1. Adhulari
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    Adhulari Member

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    Style Advice first/third person

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Adhulari, Aug 30, 2015.

    I already posted this question in the "which do you prefer-thread" but nobody responded, so I'm just creating another thread for it. Sorry if that's not the proper way to do it, but I could really use some help.

    My main character is someone who grew up outside mainstream society and in addition to that, she suffers from what you might call psychosis. The result is that she sees the world and everything around her differently than other people would. I thought I'd write this in first person perspective because I want the reader to really experience her state of mind. I fear a third person perspective would be too matter-of-fact, because simple are events appear major to her and I'm not sure how to describe that in third person. But on the other hand, a first person perspective might get a little confusing or chaotic for the reader, because they wouldn't always know what was really going on. Or maybe that's just the fun of it...
    Any thoughts?
     
  2. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Tricky one. Maybe do both - when she's going into a period of psychosis, start a new chapter from her first person POV. Then switch back to third and describe the way other people are reacting to it, which she probably won't be in a state of mind to appreciate but which will be interesting to the reader.

    I don't like reading stories where I'm not sure what's real and what isn't but some people do.

    If I were you I think I would write a scene in first person then in third and see which reads better - or post both when you've reached the right post count for the workshop and see what people here have to say.
     
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  3. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think this is something where there's a right or wrong answer. Both first and third have their advantages and disadvantages, and you already know that because you described them in the OP.

    Personally, I'd probably use a first-person perspective. Any first person narrator is inherently unreliable, in this case it's just more so, and I think most readers will work out that the way the MC sees things is a bit different to the way they would. I'm pretty certain that'd suit my style better. Since you've said you're not sure how you'd approach third-person, I'd guess it'd suit your style better as well - but you don't know until you try.
     
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  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Try it both was, as suggested above. Also, if you pick a very close third person point of view, there doesn't have to be a lot of difference between that and first person, so it becomes largely a matter of your preference as a writer.
     
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  5. Adhulari
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    Adhulari Member

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    Yes, I thought about switching perspectives too. But then I worried that might become really annoying to read. Maybe I should just try it out, like you said. Thanks :)

    I'm not sure I know what you mean by a close third person point of view. Does that mean it's still third person but only being able to "see" inside her head and not far beyond?

    Thank you. That does help :)
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yes. A very close third person is much like first person. You can take a first person passage and rewrite it that way to see which you like better.
     
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  7. Aled James Taylor
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    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you really want the reader to experience her state of mind, I'd be inclined towards first person. Are the events and issues she experiences likely to be familiar to the reader? If yes, then the reader is likely to perceive her as someone who sees the world in an unusual way. If no, the reader may think of her as a normal person who's living in an unusual would.

    To me, it would be interesting to read a story where the underlying meaning and significance of events are not clear, or are misunderstood (having been intentionally misled by the author), so long as the events themselves are clear (I don't want to lose the plot), and all is revealed in the end.
     
  8. Adhulari
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    Adhulari Member

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    The answer to the question would definitely be no. She would, at first glance, appear to be a normal person in a strange world. I want the reader to slowly realize there is something off about the way she sees things.
    The point you make about the events themselves being clear is where I'm struggling. They probably will all be narrated, but in a more cryptic way. That is, she will talk about the event but she will have experienced it in a very different way than others have. Would that be clear enough, if it all gets sorted out in the end, or is that not what you mean?
     
  9. Aled James Taylor
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    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

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    My question was more to do with the setting rather than the charterer. If your MC is a student in a college in modern times, the reader is likely to be familiar with this and already know how people tend to behave in this setting. If she's a servant in a castle in the 7th century, the reader is unlikely to know how people would normally behave, so the characters actions might be assumed normal.

    There is a danger that the reader will miss-perceive a character with unusual qualities, as a badly written character. For example: If I read about a male character with feminine qualities and the author is female, my first thought would be: This author can't write men. My second thought would be: This author isn't very good. You can overcome this by clearly establishing from the outset, the fact that the character has the unusual qualities, but your story doesn't lend it's self to this.

    Another danger is losing the plot, where the reader gets confused as to what's going on. If a scene presents reality in such a different way as to what's been presented previously, the reader may say to themselves, 'I must have totally misunderstood something, I don't know what's going on now'. Don't be too cryptic (or cryptic at all) The reader may not understand your intention. As an author it's easy to think that the meaning of a text is clear enough. As a reader it's easy to scrim over passages that don't make much sense and then forget all about them.

    If all is not made clear to the reader eventually, he/she may finish the book and say to themselves, 'What was that all about?' If the reader is left in no doubt that the MC had unusual perceptions, then yes, this is what I meant.

    Having different characters experience the same events in different ways lends its self to multiple points of view. Alternatively, you could have other characters 'tell their stories', but they would need a reason to tell them (like having a detective asking suspects to relate what happened).
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2015
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  10. Adhulari
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    I understand. Thank you :)
    I agree, the best way would be to make clear that other characters perceive things differently. I think the most natural way to do so will be by changing perspectives, so I will try that out. I hope it's not too distracting.

    Thanks for the help everyone!
     

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