Attention Deficit Disorder and First-person Perspective

Nobody understands the sickle weasels.
Nobody understands the sickle weasels.

I’m cleaning up GREEK KEY and…well…

I’m worried about the voice in it, okay?

It’s told from first-person perspective, with Hope Blackwell as the narrator. Hope has severe attention deficit hyperacticity disorder. Keep in mind she’s not just bouncing from one topic to another, as she’s got the variant of ADHD with hyperfocus–when she’s locked on target, she will chase that target until it’s dead.

I’ve now got three novels under my belt. Nice straightforward mysteries told in the third person, with no zig-zagging from topic to topic. GREEK KEY is going to be very different, as it’s Hope’s story and it’s true to her character to move from thought to thought, with long sections where she concentrates on single topics. I’ve wanted to write a Hope story for years, but the major reason that I started with the Rachel Peng novels is that I had zero confidence in being able to pull off Hope’s voice in prose form. It works in an online comic format where she’s given fewer opportunities to be center stage. I don’t know if it works in prose.

I’m (nearly) positive fans of the comic will enjoy GREEK KEY. On a practical level, it’s a rule book for the AGAHF universe. It explains what’s been going on in the background of the comic in a different narrative format, and summarizes a great deal of the information that’s been glossed over in characters’ conversations. For example, here’s an excerpt:

Let me tell you about the Old Families.

I’m a terrible psychic because I shouldn’t exist. There’s maybe three hundred of us—real psychics, that is, not the carnival step-right-up! kind—in the entire world. Those traits that make us psychic are hereditary, so with very few exceptions, psychics tend to be born into the same families.

This is hugely advantageous, by the way. You’ve learned from birth that puberty is going to be Especially Awkward for you, because once your hormones come online, so will your ability to talk to caterpillars or whatever. You’ve got a built-in support network of people who know you’re not crazy, and who teach you why hiding what you can do is smarter than parading it around in public. Your family is usually filthy rich, as they’ve been around for a hundred generations and they’ve been able to use their abilities to build themselves a tidy fortune. You tend to marry others who are like yourself, who come from similar families, and the two of you produce children to carry on the cycle.

There’re only two Old Families in America, and I try not to make inbreeding jokes around Mike, because he’s from one of them. Me? I’m a mule. I’m one of those exceptions that pop up from time to time, a psychic who doesn’t come from an Old Family.

They don’t like people like me very much.

For a long time, I thought this was because mules could blow their secret. I was lucky to fall in with Benjamin Franklin as soon as I did. He helped talk me through my new weird life, and helped me to see that some decisions (e.g.: freaking out and making a huge scene) didn’t have as many positive outcomes as others (e.g.: talking to a psychiatrist who had to respect patient confidentiality). If it hadn’t been for Ben, I would have gone to jail or worse. I have unlimited sympathy for mules who weren’t lucky enough to trip over a Founding Father.

But that’s not why the Old Families don’t like mules. See, we don’t fit into their worldview. After all, you’ve spent years telling each other that your family is special because you’ve got superpowers. You can make plants grow. You can heal injuries. You can understand the subtle speech of animals. You can pierce the veil between life and death! Why wouldn’t you think that the Old Families are leaps and bounds better than the rest of the human race?

It’s a knock to this image when a complete genetic fluke pops up out of nowhere who can do the exact same things.

(And? Frankly? I’m much better with the dead than any of them, and they fucking know it.)

They made excuses when I tried to contact them. Oh, they were plenty pleasant, but no means no.

No, they wouldn’t help me learn what psychics can do when properly trained.

No, they wouldn’t tell me anything about their history, or what notable feats psychics had accomplished in the past.

No, they wouldn’t help me figure out why psychics are able to see OACET’s projections.

No, no, no. Thank you for calling. Please lose this number, you should never have had it in the first place.

See? Bouncy, semi-scattered, a little bit of ego, but generally well-intentioned. And I’m pretty sure it will alienate anyone who doesn’t read the comic.

Or maybe it won’t: I sent out the first 100 pages and a questionnaire to 10 readers who are unfamiliar with the comic, and the feedback I’ve gotten has been generally positive. It’s also helped me tighten up some of the bouncy-jaggy parts where Hope whiplashes the reader between topics. There’s a difference between moving smoothly from thought to thought, and leaping between whatever idea comes to mind. Apparently, the first works in prose, while the second makes you want to bury your Kindle in the yard and take up beekeeping.

