1. Irish87
    Offline

    Irish87 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2009
    Messages:
    228
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    California

    First or Third, a simple question

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Irish87, Jul 18, 2010.

    I know that third person is easier to write in and I know that one of the biggest problems with first is that the writer tends to make it too "I" centric, that is he makes the story nothing more than a person constantly referring to their own existence and rarely detailing the world surrounding them. If I write in third person then I am distinctly challenged with description, specifically in regards to not just the setting, but the inner thoughts of other characters. In first, I have only an opinion, that of the main character, to go on.

    At the same time, third person can become tedious, for me at least. It lacks the ability to ramble (e.g. exposition) and often forces you to speak as though you were nothing more than a beat poet trying to act dramatic whilst rapping about the beauty of dusk boiling the sky orange. Granted, exposition is a dangerous thing. Too much of it and suddenly the story is nothing more than I, I, I, I, me, I, I, me, I, I, etc, etc.

    I understand the dangers and the problems with both sides, so instead I just want an opinion. For better or worse, I'm writing a very character-based story. Normally I would choose third person, the usual position I take in fiction, but first is looking attractive. At the same time, while I am more than confident in my ability to avoid the obvious problems, first person becomes a bit harder to write as the story proceeds. Yet, this is the sort of story that demands the perspective of the person and not an indifferent narrator.

    So the question is simple: which would you prefer to read? And yeah, I know I'm not giving you much to go on in regards to the story, but it doesn't seem important and I've wasted enough time as it is. Also, I know it only really matters what I think since I'm the actual person writing it, but I just want some opinions to go on to help me make up my mind. Thanks in advance to anyone who responds.

    BONUS QUESTION: Why do you prefer first or third?
     
  2. Unsavory
    Offline

    Unsavory Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2009
    Messages:
    311
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Eugene, OR, USA
    Though I'm sure you could make it work otherwise, this sounds like it would work well in third-person limited. That is, you write the story in third person, but instead of jumping around with the narration you speak with the perspective and knowledge of only one character. You can discuss their inner thoughts, but not the thoughts of anyone else since the viewpoint character doesn't know them. Third person limited will also work with revealing details about the world, so long as the viewpoint character knows those details.
     
  3. KP Williams
    Offline

    KP Williams Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2007
    Messages:
    608
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    My place
    First person can't be that hard for you. After all, you used it to write that post. :D

    If, as you say, the story demands the perspective of a person rather than a narrator, then I think your choice is clear. If first person fits best, then I see no reason to do something else instead. Third person limited may work as Unsavory describes, but it still lacks the personality of the narrator that is practically the very definition of first person. They're two similar perspectives, but in third person limited, the narrator is still just a narrator.

    I enjoy first person for that reason: because it gives the narrator a personality. Rather than just describing everything that happens, the narrator is actually part of it, and has his own thoughts on whatever is going on, which you can convey to the reader quite easily. It also allows me to use some less formal-sounding words and phrases without coming off as uneducated or whatever. But most importantly, everything I've ever written in third person has left me extremely disappointed when I went back and reread it. In contrast, I absolutely love reading my own first person stories.
     
  4. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,123
    Likes Received:
    5,323
    Location:
    California, US
    You can accomplish what you want to do here just as easily in either first or third person, in my view. So it comes down to your own preference for the story - which POV you want to use. Third person certainly doesn't have to employ an indifferent narrator, and you can give the narrator as much personality in that POV as you can in first.

    I enjoy both POVs, so long as they are done well. I'd go with whichever you feel more comfortable writing.
     
  5. jwatson
    Offline

    jwatson Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2009
    Messages:
    559
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    canada
    For some reason, for me, it depends on the genre. For fantasy, I prefer third person because I have read both first and third person fantasy novels and I have found myself to like it in third. I don't really know why. But for non-fantasy genres, I think I may just prefer first person.
     
  6. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    When first person is done right I love reading it, it gets you right inside the head of the character.

