First-person narratives

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Noddy, Sep 19, 2013.

  1. Noddy

    Noddy Captain

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    How many Trek stories have there been that were told in the form of a first-person narrative? I've heard the stories in the Captain's Table books do this, but are there any others?
     
  2. Mysterion

    Mysterion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Diane Carey's Dreadnought is told in the first person. Cannot recall if the follow-up Battlestations! was as well.
     
  3. j3067

    j3067 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    A large section of Cold Equations: The Persistence of Memory is written from a first person POV. It worked really well for me...compelling stuff.
     
  4. Paris

    Paris Commodore Commodore

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    Kevin Dilmore's story, in Vanguard #6 Declassified, is told from the POV of Tim Pennington, the intrepid reporter for the Federation News Service
     
  5. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, some sections are first person from Kirk or Spock.


    :)
     
  6. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Telling novel-length Trek stories in first-person is tricky, since it means you're stuck in one head the entire book and can't, for example, cut back and forth from the bridge to the away team, or to the B-Plot involving Scotty or O'Brien . . . .
     
  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    It was.


    Err, the only part written in first person from Kirk's POV was the preface -- the conceit of the book being that it was published in the 23rd century based on actual events and Kirk was asked to write something to introduce it. As for Spock, there are a few paragraphs of his running log entry during his spacewalk interspersed within the third-person narration of the scene, but that's hardly any different from using dialogue in a scene.

    "A Private Anecdote," the first grand-prize-winning Strange New Worlds story, was in first person. I'm sure a number of other SNW stories were as well, but I can't recall which.
     
  8. D Man

    D Man Commodore Commodore

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    I seem to recall Curzon's story in Lives of Dax being told from his point of view...but actually now that I typed that wasn't it Sisko narrating? I should re-visit that book, there were some cool things in there.
     
  9. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    In general, first-person is perhaps best suited for short stories. At least where Trek is concerned.
     
  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Exactly what it says on the tin: John DeLancie and Peter David's I, Q is a first-person narrative by Q.
     
  11. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    True confession: I hate writing first-person, especially at book-length. I had to do it once on a ghost-writing job and it was a misery. Maybe I just have a short attention span, but I hated being stuck with only one POV for an entire novel. And it was logistically clumsy, too. I kept wanting to cut away to another character or location, but I couldn't, which meant that important stuff had to happen offstage.
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I've rarely written anything in first person. It seems contrived to me. How does the author have such perfect recollection of every action and word? How does the author have the talent to tell the story? One of my two published first-person stories, "The Weight of Silence," was written to specifically address these concerns, and that actually tied into the story's themes about the difficulties of communication.

    But the other published story I wrote in first person, "No Dominion", just kind of happened that way; it felt right for the story (I guess because it's a mystery/procedural), and I didn't really question those credibility issues. I guess I decided it's more a literary device than anything else, a figurative translation of what's going on inside a character's head. After all, you could raise a lot of the same questions about the narrator of a third-person account -- who's telling the story, how do they have this godlike POV, etc. That's also a storytelling device.
     
  13. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Writing first-person can really handicap you sometimes. I still remember reading this epic novel about the fall of Rome that the author had (foolishly?) decided to write in the first-person, which meant that he had to go to elaborate, occasionally ridiculous lengths to get his poor heroine in the right places at the right times to observe firsthand all these crucial historical events. (Imagine a Revolutionary War novel in which the protagonist just happens to be present at the Boston Tea Party, Lexington and Concord, Valley Forge, Washington crossing the Delaware, etc.)

    It would have been sooo much easier (and less contrived) just to write the book in third-person with multiple POV characters!
     
  14. KRAD

    KRAD Keith R.A. DeCandido Admiral

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    My short story in The Sky's the Limit, "Four Lights," was a first-person Picard story. As Greg and Christopher have said, it's a tough thing to do in novel form (mysteries are better suited to it than SF). But it's something that can more easily be pulled off in a short story.

    In the two anthologies I edited, several stories were in the first person (at least in part):

    Tales of the Dominion War
    "Mirror Eyes" by Heather Jarman & Jeffrey Lang
    "Stone Cold Truths" by Peter David
    "Safe Harbors" by Howard Weinstein

    Tales from the Captain's Table
    Riker: "Improvisations on the Opal Sea: A Tale of Dubious Credibility" by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin
    Kira: "The Officer's Club" by Heather Jarman
    Shelby: "Pain Management" by Peter David
    Demora Sulu: "Iron and Sacrifice" by David R. George III
    Chakotay: "Seduced" by Christie Golden
    Archer: "Have Beagle, Will Travel" by Louisa Swann
     
  15. Kinokima

    Kinokima Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    But you can technically have more than one character narrating in first person at different points in the book.
     
  16. KRAD

    KRAD Keith R.A. DeCandido Admiral

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    You can sure, but it's an even bigger pain in the ass because you have to switch character voices all the time, and it's also much more difficult for the reader. At least with third-person, you have a more-or-less consistent narrative voice. If you're doing multiple first-person narration, you have to change the entire narrative style every time you switch. (Or you can not change the narrative style, and you get garbage like Robert A. Heinlein's Number of the Beast, where you have four first-person narratives THAT ALL SOUND EXACTLY THE SAME.)
     
  17. Kinokima

    Kinokima Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I am not saying it is not challenge but it can make an interesting book and it's not like it hasn't been done before. If you have different first person narratives you can tell the same story from different perspectives.

    Would your different characters see the same events in the same way?
     
  18. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    I suppose, if you're writing an epistolary novel like Dracula., but that strikes me as off-putting and potentially confusing since the identity of "I" would be changing throughout the book.

    Easier to just write "Kirk beamed down to the planet" than "I beamed down to the planet" and have to make it clear who "I" is in each scene. :)
     
  19. tomswift2002

    tomswift2002 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I'll try not to give away any spoilers, but I'm currently reading The Crimson Shadow and there have been a couple of "letters" that are in the first person which are done really well---unfortunately I'm finding the transitions back into the third person narratives quite difficult and sometimes they feel forced.
     
  20. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    The thing about first-person novels is that they have a higher degree of difficulty. Certainly, they can done well, but they're easier to screw up as well. David Hartwell, who was one of the original TrekLit editors, once advised young writers to stay away from first-person until they were more experienced. At the time, I was young and mouthy and debated this point with him, pointing out umpteen classic novels and stories that were written in first-person. David conceded their existence, but still maintained that new writers attempted first-person at their own peril.

    Like I said, I disagreed vocally at the time, but, three decades later, after having waded through way too many slushpiles, I see his point. First-person contains many traps for the unwary . . . .

    Other issues:

    1) The narrator can come off as indistinct compared to the other characters, who can be described in vivid detail. Indeed, having a narrator describe themselves or their expressions or body language is always problematic. You can only have them look in the mirror so many times . . .

    2) In my experience, first-person makes it easier for the author to indulge in long-winded internal monologues, perhaps to excess. It's easier to get carried away with that sort of thing when writing from deep inside the narrator's head.

    And speaking of long-winded monologues, I've clearly thought too much about this over the years! :)