the Little Red Reviewer

A Viewpoint on points of view, A Guest Post from Gillian Philip and a Giveaway

Posted on: November 22, 2013

Gillian Philip has been making me all sorts of squeerolling happy lately.  It was only April of this year that I read Firebrand, the first book in her Rebel Angels series. And just, WOW.  Go read my review.  no, seriously, go read it. And then go read the even better review of the second book in the series, Bloodstone, which just came out.

Ok, so what’s better than these two incredible books?  well, two things, actually.  Thing the first, is Gillian’s superb guest post below on character point-of-view, and thing the second is Tor is giving away two copies of Bloodstone!  See details at the bottom of the post for rules about the giveaway.

about the author:

Gillian Philip was born in Glasgow, lived for twelve years in Barbados, and now lives in the north of Scotland with her husband, twin children, three dogs, two sociopathic cats, a slayer hamster, three chickens and a lot of nervous fish. She’s the author of The Darke Academy series (writing as Gabriella Poole), the  Survivors series, (as part of the Erin Hunter writing team), a long list of children’s and young adult stand alone novels, and the Rebel Angels dark fantasy series.  She’s been nominated for the David Gemmell Legend award, the Carnegie Medal, and been shortlisted for numerous other book awards. Learn more at her website her twitter, and her facebook page.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

A viewpoint on points of view…  by Gillian Philip

When I wrote Firebrand – and I still remember how much fun it was, for me if not for my characters – I had the best time spending an entire book and months of my life in Seth MacGregor’s head. Every word was written in his first person narrative. I lived with that boy every minute of every day and it felt like having… well, let’s see… a very, very close younger brother constantly at my side (anything further might verge on creepy, ahem). I knew what he was thinking and feeling, I knew what he was planning, and it felt very much as if that came from him, not me.

Now, Seth had actually started his life as a minor villain in Bloodstone (the first of the series I actually wrote) and he’d barged in, taken over and demanded it be all about him. I didn’t mind.  I liked him. I liked him more than I really should have, given the kind of things he got up to in Bloodstone.

And then, with a late-night marathon and a box of tissues, Firebrand was finished, and there in the scarily immediate future waited what were now its sequels. Wolfsbane (Book 3) was already sketched out in draft, and whether Seth liked it or not, it wasn’t all about him any more. So I had to make a decision: whose story was it going to be, and who was going to tell it? And that’s where things got complicated.

The narrative voice in Bloodstone changes from section to section, and a few readers have found that odd – I think because the voice also shifts from first to third person and back. That was a hard decision to take, but in the end it seemed the only choice for me, so I’ll try to explain myself (and beg the reader’s indulgence).

First person narrative is so intimate. Seth is real to me, and I know that sounds flaky, but I also know that a lot of writers will sympathise. In a first person story everything is viewed through the filter of one character’s attitudes and beliefs, and that simply wasn’t an option for me by the time Bloodstone opened. I knew other voices would have to join Seth’s – principally Jed’s (a new character) – but as soon as I began to write in Jed’s first person viewpoint, I knew it was wrong. And the moment I realised this was when the telepathic Seth himself – almost involuntarily – gatecrashed Jed’s brain.

Seth, in the world of the story, wasn’t supposed to do that. He knew what Jed was thinking, knew what he was feeling, and it was wrong. And although I already knew and loved Jed (in a way Seth certainly didn’t), I realised it was wrong for me too.

I, and the reader, didn’t know Jed at that point in the story. I wanted to see the world as he saw it, but I had no right to be inside his mind. I was going to have to report his reactions and thoughts in the third person. This is going to confuse a reader, said my rational writing mind. This is all that Jed will allow you, said my flaky writing mind.

And so I took the decision to swap throughout the book from first to third person, depending on the narrator. Finn, too (another newcomer), refused to be told in first person. She didn’t sound right, the stroppy brat, and I believe she was being deliberately obstinate. And she went on refusing, all the way through to the epilogue… when suddenly, the narrative became hers. Finn had always been integral to the story, of course, but suddenly, at the end of the book, she was the story. Seth slipped back into third person, and there he stays till the end of Bloodstone – not because I don’t love him, not because it isn’t still very much his story in many ways, but simply because other people are telling it now. Jed never does allow me first person. Finn’s different…

Seth himself grows increasingly distant. It makes me a little sad, but it feels right. He’ll have a few first-person moments in Wolfsbane – including the ending – and that’s his lot. From inside his  mind, at least.

It’s not that it isn’t Seth’s story any more. It’s just that other people are telling it, and they also need to tell their own. I think that’s not just how it is in fiction; I think it’s how it is in life.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

It’s funny to me, that us readers are reading the story not the order Philip originally wrote it.  The first time we meet Seth he’s this tragic anti-hero character.  The first time Philip met Seth, he was an attention grabbing minor villain!  Fascinating!!

GIVE AWAY RULES:   This give away for a print copy of Bloodstone is open to residents of the US and CANADA only (sorry international friends! ) , and you must enter by midnight, Eastern Time,  FRIDAY November 29th.  Win yourself something wonderful on Black Friday without even leaving the house!  Entering is easy, just leave a comment below with your e-mail, or twitter, or some way for me to reach you. Good luck!

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10 Responses to "A Viewpoint on points of view, A Guest Post from Gillian Philip and a Giveaway"

Love this post! Definitely some interesting things to think about there – and don’t worry, my love of Seth has gone nowhere – as I think he’d like it! ;-)

Well that’s certainly interesting. I’ll have to go get my hands on a copy of Firebrand now :D
(scathach.threenerds@gmail.com)

[…] your actions to yourself in writing can be a lot more revealing than doing it in your head). So here’s the resulting post, over at (the wonderful) Little Red Reviewer. I knew my reasons for the way I wrote Bloodstone – […]

Sounds like a lot of fun, I’ll have to hunt up Firebrand, too.

You know, being as your so generous, and with the fact that I grabbed Firebrand from B&N not long ago, count me in. Should get to it early December, hope my tastes are the same as yours on this one. Nathan @reviewbarn

Peaks her head around at the other commenters and throws down the gauntlets @pabkins

Ok I only find the perspective / narrative switching around odd if it’s done poorly. When done right it is magnificent!

I agree. It can easily be something that ruins a good story, but to have it done well adds so much to one. Dammit, I really need to read this now! :D

Count me in! I had fun with Firebrand, it had some very interesting characters :) Twitter: @MMOGC

[…] of it! Well done to everybody who took part, be you donor, bidder or organiser. Excellent stuff.A Viewpoint on Points of View - fantasy author and Lovely Person, Gillian Philip, wrote a guest post over at the Little Red […]

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About this redhead, etc.

Redhead is a snarky, non-politically correct 30-something who reviews mostly science fiction and fantasy and talks about all sorts of other fun scifi and fantasy geekery. She once wrote a haiku that included the word triskaidekaphobia.

This blog contains adult language and strong opinions. The best way to contact her outside of this blog is twitter, where she is @redhead5318 .

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