Why write first person and multiple perspectives?
I’ve seen some books that head-hop, where you know the thoughts of every major character in a scene, so there’s very little suspense involved. When you’re writing suspense, limiting the perspectives is paramount.
I always tell a story from the most appropriate perspective at the time – which means that in some of my books in my Ocean’s Gift series, different chapters are written from distinctly different viewpoints. But there is only one perspective per chapter. I can’t head-hop.
With Nightmares of Caitlin Lockyer, it’s written entirely in Nathan Miller’s perspective. You see what he does, know what he knows…or at least, what he’s willing to admit he knows. He’s not the most reliable source, Nathan, but his perspective is a necessary evil in the first book of the trilogy, as Caitlin is unconscious at the beginning of the book and Nathan can best introduce you to her disturbing story. He describes the events as they occur, as well as what Caitlin’s willing to tell him about her nightmares and the abuse that spawned them.
The second book, Necessary Evil of Nathan Miller, tells the story from Caitlin’s perspective. Yes, even the titles aren’t what they seem. I’m very careful not to repeat sequences much – what catches Caitlin’s attention is very different to what can hold Nathan’s interest. The scenes I do include in their entirety in both books are so different as to be almost unrecognisable in places. There is an action sequence where Caitlin’s attackers return to finish the job in both books – but how Nathan and Caitlin experience it is very different.
Nathan doesn’t always hear what Caitlin says clearly – so when he relates what she said, it’s not always correct. He’s sleep-deprived and suffers from insomnia, plus he has a tendency to drive unpleasant memories from his mind before he can think about the details – giving tantalising hints, but nowhere near enough. He’s also absolutely in awe of Caitlin, who he sees as a delicate, little angel who survived a horrible ordeal.
Caitlin, conversely, has a photographic memory and actively recalls everything she can, so she won’t forget important details that could help catch the people who hurt her. That makes her a very reliable source of information – but what’s clear in her thoughts isn’t necessarily what she’s willing to impart to anyone else. She also has a tendency to speak her thoughts aloud, which she isn’t always aware of. She swears a lot more than Nathan gives her credit for – at one point, when she states that she told one of her attackers to f*** off, he transcribes it as, “buzz off.” In Necessary Evil, she describes the complete scene in horrific detail – swearing, sadistic tendencies and all.
The original draft manuscript consisted of both of their perspectives, alternating as appropriate, but there is greater suspense in the way it is now – two complementary books. I split them so that, once you’ve read Necessary Evil of Nathan Miller, you can go back and read them both in the alternating sequence, if desired, for there is a lot of information in the second book that sheds light on the first.
Had I written the story in third person or even multiple perspectives, it wouldn’t be a thriller any more – I think it would just be classed as horror, because you’d lose so much of the suspense. Nathan Miller’s perspective is, indeed, a necessary evil.
My challenge will be in writing the third book in the trilogy – Afterlife of Alanna Miller, due out in 2014. Whose perspective will I write it in? I’ll leave you in suspense on that one, too!
Demelza Carlton has always loved the ocean, but on her first snorkelling trip she found she was afraid of fish.
She has since swum with sea lions, sharks and sea cucumbers and stood on spray-drenched cliffs over a seething sea as a seven-metre cyclonic swell surged in, shattering a shipwreck below.
Sensationalist spin? No – Demelza tends to take a camera with her so she can capture and share the moment later; shipwrecks, sharks and all.
Demelza now lives in Perth, Western Australia, the shark attack capital of the world.
The Ocean’s Gift series was her first foray into fiction, followed by the Nightmares trilogy.