1. orbitalcommand
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    orbitalcommand New Member

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    1st person narrator vs 3rd person (cheat)

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by orbitalcommand, May 13, 2011.

    Hello,

    I'm a beginner writer from Europe. I'm trying to write a book in my native language (which is not English). Anyway I think the general rules are the same among other languages so that's why I have created an account here.

    Ok well I have been researching about 1st person narration. I know that it builds pretty well connection with the reader and this is what I really need. However I'm not really good with 1st person narration. I was thinking whether it is possible to do a little cheat here?

    For example I'm planning to use 3rd person narration. However my main character is going to use dictaphone (portable recorder/recording machine) in order to express his thoughts and feelings. I'm planning to do something similar for the second main character but this time covered as a mental disease (speaking to himself).

    So dear forum members what do you think about this idea? Is it suitable? Can it work properly?

    Thanks!
     
  2. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    I do not know what this means.

    As for tricks (assuming that is what you mean by cheat) on how to do first person I like the "Which and Wizard" books for an example of this. There are two main characters in this book and the writer uses chapters to switch between their first person narratives. This way the read doe not get confused as to who's point of view they are reading.

    I am not saying this is the only way to do it. Just be careful because if you get too many "I" references people might not know who is narrating.

    Good Luck.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    anything is possible...

    and anything can be 'suitable' and work, if you write well enough to get away with it...

    so, asking for definitive answers on these things is an exercise in futility... just write what you want and then see if agents/publishers in your country will think you pulled it off successfully...

    no one can tell till you write it...
     
  4. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    I'd say pressing 'play' in the middle of your novel, so the MC can talk in the first person via a recording will be seen exactly how you think: a cheat. Cheating isn't good. Shortcuts are a bad idea.

    The good news is you can write a very successful, engaging, empathetic story in third person that does include the character's thoughts and feelings directly. The distance to the character is what creates empathy, not your POV alone. So, if you feel more comfortable writing in third person, don't be afraid to. Just limit your POV to only what the character knows and is experiencing, and be sure to include internal emotions and thoughts, and your third person narration can do just fine to connect an reader to the story.

    Having your POV be distant (meaning you aren't inside the characters head, just watching the character from a distance) and then having them talk to themselves, or inanimate objects, or write in a diary, or in your case talk to themselves via a voice recorder, are all things typically seen as a gimmick and not necessary, at best, but even more distancing and distracting at worst.

    It really isn't necessary, though, as you can create empathy and connection with a reader just as well in third person, if you wish, and don't need to resort to such tricks.
     
  5. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    As Mammamaia said, although I am not sure 'get away with it' is how I would term it.

    I used a form of 3rd person narration within my novel, Flank Hawk. Starting with chapter two until about 2/3 of the way through the novel (which is first person POV), I used what I call 'chapter starts' which were short (300 words or less) 3rd person narrative on a separate storyline that eventually merges with the main/current story line.

    I thought it worked. Some folks are at WF have read Flank Hawk. They'd be a less biased judge of that.

    What I'm getting at is that there is room for what you're proposing, if it's right for the story, and if your skill at writing is up to the task or challenge.

    Good luck moving forward.

    Terry
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I'm always a little amazed at the number of posts on this forum on POV and on tense. Both topics have been discussed endlessly. Both are mostly a matter of style and taste, and usually boil down to what sense the writer wants to give the reader. Any POV is going to have its limitations, and it's always good to know what those limitations are going in. But there is no "right" POV or "wrong" POV. I sometimes wonder if newbie writers immerse themselves in these issues as a distraction from getting on with the project.

    As for the OP, I understand your concern. But I would point out two things - first, if you are uncomfortable with a particular style of writing, don't write in it because you won't do it well. Second, there are those who consider 1st person a less reliable perspective that 3rd person, because a person often shades what they are saying to make themselves look better. Popsicledeath is absolutely correct when he says that you can do the job just as well with 3rd person limited, and if you're more comfortable writing that way, you should.
     
  7. orbitalcommand
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    orbitalcommand New Member

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    ok guys thanks for the hints!
     
