Susan Grossey

Me, myself and I

Today I have been wrestling with the mechanics of writing.  I don’t mean printers or software, but rather the restrictions that a writing form places on the author.  As a reader – and I appreciate that this may be an unpopular and perhaps narrow viewpoint – I’m put off by experimental or (heaven forbid) “daring” writing styles.  For instance, I don’t like having speech without inverted commas, or without regular indicators for who is speaking.  I can cope with multiple narrators, as long as (a) there’s a good reason for it and it’s not used just to bulk out a word count by telling the same story from several points of view, and (b) again, it’s clearly indicated.  I really can’t stand stream of consciousness – although I know that many people love it, hence the enduring popularity of James Joyce’s “Ulysses”.  My position is that I read for entertainment, escape and/or education, and if I want a mental puzzle I’ll do a cryptic crossword or sudoku.  But I know many readers do like to be challenged, and books like Anna Burns’ “Milkman” (where no-one is actually named) win wagon-loads of prizes.

However, one of the many joys of being a self-published author is that I can write whatever I like and my publisher (me!) will accept it without nagging me to be more modern or adventurous or rule-breaking in my writing style.  And what I like is clear, crisp story-telling that follows the rules of style and grammar that have been developed to enable the reader to ignore them completely and wallow in the story itself.

When I started the Sam Plank series, I knew I wanted a first person narrator, with all the stories told from Sam’s point of view, using the “I” pronoun.  I liked the idea of revealing his thoughts and developing a writing style that was his rather than mine – although I have started to adopt some of his mannerisms, I find.  But first person narration has one big limitation: you can write only what your narrator sees, hears or knows.  So if you want a scene in which your narrator is not present, you have to work out a way for him to hear or read or otherwise learn about it – or give in and have him hiding round the corner or listening at the keyhole.  Luckily for me, a constable often does both of these – but I still sometimes have to rejig a plot because it includes scenes which Sam could never know about.  And oddly, given how much I dislike written puzzles as a reader, I quite relish them as a writer.


  1. Roy McCarthy Avatar
    Roy McCarthy

    My last book was written in first person but I introduced two further sub-stories and prominent secondary characters who served to widen the narrative.

    It was during my second book that the penny dropped, I stopped agonising and realised I could write how and what I wished. I’m still very fond of the chapter that followed which didn’t advance the story an inch but which at least entertained me 🙂

    Looking forward to reading your latest in due course.

    1. ihatemoneylaundering Avatar

      I know: self-publishing (or indie publishing, as it’s now often called) is SO liberating! You can write the book/poem/memoir/pamphlet/manifesto you’ve always wanted to write. And if the writing pleases you, and you’re not dependent on sales income, then isn’t it a fulfilling and joyful activity? And yes, you’re my beta reader of choice – there’s no escape, Roy!

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