The Problem with First Person Narratives

Graphic by Gayle Martin.

As fiction writers, we have two ways to present our story; as a first or a third person narrative. This time, however, I’m going to speak as a fiction reader, and not an author.

As a reader, I simply hate the first person narrative. To me, it’s the narcissistic narrative. It’s all, me, me, me, I, I, I, me, me, me, I, I, I. It gets really old, really quick. However, I still get it. The author wants me to have a more intimate relationship with the lead character. The problem for me is that I want to know what other characters, particularly the antagonists, are up to.

I love reading fiction written in the third person narrative. When I read a novel I’m essentially watching a movie in my head. I want to see the bad guys cooking up their evil schemes. I want to be with them when they do their dastardly deeds. I want to experience the moment of shock and surprise when the protagonist gets caught their trap. Likewise, I want to experience the protagonist’s feeling of triumph when the bad guys get their comeuppance. I also want to see the antagonist’s moment of regret. This is why, as a reader, I only read third person narratives. I get to see multiple points of view, and I get to see scene changes with different characters, just like they do in the movies.

I realize this is my own personal take. Other readers may like the first person narrative. To each their own. However, I prefer to write my own stories the same way I prefer to read them. This is why I only write in a third person narrative.

Gayle Martin

Why I Don’t Recommend Using the F-word

I’ll always remember clicking a link to see a sample chapter from another author’s novel. The title sounded interesting. Unfortunately, in the second sentence of the opening narrative, was the dreaded, F-word. That was it. I was done. The book may have had an intriguing title. However, once I saw that expletive, I was turned off. I had no reason to read any further.

I’m not saying I’m a total prude, and, for some genres, this kind of language may be suitable and expected. However, it’s not appropriate for my work. I write contemporary sensual romance. (As Marina Martindale.) In my genre there simply is no reason for profanity, and most romance authors don’t use it. To me, profanity, especially when used in the narrative, is a sign of a lazy, sloppy writer. A rank amateur. A good storyteller doesn’t need to use profanity. Plain and simple.

But what about the dialog?

There will be times when an, “Oh my goodness gracious me,” simply won’t cut it. That’s when I’ll use an occasional damn or hell, or similar verbiage. However, I never use the F-word, or any other vulgar synonym for human genitalia. And the keyword here is occasional. As in infrequently. My characters aren’t potty mouths. Even my villains have more class than that.

Sometimes there’ll be an occasion when a stronger word may be expected. For example, I had once had a scene where a characters has just learned her husband had been kidnapped. She’s understandably upset. Her response is, “What the —?” Another character interrupts her before she completes her sentence. Some readers may have interpreted it as, “What the hell?” Perfectly appropriate for the circumstances. Other readers, however, may have interpreted it differently and assumed she was about to say an entirely different word. Either way, I left it up to the reader to decide.

It may be the 21st century, but there are still readers out there who find profanity, particularly the F-word, offensive. So why risk alienating someone who would have otherwise loved your book?


Gayle Martin aka Marina Martindale

Think You Don’t Need an Editor? Part One

© Can Stock Photo/novelo

“I don’t need an editor because I do my own editing.”

I often hear this comment from first time authors. It’s the voice of inexperience or an over inflated ego. Sometimes both. It also has a familiar ring to it, as I resemble this remark myself.

My very first book was a historic cookbook titled, Anna’s Kitchen. At the time I wrote it I too thought I didn’t need an editor. In fact, I was such a smart aleck at the time that I thought I knew everything. Never mind the fact that I had never written a book in my entire life. As far as I was concerned, the spell checker in my word processing software was all I needed. So how did I do?  Well, you may want to refer to my post titled, Just Add Two Tablespoons of Fate. Sure, I can laugh about it now, but it’s a splendid example of why all authors, especially new authors, must have an editor.

Why every author needs an editor

An editor is a fresh pair of eyes to go over your manuscript. They give it the added polish it needs to turn it into a great book. They’re not as much concerned about the content of your work as they are the structure. They look for things such as misspelled words, typos, and comma spliced sentences. They also look for dangling participles, incorrect homonyms, redundancy, and the dreaded passive voice. If you write fiction, they’ll look for inconsistencies in your story and character arcs. In other words, they fix all the gaffes that you, as a writer, may have overlooked. The reason why you’re not seeing them is because you’re too involved with your own work to see it objectively. This is normal. As human beings, we can’t be objective about ourselves. This is why it’s difficult for us to see our mistakes. It’s the same reason why doctors don’t treat themselves or members of their own families.

Some of you reading this may still be skeptical, or you may even think your writing skills are so superior that you simply don’t need an editor. If this is the case, then you’ll soon find out for yourselves that writing is a very humbling experience. There is nothing quite like having your readers point out all your errors for you, and then posting them on an Amazon review for the entire world to see. Once that happens, your credibility as an author is pretty much done, and you can kiss your writing career goodbye.

What do Danielle Steel, James Patterson, Mary Higgins Clark, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and Dean Koontz all have in common? They all have editors. So if these famous authors all have editors, then what makes you think that you don’t need one? Just asking.

Gayle Martin

Let’s Stop Putting Labels on People

© Can Stock Photo / Medclips

I will never forget the time when I attended a business networking meeting, and someone’s guest asked me what I do. It was a fair question. The whole idea of networking meetings is to exchange information and refer business to one another. I told her I was a novel writer. Her response, however, was appalling. She looked me in the eye and said, “Oh, so this means you have ADD.” (Attention Deficit Disorder — a mental illness.)

I was completely flabbergasted. How could a so-called business professional make such a hurtful, hateful, and not to mention, stupid, remark? I looked her in the eye, and without even thinking I said, “Well, in my line of work, it would actually be considered a job requirement.” It shut her up. She walked away with egg on her face as well she should have.

Are creative people somehow less worthy than other people? 

Few things make me bristle like people who insist on putting stigmatizing labels on other people. Why must they do this? Is there is some narrow definition of normal out there? Do creative, imaginative people not fit into this so-called norm? Is this why creative people are stigmatized? Or is making other people look bad how they make themselves look good?

I suspect the answer is all the above. There are people out there who simply don’t like creative people. Period. I recall once reading an article telling parents how to “reprogram” their children if they showed any sign of being, “right-brained creative.” It was as if being creative was a mental defect that needed to be nipped in the bud. 

Imagine a world without art, music or literature. No doubt it would be a dull and dreary place. So what defines us as a people? Among other things, it’s art, music and literature. And who creates art, music and literature? Well, certainly not the bitch at the business networking meeting.

I refuse to apologize for who I am

I happen to be one of those right-brained creative people. I’m the person the so-called experts don’t want your child becoming. And do you want to know something? I’m damn proud of it. I am the person God meant me to be, and, in spite of what some people may think, I’m actually mentally confident enough to perform my job. Not only do I write novels, I also I run my own book publishing business. 

So, Miss Smart-Alec, who the hell are you to think you have the right to pin your scarlet letter on me and label me with ADD? My job involves using my God-given creative skills, and I’m so sorry it makes you jealous because you don’t have them. Oh, and here’s another thought. Why don’t you worry more about your own life and stop judging people you know nothing about.


Gayle Martin