Jonathan Franzen’s 10 Rules for Novelists

I noticed a lot of buzz on Twitter about Jonathan Franzen’s list “10 Rules
for Novelists” over at LitHub.
I read it a couple times and decided I should blog about it. That’s where I kind of ran into trouble. I’m not even sure how to respond to all of them… and believe me, I took issue with quite a few things… So, I’m just going to talk about one:

4. Write in third person unless a really distinctive first-person voice offers itself irresistibly.

Why are people so in love with the third person when it comes to novels? Does an omnipotent narrator really enhance the reading experience? My novel is in the first person present tense. I made the decision to write it that way because, for starters, most lad-lit I’ve read seems to be written that way. Why, because the genre begs for an introspective male point of view. What better way to do that than by writing in the first person. For me, reading other books written that way, it’s like being inside the main character’s head. Your put in their world from their perspective. Third person keeps you as a spectator. It may allow you to get insight into the thoughts and motivations of other characters, but that’s not how we experience life, now, is it?

I have nothing against third person perspective, but I think if you really want to get absorbed in the story, first person is the way to go. I don’t get why Franzen thinks first person is the exception, not the rule… sure, he’s sold a few books, and must know a few things about writing novels… but I can’t be the only person who thinks first person is better.

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