Thursday, March 22, 2012

Guest Blogger SF Author Matt Adams

My guest today is Matt Adams, whose witty sci-fi superhero novel, I Crimsonstreak, will launch in May. The book is now available for pre-order (details below). Matt discusses his decision to use the first person to tell this story.

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I, Crimsonstreak is my first novel, and readers will see the world through the eyes of Chris Fairborne (henceforth Crimsonstreak), a superheroic super-speedster with quick wits and a love of pop culture.

The character has a definitive voice; when I write as Crimsonstreak, I am Crimsonstreak. That’s one of the biggest draws of the first person perspective. As a writer, you completely become that character because you’re writing from his or her perspective.

Even though Crimsonstreak’s voice comes to me very easily, first person does have its drawbacks.

It’s limiting. The biggest problem with first person narrative is that it imposes certain limitations on what writers can do. For instance, if you have multiple characters working together to solve a problem, you’re only able to show what’s happening through your narrator. You’re limited solely to what he or she sees and feels.

That guy is boooooooring! If you’re going to use first person, you’d better be sure your narrator has a distinct, engaging voice. Who wants to read 300 pages of Captain Bland? Not this guy! Not you, either.

“I, I,” matey. Too many sentences will start with “I.” After a while the pronoun becomes nearly invisible, but when you read a piece written in first person, you get a lot of “I did this” followed by “I did that.” It is sometimes unavoidable, but writers must get creative to avoid repetition.

What are they doing? This goes a little bit with the first point I mentioned. If you have several characters to keep track of and they get separated, readers will have no idea what happens “off camera” because the narrator has no way of knowing what has transpired.

Hello, info dump! First person books can become filled with ye olde info dumps. This happens for a couple reasons. One, because the narrator has to talk to other characters to fill in gaps in action. Two, because the narrator is the guide to an unfamiliar world. Sometimes this handcuffs the writer, resulting in some “As you know, Bob” moments.

You’ll have to excuse my friend; he’s a little chatty. First person stories become grating when the narrator simply wants to talk. Constant monologues aren’t interesting, and writers must infuse their characters with personality without turning them into monologue machines. Words are precious; don’t let the narrator’s sense of self-importance override your story!

Get creative! This isn’t a pitfall, per se, but it is something writers must challenge themselves to do. I used flashbacks in I, Crimsonstreak to help flesh out certain themes (the narrator’s relationship with his parents, for example). I also used appendices in the back of the book to lay out the detailed history of the Crimsonstreak universe. The main narrative (via Crimsonstreak) gives readers the basics without getting bogged down in every single detail.

First person is tricky, but I love using it as long as the circumstances fit. It does demand forethought and discipline in order to be used effectively.

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You can visit Matt Adams at his website.
You can pre-order I, Crimsonstreak through Kickstarter and get nifty Crimsonstreak swag here.
Or you can use BN to per-order here.


  1. I love writing in first person. Great tips and reminders you've posted here. Thanks! And good luck with the book =)

  2. First person superhero? Sounds great! Will it be in all the bookstores?

    1. It'll be available just about anywhere books are sold, although you may have to request it at your local indie. Just give them the title and the author's name, and they should be able to get it in stock.

      Can't wait until May!

  3. Thanks for commenting! As I said, I really do like first person as long as the character clicks. It's a fun way to write.

  4. We're still working on getting the book in some different outlets. Of course, the Amazon/Barnes and Noble websites are absolute "locks" for being able to get it.

  5. Love superhero stories and this one sounds like a winner. I also love writing in first person, however you are so right about the "I's" taking over. It get's difficult sometimes from overabusing that word. Goodluck with your book, I'm sure it will do great!

  6. Man, the "I's" definitely have it in these books. I do think they end up becoming "invisible" to readers, but it's easy to fall into the "I hear this," "I hear that," "I tell him" trap.

  7. Wow, being a super-hero in first person is every person's secret fantasy! What a wonderful romp.

  8. Writing in first person is hard for me. Yet I keep doing it...

  9. Oh, very true on the problems on using the 1st-p narration! Yet, like Katie, I go on '1st-p auto-mode' when I begin a piece. Great cover, Matt. Sounds like a wonderful read. Best of luck with "I, Crimsonstreak!"

  10. Thank you everyone for the nice comments. You've been a very gracious audience!

  11. I love first person. Getting that deep into the mind of the character is fun. I do love my minor characters and it would be fun to get in their heads too, but I'm okay with focusing on the MC.

  12. Sounds like a fun read - good idea to use first person.

    Anne - I've given you the Lucky 7 Meme Challenge, if you want to accept it on my reading and writing blog.

  13. I am a usual 1st person writer myself. Great rules and insight into that type of writing. So true.

    I think I choose 1st in writing, so that I can delve deep into my MC, but then again I also love to read in 1st so maybe that's just me.

    Good post.