1. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Deciding what POV to use

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Mallory, Oct 30, 2010.

    Is it just a matter of whichever POV you're best at writing, or are there certain circumstances where it's best to use 1st person, or 2nd, or limited/omniscient third?

    Okay, I know 2nd person is better for kids' stories or horror stories if you're trying to immerse the reader.

    What about first person vs. 3rd-limited vs. 3rd-omniscient? When it comes to those, is there a way to determine which is best?

    I"ve written lots of stuff with all POVs; I'm not sure which to go with for my NaNoWriMo novel.

    Thanks.
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I find that for the most part you can accomplish what you want to do effectively in any of the POVs, so long as you are good at writing it. There are limits, of course. If you want to head hop a lot (i.e. take an omniscient approach to the story), then 1st person may be problematic.

    I don't think you can say any of them are inherently better than the others. It depends on what you're going for in any given story.
     
  3. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    First person is better for emotional connection with the narrator, so is usually used for deeply emotive, character-driven pieces, if the focus is all on one person. A lot of the growing-up stories are in 1st person: look at Dickens or Jane Eyre or something. It's also used for comedy a lot, since a chatty, light-heated first person can be a lot funnier than the same in third, which generally is more sarcastic on the part of the narrator and therefore often darker - like using a lot of dramatic irony - if it'll be in third but a comedy since the narrator can then tellm things the MC doesn't know.

    Close third person again depends on the focus. Harry Potter is in limited 3rd person. Only a few scenes here and there are not what is basically Harry's viewpoint told in 3rd person. It gives a greater sense of building up a story, and the character attached -we know what Harry knows, even if we don't always know exactly what he's thinking. It can be good for immersion as sticking with one person still means no break in narration that would make you think, "Oh hey I'm reading a book!"

    Omnicient is good for writing broader stories, with complex plots where many characters are around. I mean, you could have limited 3rd but hopping between characters. What I mean is, when the views of each character in a scene might be important to the story. If you are writing a scene for example where two people both have secrets they're keeping from each other and you want to play off that, you'd tell it in omniscient so you could show the irony of what BOTH of them don't know. It's harder to write any plot where there are mysteries, of course. I used it for my romance novels since how both characters are emoting and feeling is very important, and since there was no twisty plot except what was caused by their feelings, it was better to lay out those feelings as they came -- I needed to say more than just what one viewpoint character would see on the surface, or I would have had to jump through far more loops to get it all down and wasted time when I could have had people making sexy times... lol :p
     
  4. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Depends on you what to do with your story. For my example I'm going to use a bag with a bomb in it.

    If you want a feeling of mystery, third person limited can be good for the immersion since the default mode is that the characters and the readers know just as little. The character and reader will see the bag an wounder whats inside it. In this example the same go for first person limited.

    And if going for thriller dramatics you might want to use third person omniscient. The reader is shown that the bad contains a bomb and feels suspense while the character wounder what inside the bag. Here you get the reader feeling one thing and the reader feeling a different thing.

    To sum it up, you can play a lot of different tricks in different POV, each of the POV giving you a diffrent toolkit. The bomb is just one silly example. You either choose you toolkit that fits you story best, or chose you toolkit and create the story with the tools at hand. Or both.
     
  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I'm coming to the conclusion that it really comes down to whatever the writer is most comfortable with.
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think so, Ed. With the exception of head-hopping within a given scene, I'm not sure there isn't a lot you can't do with any POV.

    I think you can write 3d person with just as much emotional connection as 1st person, for example. Might be harder to write the more distant story in 1st. Would be interesting to try though.
     
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  7. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am comfortable with using them all, though. :p Some people DO only write in first, perhaps, or one of the others, but knowing them all and being able to choose which you like for a particular story is a great tool. There are stories which could be told in any, but, for example, if I was going to write that romance I mentioned in first person, I'd have so much trouble when it's deeply based on memories and there are very important subplots. The main character would have to meet up and talk with everyone a lot more - so just in the most simple change, I'd have had to set it over maybe 10 days instead of 4. And many things would have to be explained in an "Oh this happened while no one was looking" way. I'd lose a lot of emotional connection with everyone except Mr Main Character and Mr Love Interest, while what I liked about writing it in omniscient third was that when a relatively minor character was around, they still had emotional subplots and I could explore their hearts and give them motivations. No matter how many times my MC could have described them as looking nervous or shifty or whatever, I'd never have been able to convey the truest feelings, especially with a scumbag lying cheat character in the mix.


    Meanwhile, if I'd chosen to write my big fantasy novel in third person instead of first, I'd have ended up falling into the trap I always do when I try and write 3rd person epic fantasy, which is to say far too much. I'm as bad as Tolkien when I get going (and never as good :p) so I've set myself a bar on 3rd person epic fantasy. If it's in first I can take it down to the character, and limit in influx of information and therefore learn what is really important to tell and nothing else.
     
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  8. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think is not just what you are most comfortable with. Both markers, watercolors and oils can produce beautiful pictures, but certain effects is much easier archived in some media and much harder and others. They are not the same, you could just pick the one you most comfortable with and work with that, or you can learn all three and have the choose to produce different sort of pictures with the media most suited.
     
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  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You have to know the characteristics of each POV you consider. Strengths and weaknesses, and how the reader will react. It isn't simply a matter of the writer's comfort level.
     
  10. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    How comfortable a writer is with a certain POV is important, but there are subtle things to consider as well. For example, a first person POV will most likely make for a better unreliable narrator. As Cog mentioned, there are strengths and weaknesses for each POV, and the writer should most certainly use good judgment when choosing a POV.
     
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  11. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Thanks for the response, guys!

    For my novel, it's going to be a suspense/horror where the readers figure things out as the MC does. It's going to be between either 1st person, or 3rd-limited. Anyone have input on which of the two is better for this type of novel?
     
  12. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Then the question is:

    Do you want the reader to fear for the character or with the character? Do you want to focus you description on the characters internal or external reaction to fear? Do you want to have a single MC that you follow through the book or occasionally have other perspectives?

    But I think in this case you could do all the alternatives in my question, in both medias, some would just be slightly easier in the other. In this chase i think it boils down what you feel like.
     
  13. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Okay I think I've got it now -- thank you!
     

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