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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

First Person Point of View in Crazy About You

Crazy About You is my novel that has received the most reviews (I could still use more, hint, hint because to be considered for some Kindle promotions you need at least 25 reviews 4 stars or better).

The novel is told from the point of view of Brad Adams, a high school junior who has grown up on the grounds of an insane asylum because his father is the hospital's dentist and the state has provided housing, thus he calls himself an asylum brat, not a military brat.

As with most of my novels, Crazy took me a long time to write. I don't even remember how long. I try to force things forward and they just sound false, so I learned to step away for a while.

But I knew first person was the way to go. And what that means is that the reader can only know what Brad knows and encounters and experiences. But what I realized while writing Crazy and what my subconscious learned in those periods when I was away from it was this: Brad doesn't just exist during the period of the story; he exists after the period of the story. He can step forward into his future life and reflect back on himself and events.

The time of the story is 1964. A teenage girl patient at the hospital, Suzanne, reveals her father had sexually abused her. In 1964 sexual abuse by fathers of daughters was still a very cloudy issue. It was often thought any girl who reported such a thing must be crazy. This going forward and then looking back technique allows for this sort of episode.

In this scene, Brad is telling a former fellow patient of Suzanne's about her situation:

“You know why she picks her palms?”
I explained.
“No shit. That’s another reason I want to get away from home. I’ve never told Mom. She wouldn’t believe me. It would destroy her. And he leaves me alone now. But I can’t stand to look at him.” And then she told me her story.
One historian of psychiatry would later propose that it was so many neurotic women telling Freud that their fathers or uncles had sexually abused them that led Freud to conceive the subconscious. He couldn’t believe that so much abuse actually had happened. Instead, some other common factor must be at work, something that affected something he called the subconscious. There may or may not be a subconscious, but it became painfully obvious–after women like Suzanne and Kelly later confronted the issue in the 1970s and 1980s–that too many men let their Very Important Things turn into Alex Krouts.
“I’ve never told anyone that before. You’re easy to talk to. I know why Suzanne likes you. You care about people, don’t you?”

By stepping forward past the story and looking back at it, Brad is able to impart knowledge learned in the future and inform the reader about what is happening in the past, at the time of the story.

Crazy I think works in first person, too, because it has an abbreviated time frame: one week and the book is divided into the days of the week until we hit the final chapter set several years past 1964 and something happens that brings everything together for Brad in an emotional finale that I won't spoil because when I hit that ending, it blew me across the room and made telling the story in first person absolutely perfect.

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