That’s my biggest joy with self-publishing, though–you can experiment with stuff that doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in yellow hell of making a dent in the mass market. The feedback from GREEK KEY might be the most valuable I’ll ever get.

…stress stress stress fret fret fret worry worry worry…

I think I’ll go eat lunch at that place where they put a whole slice of pie into a milkshake.


GREEK KEY comes out October 31st, 2015

Published by KBSpangler

A freelance editor who writes novels, comics, and repairs a disaster of a house in her spare time:

12 thoughts on “Attention Deficit Disorder and First-person Perspective

  1. Why “mule”? Mules are sterile crossbreeds; Hope is more of a sport.

    If it’s what the Old Families call Her Kind, then that should be made clear.

    Anyway: it doesn’t _quite_ match the voice of Hope I have from the comics, which may or may not be intentional. Not enough of wanting to punch them in the face for their stupidity, if that makes sense.

    When does the book come out? I want it, you know ;).

  2. Well, OK, I’m not a native speaker which may skew my opinion, but I *love* this sort of writing. It dances, it lives, it’s funny. If I was on Facebook (perish the thought) I’d hit “Like” and set up some fake accounts to like it some more.

    This may have something to do with the fact that I’m a bit of an outlier as well in the general scheme of things, think high IQ, black hole for EQ (I’d say negative numbers, but irrational numbers seem to fit better) and a baaaad, pitch black sense of humour that likes jokes like “We Canadians like to go clubbing. But when we run out of seals ..” (Stewart Francis). Yes, I repeat myself – I just love that one better than “I deleted all the German numbers off my phone, it’s Hans free” (Darren Walsh).

    So, carry on. All is well with the world. I think.

    I’ll check next time I leave my cave.

  3. Hope rocks! I can see why it might get a bit old after a hundred pages; like running with the Doctor. At least with a book, you can set it down until tomorrow.

    I can hardly wait to read the book, but I am a regular reader of the comic.

  4. The fan in me is squeeing at the thought of a new book. The writer in me sees your problem. If the transitions are handled carefully, it should be lively and fun to read. I’d say embrace your alpha readers and have them flag jerky or lagging spots. That should help identify the parts that need special attention. I’m sure you will rock this, and I can’t wait to read it.

  5. I didn’t find the excerpt horribly scattered. I’ve read and enjoyed books with similar rambling narrators (although I can’t point at one offhand because I read a LOT). I think what makes it work is that it’s entirely Hope’s style. It’s not the writer rambling around, that’s pure character voice, and assertive voices are in my opinion one of the hallmarks of excellent stories. Characters that jump off the page and grab the reader and drag them right on down the rabbit hole are the *best* kind.

    I’m going to second the suggestion of ‘sport’ rather than ‘mule’, though, unless you have specific reasons for applying mule…

  6. I hope the questionnaires will be useful!
    I would’ve gladly contributed, but I’m already ‘tainted’ by reading the comic I’m afraid (not something I truly regret, it’s a good one!)

    But to give some, hopefully constructive, feedback nonetheless:
    The sneak-previews you’ve posted so far really work for me. I really like how you string together related thoughts to the point where they become almost incoherent. I can follow along with every step, but still marvel at where I end up.
    I also like how your calm writing suggests a lightning-speed mind. You really take the time to pull in some stray lines of thought here, add a little semi-related point there… To me that implies a rapid mind, where all these thoughts jumble over one another, but she’s “ridin’ the wave” so to speak.
    Excellent contrast!

    Looking forward to it!

  7. I have to admit it all seemed to flow perfectly well together for me, but I’ve read the comic and have a reputation for making bizarre connections out of nowhere. As always, I love just about everything you write.

  8. As someone with ADD who also reads the comic – it doesn’t seem scattered at all. I also have the hyperfocus and will randomly jump back to talking about the thing from 20 minutes ago. I have my own terminology and an odd way of expressing things. People who know me well have learned to translate this /mostly/ seamlessly. It seems like a novel with a consistent voice (even if it is all over the place in other ways) would work. Also, the aside. I wish I could have asides in my conversations without confusing the hell out of people. I feel like you could do this in the book and it would work out.

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