1. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    Are you objective about narrative voice?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Thanshin, Aug 23, 2010.

    While explaining the narrative voice to a friend I discovered I'm completely biased towards third person objective and, at most, third person subjective limited.

    Do you see all options as equal? Or you know the one you like and dislike the others for being inferior, limited to specific cases, outdated, or any other reason.
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    When reading to be honest it doesn't bother me usually, if the story is engaging the delivery is unimportant to me.

    I love writing first person present tense it allows me to become the character. I use a passive voice when he is providing the reader with information. I struggle reading past tense when I have had a mammoth editing session because i correct the tense lol
     
  3. Nervous1st
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    Nervous1st Senior Member

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    I prefer present tense but when I started writing my novel, I was strongly advised against this choice. Almost everyone will tell you that as a new author getting published for a first novel, present tense will narrow your chances.

    so I write in past tense and I avoid reading present tense because it screws with my head when I go back to writing my story.
     
  4. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    My motto is a bit of a cliché: "Show, don't tell."

    I can't stand being told too much information by the author, especially how the characters are thinking. I prefer to work it out for myself by seeing how the characters act in the situations in which they find themselves.

    It is difficult to do correctly, especially when trying to reveal back story, and I've seen plenty of authors resort to really unrealistic, out-of-character conversations in order to get information across. I think I prefer regular exposition to this kind of thing.

    However, finding a good way to tell the reader things they need to know through actions and realistic dialogue is a much better way - it can just be difficult to do, so many authors won't bother.
     
  5. Cecil
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    Cecil Member

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    I think third person past tense limited is the best choice. To me, it is the most "invisible" way to write, which I think is important. It also seems to have the best odds of getting you published, so there's that. It just feels like the most natural way to tell stories and it lends a believability to your story (you are saying what already happened, so the listener/reader really can't argue with it).

    First person can also be okay sometimes, but I never go with present tense.

    That said, I believe there is a (much much smaller) market for non-standard tenses.
     
  6. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    And if you had to tell someone about points of view and narrative voices, would you transmit that general preference for third limited? Or your mixed feelings would allow you to explain it all more objectively.

    That's just what I do. I explain the topic and use expressions like "non-standard tenses". I'm not sure I'm happy with that; maybe I should present all options and let people choose. Even if they choose the wrong one. :)
     
  7. Eunoia
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    Eunoia Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not really bothered when reading, as long as it's engaging.

    As for my writing, well it varies, although I mostly use first person past tense. But it depends on what I'm writing, I usually just go with what I think suits the story the best.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Narrative voice is not an arbitrary decision. There are excellent reasons for selecting third person past tense for most stories, and a good case can also be made for first person past tense if the writer wants to accept its limitations and even make use of them. The rest are rarely wise selections -- there may be occasiuonal exceptions, but more often than not, the odd duck choices are a grave mistake.

    It's not a bias as much as understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each POV choice.
     
  9. Motley
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    Motley Active Member

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    I agree completely. I write 99% of my fiction this way. I don't mind first person if the story calls for it, but despise present tense. It seems forced to me.
     
  10. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think present tense sounds forced, too. It's like the writer is consciously trying to be arty. I don't really get why someone would want to write in first person present tense. Is it just to give the reader the idea that the action is happening right now? That, if the character is in the middle of a swordfight, say, he's taking time to describe each thrust and dodge as it's happening? As a reader, I'd be thinking: "Shut up and fight, moron! You can tell us about it later!"

    I've written in first person, but I don't usually like it. I'm limited to the character's voice and vocabulary. That's fine if he's just like me, but if not, not. So third person limited works best for me.
     
  11. Perdondaris
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    Perdondaris Member

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    Well, if one wishes to capture the character's thoughts and focuses at the time of the event, it definitely makes sense to write in first person present, rather than reminiscing in first person past. For example, if one is using the tone of description in order to subtly indicate the character's mindset, using first person past would completely undermine this. One could say that on the one hand you have the character going through the action being the narrator, and on the other hand the character after it, so that the changes in the perspective of the main character will have already happened to them by the time they're narrating, and therefore won't have an effect on the narrative itself as much. The closest thing with FPP is to have the character change their mind while reminiscing, but firstly it would be fairly unrealistic if they simply adopted the same viewpoints as they had held before, and secondly it's actually quite different. Of course, if the character happens to die, it can also be useful to use FPP, unless one wants them to be narrating this while dying, a la Frankenstein, or something of the sort.

    Regarding first-person, it's quite similar; in first person, just about everything develops the main character's personality. Descriptions are not only descriptions of the outer world, but also of the character's inner world. Everything; the tone, the imagery used, the objects of focus; everything develops the character. It's pretty much brilliant if the story is centered in large part around an internal conflict; if not, then there may not be much use. On the other hand, there's also things like Clark Ashton Smith's 'The Hashish Eater', where the effectiveness of the poem relies to a large extent on the viewpoint of the main character, although it's hard to give more detail without spoiling it. Nonetheless, it could not have had the same power had it been delivered even in limited third person.
     
  12. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    In my case it was just the way it spilled out onto the page intially lol Now its a gut thing that my story works best that way - have tried other ways and parts of it in past tense would be a bit flat and lack the warmth it brings to the scenes. Plus my anonymous and honest adult reviewers have all commented they didn't notice it until they went to edit it, my teen readers did and asked me not to change it, they love what it gives the story.

    It really aids with the dialogue, because of the first person my book has a huge amount of dialogue with a variety of people. And I am finding in the second its very good when writing the effects of the spells - he can push things out.

    Plus I find it the most fun to write its so interactive for me as a writer, I manage to inject more passion and love into it when I am the character typing:) To be honest not sure many readers care about it, I know I don't normally.
     
  13. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If it's working for you, Elgaisma, then by all means, keep doing it. My opinions are just evidence of my own baggage. What you're doing isn't up my alley, but there's room in the fictionverse for everything.
    :)
     
  14. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    :) to be honest I have achieved more than I could have dreamed 6 months ago and to actually have an increasing group of fans for my work is a real buzz. The teen group that started off with 3 boys grew to over twenty and they love it when I just send a legend or a small piece I have written. They are going bonkers nagging me about the website. And are really annoyed I have deleted it back to chapter 6 again to rewrite after we all agreed I had finished lol

    The main reason for keeping it is that the main target audience for my book particularly like being part of the character and they like the escape it gives them. Ultimately I'd rather keep the group I have and not get published.

    EDIT: One thing I had forgotten about until writing a review of a first person past tense. When writing in present tense there is more options for removing I and making the first person less noticable than in past tense. I noticed it when reading a couple of great books last week how much less I intrusive it could have been with present tense instead of past tense:) Could have been because I was working on removing the I's from my book just before reading them.
     
  15. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Of course, there is the option to write in third person, but where the narrator is a minor character in the story, writing in first person when involved. Alice McDermott's "That Night" springs to mind.
     
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