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First or third person = your favorite


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Showing 1-25 of 26 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 19, 2012 9:28:15 AM PDT
mappam says:
I personally like the first person view as it makes me feel closer to the Story-teller.

But I read somewhere that Third person allows more freedom to follow different characters.

Your thoughts and what you like to write? THANKS

In reply to an earlier post on May 19, 2012 10:17:37 AM PDT
I am not a writer, but wanted to give my unsolicited opinion on what I like to read ;)

I think it depends on the genre- if it's a fantasy book, then I prefer third person. If it is a mystery novel or thriller, then first person. I have NEVER read a book that has a 2nd PPOV, and actually had to have someone give me examples to even have a small grasp of the concept; it sounds like a headache-inducing POV to me.

Posted on May 19, 2012 10:40:28 AM PDT
Anne Rice says:
I'm a writer.
I love to write in the first person and feel I achieve an intimacy with my characters in first person that is like nothing else.
But I often write in third person because it is much more flexible.
To me the great master of "First Person" is Charles Dickens, and I often go to Great Expectations to see how he uses Pip's first person voice to tell us more about Pip than Pip knows.
David Copperfield is another first person Dickens masterpiece.
Third person can be magnificent.
Tolstoy's War and Peace and Anna Karenina
are the finest examples I know.
But Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song was a masterpiece of intimate third person. Just genius.

In reply to an earlier post on May 19, 2012 11:57:48 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 19, 2012 11:59:48 AM PDT
Ian Fraser says:
@Anne Rice - in total agreement with you on first person. I love the flow of narrative as first person experiences it. Dickens was brilliant at it. Words fail to describe just how good he was...

Interesting that you mention Executioner's Song - it came up on forum recently when I pointed out to some folk that Nike had the singular bad taste to use Gilmore's last words for their ad campaign ('Just do it.') It rather encapsulates for me all that is wrong with much of modern consumerism - there's a certain soullessness spreading...

I have a short novella in first person, online at a literary magazine 'The Utopian.' The story is called 'Pigman's Fingers':
http://www.the-utopian.org/post/3459062850/pigmans-fingers
/2 cents mode off :)

Posted on May 19, 2012 12:08:12 PM PDT
For the genre I currently write in and like most to read (mystery/suspense) I enjoy first person.

As previously stated, first person gives the reader greater intimacy and allows the writer to more easily infuse his/her personal opinions into the story or character. The only downside is that you can't really get inside some other character's head or world per se. Everything said or done is being evaluated and experienced by the first person POV. That does help make mysteries more suspenseful, however, because you know no more or less than the main character does.

And as a writer, you're lending your other characters greater development through the main character chasing down leads; digging up info on their backgrounds; setting up a false lead; or inventing some other creative method if moving the story along.

Raymond Chandler and his unofficial protege Robert B. Parker are two of the all-time great first person mystery/crime/detective writers. Chandler's 40's-50's Philip Marlowe is the model for almost every private eye: the hardboiled/hard-drinking, shabby suit-wearing, and world-weary wise acre who narrates aspects--if not all-- of the case. And Robert B. Parker's similar, but modern, P.I. Spenser was made famous by the 80's ABC hit TV show SPENSER: FOR HIRE (though Parker wrote over 40 Spenser novels and other genres, too).

As an aside, I recently read and reviewed a fascinating speculative sci-fi story called OUTAGE: WHEN DARKNESS FALLS by Mathieu Galant that was told totally in second person. I kept reading it as if Rod Serling of THE TWILIGHT ZONE was narrating the story--"You're travelling through another dimension..."--and it mostly worked! Lol

Posted on May 19, 2012 12:45:40 PM PDT
Personally I prefer the third person. That's probably the journalist in me -- it's ingrained in us. But I've read some very good first person novels. Now the trend in many novels is to combine both -- both first person and third. A very good one that uses this technique that I read recently is Story Time by Linell Jeppsen.

Posted on May 19, 2012 2:17:23 PM PDT
What of a novel that switches between the two- first person vignettes mixed with third person overview of the main storyline?

Posted on May 19, 2012 2:23:03 PM PDT
Ellie May says:
I love you Anne. No has ever touched your ability to create a proper vampire!!

Posted on May 19, 2012 2:23:53 PM PDT
Splinker says:
First person is great when done right. It is hard to do right; and it tends to magnify flaws.

Posted on May 19, 2012 3:04:55 PM PDT
I just finished Jekel Loves Hyde, which alternates between first person of the two main characters. It was excellent.

I don't have problems with first person, most of the time. I especially like it in mysteries, where experiencing things from the "victim's" perspective adds a level of suspense that isn't there if it's in third person.

Posted on May 20, 2012 9:29:25 AM PDT
mappam says:
Very interesting comments! Thank you all for the replies.

I also don't know what "second person" is = can someone post an example please?

In my first post I said Write - I should have also said Read - as in what do you like to write and read - sorry for this as I was interested in both points of view.

In reply to an earlier post on May 20, 2012 10:00:52 AM PDT
Second person narrative or POV is primarily used in guide books or books that are instructional in nature because of the use of 'you'. If you ever read any if the old CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE (YA) series, they are perhaps the longest-running, most popular fiction that thrived on second person POV.