    Its also the perspective I find it easier writing from
     
  7. erik martin
    Offline

    erik martin Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2010
    Messages:
    249
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    San Diego, CA
    Until recently, I've always written in third person. For some reason, I had gotten an idea that it was easier and sounded more professional. I thought that despite having several of my favorite authors work almost exclusively in first person.

    So I wrote in third person. The stuff I wrote sounded pretty good I thought, but wasn't without problems. That's the fiction, I can usually rock a non-fiction academic style paper in that far removed perspective favored by academics. I wrote a fantasy novel in third that I'm shopping around, so far without success. I did some shorts in third also without success.

    Then I wrote a short in first and thought that it sounded great. I could speak in the character's voice so it sounded less stilted than third person narration. My character was a mountain man who didn't always use proper and standard English. For what it was, I thought it was the best thing I had written and the first person I sent it to wanted to publish it.

    Now, I'm loving first person. I'm working on a YA fantasy novel, that I'm doing predominately in first person. I anticipate possibly having a few breaks where I have to shift to another perspective, which I'll do in third, but I want to do it as much as possible in first.

    I've even been thinking about re-writing my existing book into first if I don't get any takers on it as is. I think the change in perspective might minimize what I have identified as possible weaknesses in it, that I have been unable to iron out in third.

    It's probably only because it's new for me. Given time, I'm certain that I'll get some equilibrium going.

    I predominately read SF/Fantasy. Much in those genres is done in third person. But I don't limit myself in my reading. I love Louis L'amour, the man could tell a story, and probably 90% of his stuff is first person. Horror, particularly shorts seem to work well in first, as do mysteries and thrillers.
     
  8. Irish87
    Offline

    Irish87 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2009
    Messages:
    228
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    California
    I appreciate all of the replies, you guys have really given me something to think about. I am leaning toward First, but Unsavory had a good point with Third Person Limited. Oh well, I'll figure it out eventually. Thanks again to everyone who replied, your words have inspired me :)
     
  9. Donal
    Offline

    Donal Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2010
    Messages:
    260
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Limerick, Ireland
    Stupid question maybe but can you not write both? Write most of the book in the 3rd person but write 2 or 3 chapters in 1st person all from the perspective of your main character.
     
  10. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    It's a bad idea to mix first and third person in the same book, unless you really know you're doing.
     
  11. TWErvin2
    Offline

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,529
    Likes Received:
    561
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    It depends on the story to be told that indicates, at least for me, which POV to use.

    Flank Hawk, my first novel, is written in first person POV. Slightly more than half of my published short stories have been in third person limited, as opposted to first person.

    If you're unsure of how to write first person POV, pick up a few of your favorite novels written in that POV and study them. See how it was done and then apply that lesson to your work.

    Terry
     
  12. Unit7
    Offline

    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2009
    Messages:
    1,151
    Likes Received:
    59
    I personally prefer Third Person. When I use First Person its usually for short stories and often the story ends with it being revealed that the character is actually relaying the story to someone.

    I actually haven't tried a longer piece in first person. But I don't see anything I can do in First that I can't do in Third.
     
  13. Donal
    Offline

    Donal Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2010
    Messages:
    260
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Limerick, Ireland
    Do you think it would be that hard Cognito?
     
  14. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    To do? No. To do well? Absolutely.
     
  15. TWErvin2
    Offline

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,529
    Likes Received:
    561
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    I can't speak for Cogito, but I'll toss in my opinion.

    It is easy mechanically to combine first and third person POV, but that doesn't mean it works so well from the reader's perspective. It can easily be jolting and pull the reader out of the story, which is rarely a good thing.

    The first question is: Why would a writer do it? Is it really a better way to tell the story, or just an 'easier' way? And that leads to the question: Sure, it can be done but, for this novel, should it be?

    Just my two cents.

    Terry
     
  16. Miss Moose
    Offline

    Miss Moose New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2010
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    First person or Third person?

