DO YOU ever think about that? There’s an exception, of course: novels presented as transcribed verbal storytelling, like Stephen King’s Dolores Claiborne. For the most part, though, all first-person protagonists are writers.
That’s not to say the character necessarily identifies as a writer within the time frame of the story, but whatever they experienced in that story drove them to write about it. One could argue that all first-person narratives are the story of a writer being born.
I’m preparing to publish my first solo work, a coming-of-age suspense novella entitled TO BE FRIENDS, and while this story is definitely a work of fiction, it contains a great deal of autobiographical elements. A small-town setting just like where I grew up, for one, but also an immeasurable quality related to–I don’t know–how it felt, for me, to be a teenager. This makes it personal, which is part of the reason why it’s taken me so long to release it.
I’ve been reminiscing a lot lately, in large part thanks to this book, and a question keeps popping into my head: Why did I decide as a teenager that I wanted to be a writer?
What happened? Was it simply my love of reading? Did any particular tragedy inspire a need to share my perspective with the world? Isn’t that narcissistic? Art shapes culture, after all, and culture battles nature to determine the future. What makes my perspective so valuable that I should be allowed to infect the zeitgeist with my thoughts?
I can tell you, it wasn’t the fun parts of childhood, the nostalgic parts, the mundane parts. It wasn’t my teenage existential boredom no more than it was the first Friday evening grope in the backseat of a car. It wasn’t spring break or best friend drama or Shakespearean-feeling endings to short-lived relationships. It wasn’t prom, summer break, delinquent behavior behind the bleachers at the football game, or the subsequent grounding.
Sure, we can all reflect on our childhoods and extract tons of meaning, but dabble too much in the practice of nostalgia and soon all your memories will either be bathed in golden evening sunlight or drifting through a gritty landscape of high contrast and dark shadows. We tend to be just as dramatic when we reflect upon childhood as we acted when we were children.
So what was it? What inspired me to be a writer, and why do I care so much about this novella? Why am I so attached to it? The plot itself isn’t autobiographical. Anyone who reads TO BE FRIENDS will know that by the end. Maniacal laughter emoji. But there’s something there, I think. Something deeper than the aesthetic and emotional qualities of my catalog of memories, and I think it has something to with my original contention: All first-person protagonists are writers.
I think TO BE FRIENDS is an exploration of my own identity transmuted into language and metaphor and drama. I think it contains something that has brought me the clarity a writer needs in order to get it right.
To write–dare I say it–a damn good story.
Of course, that’s not for me to decide. It’s up to the reader. I hope it grabs hold of you and refuses to let go until you read the final sentence. I hope you laugh, cry, and get angry. I hope you love the characters and empathize even with the ones who are difficult to stomach. I hope it means something to you. I hope you think it’s beautiful.
Oh, and don’t worry, there’s some groping in the dark too.
I’ll be announcing a release date in February, and I plan on the book dropping in late March. I don’t expect to sell a lot of copies and frankly I don’t care if I do or don’t. All I care about is hearing from those of you who do read it. There are tons of self-published books out there and more being published every day, and here I am, just another writer, hoping you’ll give me a chance.
PS.–If you are interested and want to be notified of the release, send me a quick message through the Contact form below and let me know. Be sure to specifically say you’re interested in the book and want to be notified, because I get a lot of emails. It won’t be a mass email and your address will not be shared. I don’t have a subscription option so I’ll send a personalized message to every person who wants to read this book. I don’t care how many there are. That’s how much this little yarn means to me. Thanks everyone.
One thought on “All First-Person Protagonists are Writers”
Well, I have one first person book (not published) but it’s not about a writer–it’s about a veteran and I chose first person to get a look into his mind. But, I am planning a thriller novel series that is in third person for practically the whole series and at the end you find out one of the characters was the writer. And I know—you said there were exceptions, not trying to battle you or anything. what I’m saying is you made me think about my own work. And how sometimes personal experiences shape our stories and writing. Thank you for sharing!