  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree that if you're not good with first person narration, don't do it. You can build a good connection with the reader in third person; don't twist both yourself and your story into knots in an effort to follow some not-that-important rule of thumb.

    ChickenFreak
     
  9. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    If you're not good at first person, practice it until you are good at it. That is the only way. Learn how to effectively write in first person so that anytime you want to deter away from your set style, you're not thinking of tricks or devices to mask your weaknesses but instead can properly carry out whatever you want without resorting to shortcuts.

    If you want to cheat your way through, the readers will easily pick up on it. There is nothing wrong with using devices in writing but even THEY have to be done well or they come off as mediocre and flippant.

    Take some time and start writing in first person, you will be amazed at all the depth this perspective can provide and will be better suited to see all the limitations and restrictions the perspective has.

    In my opinion, writing has to be all encompassing - and writing/practicing.learning all the different perspectives only adds to your set of skills - never takes away from it. Being able to write in different perspectives to me is one of the core basics of writing, even if you only stick to a certain perspective when writing, learning what other perspectives do and don't do helps you understand the freedom and limitations of your preferred perspective even better.

    And so you may not do so well the first time, but there is always a next time and the only way you do become skilled at something is to practice it and use it all the time.

    I disagree with "not writing what you're not good at" advice. Honestly, you will never be good at anything else if you don't try and explore and learn. I would rather you try and write your plot that way you envision it, but instead of resorting to tricks and shortcuts, learn how to do it effectively.

    In my opinion, being able to write in different perspective is one of the basic things you should be able to do as a writer. Not every plot you receive will come to you in third person and in order to do it justice, you have be able to switch and write a different perspective on a level that is good. Sure, one style will always be someone's strong suit, but other styles shouldn't pale in comparison either - they should at least be on a level that are effective in getting your point across.
     
  10. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    There are some novels that start with the 1st person and then switch to the 3rd, but you it's a difficult technique to handle...
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i've read many novels where the pov switches back and forth between first and third... good writers can do so effectively...
     
  12. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    Don't do it.

    It's the same type of "cheat" as using a mirror to describe the main character while in first person.

    It's awful and many people would just put the book down if they saw a hack of this kind.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, but i can't agree, thanshin... it's not always 'awful'... a good writer can make such a device work effectively...
     
  14. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    Indeed, but a good writer can make any device work effectively, so I don't think it's productive to evaluate our techniques or tools by what would a good writer be able to do with them.

    I do agree that it's not as terrible as I told it to be, but usually the responses of "Do it if in your case it works because there are great novels that use it." get the reply: "In my case it clearly works." when it seldom does. Just as with using first person :D .
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    why not, for heaven's sake!?... do you think it's more productive to strive to emulate poor writers?...
     
  16. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    I think it's more the fact that a novice writer asks a question, and saying 'anything can be done well by a great writer' doesn't really informed them of anything, not current market standards, not how to do it well, not what to do if they're perhaps not quite a great writer yet or may never be.

    Basically, we could just say 'there are no rules and anything can be done well by a great writer' to every question on the forum and close the forums down. Instead, people usually expect to see an answer that isn't as dismissive (while true, certainly).
     
  17. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    According to the current market standards people like Melville wouldn't be published...and many other good novelists.

    Novice writer or not, if he can make it work, why not?
     
  18. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Why not what?
     
  19. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    Why not trying to make it work, and give some advice...do you think it's impossible for a novice to write a novel in 1st and 4rd person?
     
  20. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    You seem to be responding to me without having read what I or the person I quoted was responding to.

    In short: I have no clue what you're talking about. You seem to be taking 'current market standards' way out of context to enter a discussion that wasn't being had.
     
  21. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    I read your posts like all the other posts in this thread, I wasn't the first to talk about "current market standards" and the point I was trying to make is that you don't need to be a "good writer" to make it work, and we should give the OP some ideas or examples to help him.
     
  22. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Awkward...

    I'm just going to tip-toe backward until I know what's going on...
     
  23. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    Relax, I'm not hostile...I come in peace!:)
     

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