Make a Wish

magic wandI’ve been re-writing my Nano novel, and am facing a choice: do I want to use a first person narrator?

The last time I wrote a book in first person, I also used present tense, which got tiresome very quickly. After about three chapters, the narrator’s voice began to grate on my nerves.
That is the problem with a first person narrator. To justify using it, the voice has to be unique and interesting. But a quirky voice that pulls the reader into the first chapter may become irritating after a few chapters.

Third person is a safe choice, but I might get bored. For some reason, I want to tell this in the first person.

The main character in my story is Robby, a twelve-year old boy, very intelligent, a bit odd, with a ponderous and prodigious vocabulary. More than anything, he wants to be a wizard, like Harry Potter. He is also writing his own book with himself as hero. Unlike Harry, who discovers his wizardly powers against all expectation, Robby only dreams of powers he doesn’t have.

I notice that students gravitate towards first person, making the narrator themselves. I would say that two-thirds of my students’ stories are told from this point of view. They even use their own name. Their stories are a kind of wish-fulfillment fantasy. It’s a story about ‘me’ – only I’m rich and famous and incredibly handsome.

Do authors write in order to fulfill some need, to live other lives vicariously?

I suspect that my story is like that. Writing books for kids and young adults is a way to recapture my own childhood, and the books I loved — Lloyd Alexander, Tolkien, T.H. White. I see myself as that boy, wishing he could be a wizard, standing right between childhood and adulthood, not ready to give up belief in magic, but knowing that adults don’t believe in such things.

When I was about nine or ten, I remember being really unhappy with the idea of growing up. Adults seemed to have such boring lives. I made a vow never to grow up. If Peter Pan didn’t have to grow up, why should I?

At that age, I would have done anything to remain a kid. As I got older, I hated feeling that there were things everyone knew but me – secrets of adulthood: how to look and talk like an adult, how to feel grownup on the inside.

When do I start feeling like an adult?

Being grown up still doesn’t feel the way I expected it to feel. I have a job, a house, car payments, bills – boring stuff. And things aren’t as hard to figure out as I thought they would be. But I am like Robby – though my rational, adult self knows that magic doesn’t exist, I want it to be real.

Through the magic of the pen, I give myself a second dose of childhood. I travel back to the time when I thought that I could remain a child if I just knew the right way to make such a magical wish. It is a fix I need more often as I see myself getting older.

Writing is a powerful drug.


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