A Writer in Search of Self — Third Person Singular

A Writer in Search of Self — Third Person Singular

Confessions of an unpublished writer

“My name is Charles Borromeo.” That is how I introduced the character on the first page of my yet-to-be-published novel. Not as dramatic an introduction as you can read in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. “Call me Ishmael.” Three little words that introduced a novel fraught with philosophy, lectures about whales and whaling, an obsession of a man called Ahab, Biblical references, and character development. A book that was daunting for me to read in my early years as a student. But at least Melville got his book published.

Yes, I have had success as a published, but nameless writer. I’ve ghostwritten with my dear friend Miguel books for the likes of Carlos Ghosn and other lesser-known personalities that have long since disappeared from the collective memory of the human race. I’ve also written reports about Japanese society for an advertising and marketing company that no doubt had gathered dust on bookshelves in corporate offices worldwide. I received a bundle of money for each of the reports. Money I spent on tuition for my children and paying off divorce settlements.

I recently joined a writing group at the invitation of a friend. The ‘group’ is composed of people living in different parts of the world and divided into cohorts. There are 15 members in my cohort. Each cohort has access to members in other cohorts. We submit writing in Dailies for others to make comments, suggestions, and more importantly, give encouragement to help improve each other’s work. One of the participants challenged me to write about someone or something that was sexy and alluring to me. What he didn’t know, he was asking me to unlock memories deeply embedded in the mire of my subconscious. He writes without a trace of self-consciousness about himself and about his strong feelings for another person.

I am more comfortable objectifying my feelings when I write. I prefer the third-person singular to put distance between me and my characters. I can create situations in which I populate with characters. I can put thoughts in their minds and words in their mouths. And I can feel detached.

An example. In one of the final chapters of my novel, I created a scene inside a location called Terrell’s Bar. Now, none of you will understand the references until your plow through the first 300 or so pages that come before the chapter. But you will get an indication of why I prefer the third-person singular.

Cecil pulled open the door to Terrell’s Bar. He intended to stop in for a quick beer before going off to meet Mei Ling. When he stepped inside, he bumped into Chief Grimes coming out. “Hey, Chief. Leaving so soon?”
“Got things to do,” Grimes replied without stopping to elaborate. Cecil stepped aside to avoid being knocked down. He watched Grimes bound out the door and wondered where he was rushing off to.
“Hey, over here.”
He recognized Danny’s voice and looked toward the Cultural Refugee table. Danny was sitting with Roger and Everette, and from the forlorn look on his face, he guessed the two professors had subjected him to ridicule. Or worse, had totally ignored his existence at the table.
Cecil shook his head. Only a few short hours ago, he also sat in awe at the table with them, like a supplicant pleading for crumbs. Oh, how he had grovelled in their presence with the hope they would stoop to help him enter the rarified world of university teaching. But tonight for the first time he saw them for what they were. Two men lacking in self-awareness and terribly in need of recognition.
“Hey, Danny. How you doing?” Cecil sat down. He acknowledged the existence of the two professors with a languid smile. They nodded back with forced smiles “Where’s Warwick tonight?”
“At some kind of exhibition,” Danny said.
“A Gemstone Trade Show in Kobe,” Roger added the details.
“So tell us. How was your date?” Everette asked.
Cecil saw the lascivious glimmer in Everette’s crossed eyes. “Ah, yes, my date.”
“I don’t think we want to hear the sordid details,” Roger said, feigning indifference. He poked his nose into the beer mug and slurped in the remaining few sips.
“I hear she invited you out to dinner,” Everette said.
Cecil glanced at Danny. “Word gets around, doesn’t it?”
“No, secret, right?” Danny said.
“No, problem,” Cecil smiled back. He knew Danny had been feeding the professors morsels of information to gain their transitory attention. “And what a dinner. All kinds of Chinese dishes. We ate at her cousin’s restaurant.
“Chinese have a lot of cousins,” Everette remarked, as though citing a reference.
Cecil ignored the racial undertones. “I’ve got a lot of cousins, too. Don’t you?”
“Not so many,” Everette said with a shrug.
“But what did you do afterward,” Danny whined, eager to get to the juicier details. “I mean, did you stick it to her?”
Cecil laughed. He might have asked the same question a day or two before. But after the night of lovemaking with Mei Ling, he considered ‘stick it to her’ a crude description. “No, Danny. We made love. We explored each other’s bodies. We slept in each other’s arms and when we woke we kissed and made love again. And I entered her.”
“You entered her?” Danny furrowed his forehead. “Entered her?”
“He means they copulated,” Roger explained, further confusing Danny.
“He means he stuck it to her,” Everette added, resorting to the crudity.
“Oh, yeah, yeah. I get you.” Danny’s eyes gleamed. “How was it?”
Cecil smiled. The words Kathy Singleton spoke describing her feelings after lovemaking with her boyfriend came back to him. He makes every pore of my body scream!
“Let me put it this way. Mei Ling awakened pleasures in every part of my body, including my elbow.”
“Your elbow? Really?”
“An embellishment, Danny. An embellishment,” Roger said, his British accent slicing the word into distinct syllables. He switched the topic to one he felt more at ease with. A topic he could inject a bit of superiority into. “But, Cecil, do tell us more about Saint Joseph College.” The snobbery oozed out of his mouth.

So there you have it. Third-person singular helped me discuss an intimate moment in a detached, almost cavalier manner.

(To be continued)

For another side of me take a look at www.tmpcarol.com

 

 

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