1. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    1st person writing questions

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by kingzilla, Jan 26, 2012.

    So yeah, I am new to writing books and have a few questions about writing in first person:

    1. Is it acceptable to write thoughts of the protag. as if he was talking to the reader (example: I wish I could tell you how much I hated Bill...)

    2. If so, how much can you write like this? A few sentences in a paragragh? A paragraph?

    3. Finally, in the book I am writing, I plan on writing a prequel to the book(s) I am planning to write. Is it smart to write about the main protag. past (he is a main character in the sequel as well)? If so, how much can I reveal?

    Thanks in advance, I know you guys will help me out a lot and hopefully improve my novel.
     
  2. Mark_Archibald
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    Mark_Archibald Active Member

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    Is it acceptable to write the thoughts of a protagonist? Yes, and there is a name for this literary technique, but I can't think of it right now.

    The more you write, the more you develop a writing style.
     
  3. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    That sounds like a good idea but doing too much of that especially if youa re going the negative thought roots can affect the reader choice to make their own mind about the characters.
    so unless you are using it in a sublte way and not taking views your own ways and implicating/forcing it down the reader's throat as they say then it should be OK.
    2) you could do here and then..without the reader being aware you would for example.
    You could consistantly do in a tour de force, meaning you could make it a 5 word sentence everytime so not to burden the reader with yoru thoughts.
    3) yes you must introduce some past in case the reader missed the other sequels.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    in the theater, it's called 'breaking the fourth wall... and it may be acceptable, but it's not advisable... few can do it well or have a good reason for doing so and it's generally considered an amateurish thing to do...


    it's best not to do it at all... can quickly become an annoyance to the reader...
    ...you should write your first book as if it will be your only one... it must be a stand-alone novel that doesn't depend on there being later sequels or a prequel, since that's most likely to be the case, as only if it sells like crazy will a publisher consider the others...
     
  5. THP
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    THP New Member

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    The narrator talking to the reader is a very old fashioned technique. It depends on the type of story you are telling. I have used it in a story but it was a victorian murder mystery, so it helped to set the style.
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Is the protag the narrator? If so, then I think it's just part of writing in the first person. But if the narrator is one character and the protag is another (like Scout in "To Kill a Mockingbird"), then writing the thoughts of the protag would be as awkward as if you were writing in the third person.

    Mammamaia's advice on planning a prequel or sequel is spot on. But beyond that, why would you PLAN to write a prequel? Why not just make that the starting point of the story?
     
  7. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I try not to talk to the reader directly much, but since I use a fair amount of casual chatty language anyway in first person, many examples of things like, "You know what? Forget that..." slip in. I don't think they're unnatural, because I use them when thinking to myself in the privacy of my own head. :p I am a little egotistical and like imagining having an audience, though. But then, so do some of the characters I write. :D

    Out and out explaining things to the reader only really works in some very well-written things, usually satirical rather than serious.

    It also depends on the type of first person: you can write it as if the narrator is consciously recording it, such as to a diary, letter, or something. If you write it so it's clear the text is contained within a book or equivalent in-universe then you can have the narrator chat to his invisible audience as much as they like. But it must be an anticipated audience. 12 year olds writing a pretentious journal write as if in 1000 years a historian will be reverently turning the pages of this first literary venture of a famous author (I've seen, in fact, a real journal of a historical writer who wrote like this when they were young and unpublished... But also I saw it in teenage fiction books, and the journals of my friends and I :p). Someone on death row may write a first person narration as if addressed to some people they wronged, or family they're desperately trying to reconcile themselves with, or the world as a whole to explain their reasons and plead not to be remembered as a monster. Or, in fact, to gloat about something they missed, and to rub in they were more of a monster than anticipated. Point is, you can write stuff that looks like breaking the fourth wall which actually isn't obnoxious - as long as you never forget the framing narrative of wherever the narrator is sitting putting pen to paper.
     
  8. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    I have to say, I don't agree with this, well not entirely. I think that it's fine to write the character's thoughts, and you have even more reason for doing so in first person. It's about the reader connecting with the character, as though they are being spoken to. Like everything, it can be done badly, but if it really is considered to be an amateurish thing to do then I don't understand why. It can be an incredibly strong part of building up the character. Have you read the novel Engleby? That was flawed in some ways, but the fact that the first person narrator took us inside his thoughts made the narrative incredibly powerful and individual. As far as being annoying to the reader, I'd be more annoyed if it wasn't there, I've come to expect it and I appreciate it.

    Spot on about your first novel having to stand alone though.
     
  9. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    If you feel you must, be aware of the effect it's going to have on the reader and whether it's a desirable one. Read other books that do it well (I don't know of any offhand).

    I'm personally not a fan. I like to get lost in a story, and I don't like being addressed by a fictional character. I like to pretend I'm eavesdropping.

    Rather than plan on a prequel, maybe you could incorporate the back story into what you're working on now.
     
  10. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    Thanks for quick replies,

    That was great advise, I might change my writing style a tad. As for the prequel, it was actually my first book idea but when I started writing it, it was a little much. I had seven POVS and I decided to write as the only POV who survived in the book(s) for the book I am writing now. I can see what everyone was saying about writing the book as if it was a stand alone book. I will try to incorporate it into my book.
    The way I write, it is like an... Interview maybe, or a book the pro tag is writing as himself. I have read a few books that use the fourth wall technique and I enjoyed a lot.
     
  11. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some novels are written entirely in first person, sort of a confessional/diary flavour to them, and it can work really well. Otherwise, I haven't had much need for introducing protag's thoughts in first person into an otherwise third person narrative. But it can be done, and I would imagine using italics could help distinguish.
    But really, there is no need for that. Internalisations and dialogue are usually enough to provide the reader with the info on character's thoughts.
    Having said that, there is no way for any of us to know what the final product would look like one way or another, and if you feel like mixing things up in this way, by all means, do, you never know, maybe it will work brilliantly.
    Otherwise, you have to decide for yourself what you'll reveal and what you won't. One thing is true though, readers are a lot smarter than we think, they also like to keep guessing and to be surprised, so it's usually a good idea to give them as little upfront info as possible.
     
  12. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    C.P Snow wrote an entire 11 novel series, "Strangers and Brothers", in the first person. In some of those, he was a minor character in the story while in others he was a more major character. In "The Masters", he was one of 12 members of a college choosing a new head, and he related his own thoughts and emotional reactions to the events that occurred. Excellent stuff.
     

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