However, perhaps the most famous second person piece of fiction is Rod Serling's opening of THE TWILLIGHT ZONE:

"You're traveling through another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind...Your next stop, The TWILLIGHT ZONE!"

Second person basically sounds as if the author, character is instructing the audience. I recently read and reviewed a fascinating second person sci-fi story called OUTAGE:WHEN DARKNESS FALLS by Mathieu Galant. It worked, for the most part. Although it will be interesting to see if Galant sticks with second person for the duration if the OUTAGE series.

My two writing influences, Raymond Chandler and Robert B Parker sparingly slipped some second person perspectives into their mainly first person crime/private eye narratives, making for a wholly personal reading experience.

In reply to an earlier post on May 24, 2012 12:37:37 PM PDT
Anne Rice says:
John Green, I don't see any problem with switching persons in a novel at all.
I've done it, and I found it worked well for me. These discussions are not for us to promote our books so I won't go into detail, but I approve of it entirely.
There are no rules.
There are no rules.

In reply to an earlier post on May 24, 2012 1:02:48 PM PDT
I wrote my first draft in first person and my cousin said it would be easier as a first time writer to write in the third person. He said, "Imagine yourself as a fly on the wall watching everything going on."

Like you, I felt more connected with the first person but cousin was right, much easier to tell the story in the third person.

In reply to an earlier post on May 24, 2012 1:04:55 PM PDT
Anne, no rules? Good, I don't like rules ; )

In reply to an earlier post on May 24, 2012 3:37:26 PM PDT
Thanks. I guess the better question would be how to pull it off effectively. lol

Posted on May 24, 2012 5:20:31 PM PDT
ZeroBlue says:
I've always preferred first person myself. Character narration from that point of view always helps to move the story along for me. I've also noted that there are sometimes where the author puts a part of themselves into the narration. It's almost as if you're seeing the character through the author's eyes and I like that sort of thing. Maybe I'm the only one?

Posted on May 25, 2012 6:33:01 AM PDT
Entropiated says:
This is something I have lots of recent experience with. My editor told my I should take my novel from a third person perspective to 1st person. Working feverishly, I did it in a week (74,000 words.) It was painstaking, going through line by line (and I had to transition some of it from the present tense to past tense as well.) Overall, I'm happy with the outcome. I found that moving to 1st person helped me develop my main character more naturally. I could include things like thoughts and internal dialogue without having to worry so much about explaining it. I also feel like I was able to get closer to my main character this way.
Looking forward to finding out what my editor thinks of the changes.

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 7:27:48 AM PDT
@Pamela: I believe this book has a lot of 2nd PPOV passages:
Up in the Air

A famous Dr. Seuss book that has this POV:
Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Posted on May 25, 2012 8:36:24 AM PDT
So far, I have written my novels and short stories using third person. Not that I would not consider writing in first person, but for me it would be tricky to write in first person, since one thing I try to do is distance myself from the character. I do not want the person to end up being me and doing exactly what I would do. One thing I do is keep things generally limited to the main character's perspective. This way, the story would be similar to what the main character would experience.

When I first started writing, I did it using present tense, thinking it would put the reader closer to the main character. Since this is not used much, I have re-written all but one of my stories in past tense.

Posted on May 25, 2012 8:42:18 AM PDT
Lisa Smith says:
I generally prefer first person. I think third person is good for children's books.

Posted on May 25, 2012 8:55:48 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on May 25, 2012 8:56:15 AM PDT]

Posted on May 25, 2012 8:58:58 AM PDT
Quinton Blue says:
One challenge in first person is how the narrator knows certain things that seem too private. The old suspension of disbelief can only get the story so far. Somerset Maugham's "The Razor's Edge" is a masterful example of using first person and still getting an inside angle and a sense of multiplicity. I used some of his tricks in The Sun Tea Chronicles.

Posted on May 25, 2012 9:56:15 AM PDT
Wow, what a tough question. I used to hate first person until I read some novels that were well done...and most of them were in the mystery category which allowed the reader to really connect with the main character. As an author, I prefer to write in third person because I find it easier to stay in the correct tense. One thing I do detest about third person, and I very rarely use them...internal thoughts. The reason: you're reading in third person and all of a sudden you're yanked into first person by some often "stupid" passage that really could have been paraphrased and used just as effectively. My opinion of course, and I'm sticking to it. :) As a matter of fact, some publishers are now limiting internal thoughts, which works for me. This is a quick and probably poor example, bu which do you prefer: He caressed her shoulder and arm, his touch much smoother than she imagined on someone who worked as a roofer. OR He caressed her shoulder. Italic...Egads, I'm surprised his fingers are so smooth for someone who shingles houses all day.End Italics. Okay...back to work on my WIP.

Posted on May 25, 2012 10:11:08 AM PDT
While I enjoy both first person and third person books as a reader, as an author of thriller fiction, I like 3rd person. Because you can follow more than one character (and be in more than one head), I find it is the best POV for giving the bad guy a lot more depth, for rounding out lesser characters, and for creating suspense. Sometimes it isn't enough to walk into a dark room with the character. More suspense can be built if the reader knows what's waiting in the dark room (before the character does).

Very interesting discussion.
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Discussion in:  Meet Our Authors forum
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Total posts:  26
Initial post:  May 19, 2012
Latest post:  May 26, 2012

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