NON FICTION WRITING
Q: Should I write in the FIRST PERSON VOICE?'
A:. that's the kiss of death unless you're Henry Kissinger! Read the research materials ..Cosmopolitan magazines, old copies from when Helen Gurley Brown was publisher. She made her name on a non fiction book called SEX AND THE SINGLE GIRL, an internat'l best seller. The case studies in COSMO have nobody on a soap box pointing out the idiocy of the girl, but there is some narration, very neutral, very third person voice. Never an "I" voice.
FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE has such 'luggage' with it unless you're Henry Kissinger where his theme, data, opinions, experience outweigh the HENRY-ness that we're snooping into. We can't snoop into the HENRY-ness as the rest of those things on the other side of the scale outweigh him. (Hard to believe, but they do. There's no HENRY there. There's just the SECRETARY OF STATE with his impersonal but HUGE experience.)
Now, if KEVIN SPACEY writes a book on ENGLISH theatre, we're always spotting the gay stuff betwen the lines. Ditto CARY GRANT. NOBODY with luggage can write in the first person. EVEN if you are LILLY PURE, it's safer and more accessible for the reader if you choose the third person omniscient voice.
LILY PULITZER wrote a great book 'the PRIZE PULITZER" where she was so self-revelatory that you never got the sense that there was sin hidden behind the scenery, it was all out on the stage.
But not many of us can do that. If an author has too much backstory to her own life, it's hard to read even her fiction, her fantasy stories without thinking we see the REAL PERSON SHOWING THRU.
THE OTHER irritant to the reader is a non celeb who is a so called, self appointed expert on something. If they skate too close to preening, grooming their feathers while we watch, they become a turnoff. We start to dislike that person. Women makes this mistake, much more than men. LOVE ADVISORS who intrude too much, make too much of themselves as they run about the world shaping up their crazy, passionate charges can tend to get on a high horse.
It is best to keep yourself, your copious experience, (not) your imposing persona, your wise judgements and personal reactions and opinions OUT OF IT. Too much of the preachy, first person voice is an allergin to reader's ears unless you're really like FREUD OR KISSINGER, in which case we can accept you pontificating.
I have a hard time thinking that FREUD would do his classic case of the hysteric, Dora was there her name? saying 'I feel that Dora was transferring her fear.. no. He'd simply say 'Dora was transferring fear of molestation to her aunt's predominantly male tom cats and the original hysteria was from the rape..." TONE is everything. Leave the I out of the sentence completely. Just say 'this was probably what was going on.'
Give us the story, don't intrude in the action and don't do the explanation UNTIL you have shown the event. SHOW them crazy, then tell us what we saw. Show MARTA finding her mate's hotel bills, then scissoring his suits in his closet, then after you've shown us that, post-event, you can say "Marta had clues that JOE had poor character when, a.b.c. The first time X happened, she hadn't yet had children... on and on. clocking things. monday morning quarterbacking." but no 'I FEEL, I THINK, MY OPINION. BORRRING!
So, I ME & MINE is out of it. Freud wouldn't. Why should you? why do you have such a misapprehension anyway and why are you sticking to it and saying other forms will not be accepted as non fiction?
CHOOSE the voice of a hovering coach clocking Sunday's game on Monday morning. We don't know this coach so we could assume he's an egomaniac if he keeps saying I was right. We do not want to have our noses rubbed in the author's fantasy of being Sigmund Freud or Cardinal Spellman. Or Carrie Nation on a soapbox spouting that she has had an internet column every third paragraph which you did in sample.
The author's voice should be gentle, unobtrusive, factual and use the pronoun 'she and 'he. NOT 'I. The author's voice ONLY POINTS out what we have seen with our own eyes in the telling of the tale. The showing/ the
projecting of the event with the tiny clues in it. Like a mystery, right. THIS GREAT LOVER only next to his plate, a mysterious set of keys she didn't recognize...
I wonder why you have a fear of the NON FICTION HOW TO BETTER YOUR LIFE form? THE true CASE STUDY is the classic form for non fiction. You very mysteriously and incorrectly state that case studies would have to be labeled fiction as you cannot name names -- in my research it states that fiction is harder to get picked up..."
It isn't adviseable to make up CASE STUDIES. I never said DO THAT. You sit at the bus stop and get actual women and prove with notes that THERE WAS A GAL, AMANDA JONES, Main Street and fone and she did suffer this with BILL and you changed the names and it is non fiction, you're ok.
Even if you made it all up it would NOT enter the realm of fiction.. You kidding me? You actually think it could leap the blood barrier to become fiction?
Psychiatrist Robert Lindner wrote the FIFTY MINUTE HOUR. get this classic at Abes used. Case studies one after the other. NOT fantasy tales.REAL LIFE. It was a super best seller. Mostly cuz it was the 50's and one patient was a prostitute. Call girl, actually.
DESTINY TIMES SIX, a great book by astrologer KATHARINE DE JERSEY.. One of the 6 stories is Bill Cosby's wife, Camille, suffering his bedding down everything that moved. Get it for a buck at ABE BOOKS.com
These vignettes read like fiction, third person narrative mostly, though De Jersey is the "I" and her aplomb and elegance, seriousness works. She recounts how she gave her weeping client good advice. It's not fiction, it is ROMAN A CLEF NON FICTION, it's reality. If you can write a fiction book do it. Lots of money in them thar hills. But if you have a non fiction book in you, either with a shrink riding shotgun or on your own, write case histories of the people who suffer DYSFUNCTIONAL families or GIRLS who were SNOOKERED IN LOVE,--- BETRAYED-- TAKEN FOR A RIDE. AND HOW DUMB WERE THEY..... and write it as if it were fiction. Your editor may come after you asking, did this really happen? Be prepared for that. Nobody wants an Oprah Author.
And then the third person omniscient voice steps in monday morning quarterbacking the tale after each ride is described. From an I-free zone. AVOID HUBRIS, is all I'm saying. Stand in NOT an EYE FREE zone but
an "I-free" zone and you will be rewarded with an instant sale.
THE I ME & MY VIEW angle is the kiss of death. It repulses the reader. Unless you are known as a very famous shrink.
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