    I'm having trouble deciding whether to write my latest novel idea in First person past or Third person past limited. Parts of it come to me in one and other parts come in the other. The story is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but from the perspective of a woman The Beast knows before he becomes The Beast.

    So, what are your opinions for or against either?
     
  17. arron89
    Offline

    arron89 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    2,460
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Auckland
    This has already been discussed at length countless times before, and while I can't speak for other members, I doubt many people will be too happy to simply repeat it yet again. Just use the search button, find one of the dozens of other threads asking exactly this question, and if you still need help, ask a more specific question then.
     
  18. Manav
    Offline

    Manav Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2010
    Messages:
    839
    Likes Received:
    21
    Location:
    Imphal, India
    I think nobody should tell you in what person you write your story. But I'll tell you this that third person is much easier to work with, but if properly managed first person can work wonderfully. My suggestion is that you try writing one or two chapters in both ways, I think then you will surely find out which one is working for you. You can also post a chapter or part of it written in both first and third person, only then we can tell you constructively in which person your story is better.
     
  19. Shinn
    Offline

    Shinn Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2008
    Messages:
    925
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    New Zealand
    I love writing first-person, since it allows me to get inside the head of my character and see what he is thinking and feeling.
     
  20. Miss Moose
    Offline

    Miss Moose New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2010
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    I should apologize, I'm kind of a newbie to forums in general. I couldn't find the search option at first (and naturally felt a bit sheepish when I finally did, since it is kind of obvious), so I'm sorry if I frustrated anyone. Thank you for pointing me in the right direction though.
     
  21. Taylee91
    Offline

    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2010
    Messages:
    1,262
    Likes Received:
    73
    Location:
    The Bay State
    I think first person is fun to read. You get inside the characters head; you feel their thoughs; you experience their point of view.

    But it's not as flexible as third person. In third person you can get into a character's head as well with Deep POV. You can observe scenes as the invisible observer, the silent bystander. To me third-person is the best.
     
  22. NyMichael20
    Offline

    NyMichael20 Member

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2010
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    New York City
    Another POV question

    Forgive me if this has been asked, but I took a look at a few of the other POV threads and none of them really answered my question.

    What is your preferred viewpoint for writing? I recently wrote a very rough first draft of my novel in the 1st person. I'm now starting to think the novel would be better from a 3rd person perspective. In the 1st person, it gets very monotonous, and things that happen "off screen" away from my protagonist are relatively important to the story.

    I've already started a re-write from the 3rd person, but I've heard for beginning writers its easier to write in the 1st person. But then again I've also heard 1st person comes across as amateurish. What perspective do you tend to write from?
     
  23. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,123
    Likes Received:
    5,323
    Location:
    California, US
    I write in both 1st and 3rd, but more often in 3rd. You can use 1st and still show action away from the viewpoint character, however. It's simply a matter of switching to another POV for a period of time.

    I think 1st person comes across just fine if it is done well, but with beginning writers I've often seen it turn into a rambling mess of sorts.
     
  24. Horizon Noise
    Offline

    Horizon Noise Member

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2010
    Messages:
    87
    Likes Received:
    0
    He tends to write from third person.

    Actually, that's not true. I wrote it to be clever and funny but it was neither. I write from first person more often than not.
     
  25. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    First person is often perceived as easier by new writers, but that doesn't mean it really is easier for new writers.

    The perception is that first person makes it easier to get the reader in touch with the main characters thoughts and emotions, but often that is because the new writer isn't writing first person the way it should be.

    New writers tend to anchor the POV in the first character and focus the story ON that character, instead of looking outward from the character.

    Another reason new writers are drawn to first person is because they put themselves into the story and start narrating. It is to writing as The Method is to acting.

    Third person is a "freer" POV. You can detach the POV from the main character more readily to look at events not taking place in the main character's presence.

    There really are a lot of threads on this topic, so I'm not going to go into it in depth yet again.
     

Share This Page