just like the nameless narrator.
I think it’s no coincidence that many of my favourite books are first person narratives, from classics like The Catcher in the Rye, to m/m classics like the Psycops and Adrien English series. I love being invited into the head of someone else, living vicariously through them as they go about their lives, whether that involves chasing down killers, banishing evil spirits, or more mundane things like running away from home.
I’ll admit it, though: my main reason for writing The Hot Floor in the first person was because I couldn’t handle the idea of all the pronoun confusion in a third person m/m/m sex scene!
Why did you choose first person for Pressure Head, Jamie?
Jamie: Well, part of it was my natural preference for first person. I’ve tried writing things in both 1st and 3rd, but for whatever reason, the writing seems to come out more vibrant in first. Also, it’s a murder mystery, so at least genre expectations are on my side there! Although come to think of it, if I’d been determined to conform I’d have made Phil the private investigator the narrator. But hey, I’ve written m/m with a female POV character (Camwolf), so you’d probably be right in thinking conformity isn’t at the top of my agenda.
I really wanted the reader to go along with Tom, my narrator, as he struggles to make sense of things both in the mystery, and in his relationship with Phil. Tom starts out with a lot of misconceptions about Phil – and to some extent, about himself – and first person seemed the best way to show those gradually unravelling. Plus, as you say, writing m/m in first person means the pronouns are a doddle! 😉
Of course, The Hot Floor is m/m/m. Did you ever consider writing it in a three-way alternating third person POV? Or do you think that would be too confusing for the reader?
Jo: Oh yes, I thought about that, but seeing as how even I was confused by the prospect of changing between three points of view, I didn’t see what hope the reader would have! In the end, though, limiting it to Josh’s perspective (the outsider being added to an existing relationship) allowed me to play with his perceptions. I really enjoyed being able to stay in that wistful mode, of being on the outside looking in, and not realising just how important he was becoming to Rai and Evan.
I think that’s one of the real strengths and opportunities in writing in first person: you let your reader go along on a journey with your narrator. You find things out along with them, and you can keep all kinds of mysteries.
The real challenge with the first person romance is in giving your other hero (or heroes) a voice. You’d better hope they’re either a talker, or wonderfully expressive in other ways!
Jamie: Yes, it’s all too easy sometimes to fall in love with your narrator and neglect the other guy! What I tend to do is get the guys talking, although that can be a problem in itself- in my current WIP, I had extreme difficulty in getting them to stop bantering and go to bed!
Which reminds me – it’s probably about time we shut up, isn’t it? 😉
So what do readers think? First person – love it, hate it, or just wondering what all the fuss is about?
Comment to win! Jo and Jamie are both offering a choice of a book from their backlist to one lucky commenter on this post, and all commenters will also be entered into a draw for the grand prize (details here), to be announced on 8th October.
Some secrets are better left hidden.
When Tom, a plumber with a talent for finding hidden things, is called in to help the police locate the body of a missing woman, he unexpectedly encounters a familiar face. Phil, Tom’s old school crush, now a private investigator working the same case.
Tom’s attraction to the big, blond investigator hasn’t changed—in fact, he’s even more desirable all grown up. But is Phil’s interest genuine, or does he only want to use Tom’s talent? Meanwhile, the evidence around the woman’s murder piles up…while the murderer’s trigger finger is getting increasingly twitchy.
The Hot Floor
Two plus one equals scorching hot fun.
Every time Josh overhears his sexy downstairs neighbors, Rai and Evan, having loud and obviously kinky sex, Josh is overwhelmed with lust…and a longing for a fraction of the love he’s never managed to find. On the night a naked Josh falls—quite literally—into the middle one of Rai and Evan’s marathon sex sessions, the force of their mutual attraction takes control. But just as Josh dares to hope, he senses a change. Leaving him to wonder if the winds of love are about to blow his way at last…or if history is about to repeat itself.
About the Authors
JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.
She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and the paranormal, and is frequently accused of humour.
Find JL Merrow online at: www.jlmerrow.com/
English through and through, Josephine Myles is addicted to tea and busy cultivating a reputation for eccentricity. She writes gay erotica and romance, but finds the erotica keeps cuddling up to the romance, and the romance keeps corrupting the erotica. Jo blames her rebellious muse but he never listens to her anyway, no matter how much she threatens him with a big stick. She’s beginning to suspect he enjoys it.
For more information about Jo’s published stories, regular blog posts and saucy free reads, visit JosephineMyles.com.
Main image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.