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Internal First Person Debate

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Garren Jacobsen, Dec 19, 2020.

  1. I have been debating, my default POV is, usually, third-person. Now, this novel is a bit different. It is an urban fantasy about a lawyer trying to save his buddy from losing his soul pursuant to a contract with a demon the buddy couldn't fulfill (the soul wasn't sold but was being used as collateral for something else). At first, the lawyer doesn't know about the existence of magic until he starts helping his buddy. Lawyer character is gonna suffer from a bunch of other personal (wife's a witch but he doesn't know it) issues and so forth.

    And I started it and got ten chapters into a book and decided, I think I need to write it in first-person. So, I started that and bing bang boom, I am liking it better already.

    Now, as I was writing, I was thinking some brain thoughts and thought what if I made this an epistolary type novel and had it be like a memoir from the lawyer recounting this case. And, if he did that, what if he inserted quotes into the memoir from famous case law and cited it in the text (so when recounting arguments made in court and referencing the cases or, when writing the narrative, citing to memorable quotes applicable to the situation). For example, when reminiscing about trying to get his client to settle dropping a quote like this, "About half of the practice of a decent lawyer is telling would-be clients that they are damned fools and should stop.” See Hill v. Norfolk and Western Railway Co., 814 F.2d 1192, 1202 (7th Cir. 1987) (quoting 1 Jessup, Elihu Root 133 (1938))."

    And, to continue this, what if at least some of the cases cited were, in fact, real honest to goodness case law? I can't decide if this is gimmicky or would help with the verisimilitude.

    So, should I include case cites (probably cited as endnotes and not in sentence citations) and when I do would it be hokey to include real case law? Or is that all too gimmicky?
  2. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Inkling

    You need to figure out two things first: who is the target audience for this novel (for you, the author) and who is the target audience for this novel (for the lawyer). Does this lawyer want other lawyers to read this? People who have some cursory interest in the law or in magic stuff? Or is this a story that is supposed to be as commercial and consumable as possible? He might say something like "Obviously, there is no legal precedent for literal deals with the devil, but it is generally agreed upon in the various mundane courts of the world that a party cannot agree to something that is harmful and otherwise illegal. If two parties agree that one would kill and then consume another and they both consent to it, the contract is still not legal, as seen in [insert that one real-life case here]." How much he goes into detail about this depends on who his target audience is.

    And as you write this, you gotta think about how his target audience shows more about the world at large. If he's writing this for regular people to read, then that means regular people know about magic stuff now. How much do they know? You wouldn't say "oh btw here's an in-depth recounting of The Event that brought magic to the public conscious," just like how you wouldn't say "oh btw here's the history of 9/11 and why Joe has to take off his shoes at the airport." The reader would know this already because they lived through it. Your (IRL) reader will have to figure it out for themselves...but working for info like that makes them read closer and pay attention. You do have to strike that balance, tho, which can be tricky but that's what beta readers are for.

    My current WIP is written in-universe by a character who wants to share the history of this interesting part of the world to people who don't know a lot about it. There are footnotes explaining things because her audience might not know them; you, the reader (both in real life and in-universe) have probably never met a magical talking bird, so telling you "this is how their language works, this is how they emote with their feathers" gives you a better understanding of the world and what the characters look/sound/act like. A big part of the story is the differences between the species and how that causes conflict...but she also isn't a human, either, so there are things she explains in case you, the reader, are not a human. Chekov's menstruation. (I know that I don't have to do that, but it is Very Funny to me and also really drives home that the world doesn't revolve around humans, which is what I want you to get). A lot of this stuff isn't required for the story, but if you do read it and keep that in mind then you'll be able to see the foreshadowing better and figure out how the characters ended up once the story ended.
  3. Dunno. I don’t really think about that. I suppose a fairly general audience.

    definitely the general public. This is the lawyers first hand account on a seminal legal moment and historical moment and he’s trying to correct the record. My thinking on this is if I were writing this memoir and I included quotes and such I would be obligated to include citations and so should he.
  4. Spacebar

    Spacebar Scribe

    If you're going to be referencing real cases, then I'm going to assume that your story is going to be set in the real world. If you want to make this feel truly credible, I'd suggest trying to keep one of your MC's feet in the non-magical world, doing normal law practice. For counterexample, as much as I enjoy the Dresden Files, it's impossible to feel that he is living in the same world that I am. He's never shown getting a normal client with a normal case that has nothing eldrich going on in the background. The ins and outs of normal PI work are never explained, and you can never get the feeling that you really know what it's like to be a PI.

    So if you're going to write something more like the Dresden Files, I don't think you have to bother with realistic case references. If you want to make being a lawyer a real part of the setting, and not just a convenient way to get your MC into trouble, then case references would probably be a necessary part of your world-building.
  5. Leonardo Pisano

    Leonardo Pisano Scribe

    Any references to cases, whether they are real or made up, brings the reader in rational modus. I wouldn't do that - it knocks the reader out of the fictional dream. If you want to demonstrate your MC is knowledgeable, do it once for that purpose. HTH.

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