Thursday, February 13, 2014


Lake District Stories, Vol. 1

By Nancy Madison

Failing to sense the danger that lurks about her, expatriate Kate Stanhope converts her deceased husband's Lake District mansion into an upscale hotel. The first weekend the hotel's open, a Cornish guest is found dead in his room, poisoned by Kate's special recipe*. Investigating the death, Detective Chief Inspector Nick Connor soon concludes Kate was the intended victim, not the Cornishman. But who'd want to kill Kate?

Question from the e-mail: People keep saying my manuscript has "person mistakes." What does that mean? Don't they like my characters?

Answer: "Person,"  is a grammar thing. But mistakes therein could be from a number of reasons.

There are three kinds of “person” as far as writing is concerned:

    First Person, I narrator. We are INSIDE the “I” character and see and hear (and taste and feel and KNOW) only what the “I” character does.
    Second Person, writing a letter, or addressing the reader directly as “you.” Second person is usually regarded as a mistake as the last Big Hit epistolary novel was DADDY LONG-LEGS, published in 1906. Yes, I know about LETTERS by John Barth, but...

    Third Person (limited), the viewpoint character is “he” or “she,” or the given name, never “I” unless they are speaking dialogue, but the reader is still inside that character’s body, thinks with that character’s mind, and feels with that character’s heart.

Once you have established person, you should not switch from one to the other within the same short story. In novels it's usually okay to switch character at scene or chapter breaks, but only briefly and everything should be third person.

So to me, "mistakes in person" would be to use I instead of she or he. This could happen easily if you started a story in first person (advantage: instant identification, but limited), later changed it to third, and missed some.

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