A big welcome to Michael R. Underwood who is here to telling us about first person narration in Urban Fantasy and celebrating the release of THE YOUNGER GODS, Younger Gods #1 (published on October 13, 2014 by Pocket Star). Want to win a copy? Enter via the widget below.
First Person Narration in Urban Fantasy
Michael R. Underwood
First person point-of-view rules in Urban Fantasy. The overwhelming majority of Urban Fantasy that I’ve ever read or seen in prose uses first person point of view – the narration coming directly from the protagonist themselves, like we as the readers are little shoulder buddies they talk to and share their thoughts with as they have their back-alley fighting, underworld-exploring, monster-hunting-or-romancing existence.
So why is it the default in UF? I think there are a few likely reasons, the first of which being the influence of noir fiction on the urban fantasy subgenre. Many detective noir stories were written in first person, taut character studies of broken, dangerous men and the world around them, their attempts to find some justice in a dark, bleak world. And since many urban fantasy protagonists are detectives, or find themselves investigating mysteries, it stands to reason that writers would consciously or unconsciously mimic that writing style.
Another major advantage to first person is immediacy and deep characterization. If you never really know someone until you walk a mile in their shoes, spending 250-300 pages with them talking freely, giving the reader an all-access pass to their mind is a great way to forge a connection between the reader and the character. In a long-running series, you get to hang out with a cool heroic friend once a year or so during their most interesting (read: dangerous) week of their year. First person narration can be incredibly conversational, letting the character voice come through loud and clear. And in first person, every single bit of description, observation, and rumination comes straight from the character, unfiltered. Much of this same closeness can be replicated in close third person, but first person is the pure, un-diluted truth (or self-delusion) straight from the horse’s mouth.
But like any writing tool or strategy, first person has its downsides. That closeness which is first person’s strength can also be a major hindrance. Anything that the first-person narrator doesn’t know or doesn’t see is off-limits, and as readers, our experience is colored and bounded by the narrator’s biases and proficiencies. And if you don’t like the main character’s voice, their mannerisms or speech patterns, you’re pretty much doomed to have a bad experience with the book. So much rides on character and voice when you’re writing first person, for good and for ill.
Whereas in third person, especially with multiple POV characters, a writer can give breaks to space out the sometimes-overwhelming aspects of a truly pronounced character, single first person never relents. Multiple first person is possible, and some books use it, but I find it incredibly hard to carry off, as the two narrators have to be so expertly-drawn that a reader picking the book up after a break has to be immediately flagged as to which narrator is speaking. Confusion between characters in multiple first person can be a fatal mistake.
From Harry Dresden and October Daye to my own first-person narrator Jacob Greene (of The Younger Gods), first person is a powerful narrative approach which lets the writer go all-in on character and voice, making a bargain that the immediacy and closeness to the narrator, the ability to show the world through the character’s perspective, is worth any bumps along the road that may come from that character’s limited perspective.
These heroes have wonders and terrors to show you, and they’re offering a front-row seat.
So hop on board and get ready for excitement.
Michael R. Underwood is the author of Geekomancy, Celebromancy, Attack the Geek, Shield and Crocus, and The Younger Gods. By day, he’s the North American Sales & Marketing Manager for Angry Robot Books. Mike grew up devouring stories in all forms, from comics to video games, tabletop RPGs, movies, and books. He has a BA in Creative Mythology and East Asian Studies, and an MA in Folklore Studies. Mike has been a bookseller, a barista, a game store cashwrap monkey, and an independent publishers’ representative.
Mike lives in Baltimore with his fiancée, an ever-growing library, and a super-team of dinosaur figurines and stuffed animals. He is also a co-host on the Hugo-nominated Skiffy and Fanty Show. In his rapidly vanishing free time, Mike studies historical martial arts and makes homemade pizza. – See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.biz/Younger-Gods/Michael-R-Underwood/9781476757797#sthash.4oxf41tP.dpuf
2 e-copies of THE YOUNGER GODS
THE YOUNGER GODS by Michael R. Underwood
Available on October 13, 2014 by Pocket Star
Jacob Greene was a sweet boy raised by a loving, tight-knit family…of cultists. He always obeyed, and was so trusted by them that he was the one they sent out on their monthly supply run (food, medicine, pig fetuses, etc.).
Finding himself betrayed by them, he flees the family’s sequestered compound and enters the true unknown: college in New York City. It’s a very foreign place, the normal world and St. Mark’s University. But Jacob’s looking for a purpose in life, a way to understand people, and a future that breaks from his less-than-perfect past. However, when his estranged sister arrives in town to kick off the apocalypse, Jacob realizes that if he doesn’t gather allies and stop the family’s prophecy of destruction from coming true, nobody else will…
Read an excerpt
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