1. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    First person POV written more like third person?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Lea`Brooks, Jul 19, 2014.

    Hey all!

    So I came up with a new idea for a story (I should really finish a novel before working on another... lol), and I immediately knew I wanted to write it in first person. Buuttt... I wanted to do it more in an interview style. I've never read Interview with a Vampire, but I saw the movie. And I wanted to do it kind of like that, as if someone is sitting in front of my MC and she's telling them the things she went through. For example:

    "A lot of people don't believe in love at first sight. Love is about learning, knowing, and accepting everything about another person. But to love at first sight is to give up control. It is to love without caring who--or what--they are. Before that day, I never thought I could love a stranger. But as soon as he walked through that door, everything I thought I knew went out the window."

    It's obviously not perfect.. But that's generally how I want to start the book. I'd write it in first person past tense, but it'd be as if she was telling someone about it instead of living it. So it'd be written first person but be more like third person, if that makes sense... I'm struggling to explain this. lol

    When doing research about it, I read that this kind of first person narrative is more like third person since you aren't actually getting inside the characters head. You're being TOLD what's in their head, but you're not actually in there.

    So if anyone's following me here (lol), I'm curious what you think about this style of writing. Do you find it boring, interesting, static, exciting? In general, does it work? I'd hate to write the entire thing this way if it won't work out. If it CAN be done well, do you have any pointers for how to do it right? Are there any books other than Interview with a Vampire that I could read to get a better idea on this style?

    Thanks for reading! Sorry if it's confusing. lol
     
  2. Mike Kobernus
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    Mike Kobernus Contributing Member

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    Another approach could be that used in the movie called Little Big Man, with Dustin Hoffman. The same approach was used in Forest Gump and the recent Lone Ranger adaptation.

    An (old) man reminisces on his past. He tells a story to an incredulous interviewer/random stranger who, despite himself, becomes fascinated. The old man relates his unlikely tale, and suddenly we begin to see with his eyes, and we are transported to the time and place of his youth (or whatever).

    I think it is a cool approach, but it has been done very many times. That being said, it is all about the execution, not the originality of the idea.

    I say go for it!
     
  3. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I understand what you are describing, and it is an important question, but you are not describing first person that is "more like" third person.

    I can think of at least three ways to categorize first person narrative by tense:

    Present tense: the reader is not actually led to believe that the narrator is writing or even telling the story, but that the narrative is an unobtrusive window into the the thoughts that the narrator thinks while in the moment.

    Past tense periodical: some events happen, then the narrator narrates them, then more events happen, then the narrator narrates those. (e.g. a journal)

    Past tense retrospective: all events happen, then the narrator narrates them.

    You are describing past tense retrospective. In my experience, this is by far the most common way to narrate a story in the first person.

    Each of the three options has distinct advantages that the other two cannot achieve. I have seen all three of them first-hand, and in most cases, I think something would have been lost by switching to a different style. It helps to know why you are thinking of narrating a story in a certain style.

    The main advantage of past tense retrospective is that the entire narrative, not just the last block, is a way to convey the perspective that the narrator has after all the events have happened. This is important if you really want the reader to know what kind of person the narrator has become. Naturally, this is 100% exclusive with the main advantage of past tense retrospective: the ability to reveal the narrator's process of growth by showing how the very way he tells the story changes as the story goes on. So you need to choose which advantage to sacrifice:
    • dynamic narrative as a vehicle of character development
    • static narrative as a way to convey the character's final state of mind
    Unless you frame it as the narrator looking back at his journal and commenting on it, which I have never seen before but would be thrilled to see.

    I read an interesting short story in which the narrator narrates something that happened to her when she was a girl. She tells it three times in the story: in her 20s, her 40s, and her 60s. Each telling is much different. It interests me so much because it is less of a way to tell what actually happened than a way to show how her perspective changes as she grows as an adult. I consider it a successful proof of concept of the style it employs.
     
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  4. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thank you both so much! Like I said, I've never really seen it done before, but I read mostly YA fantasy. I've never seen past tense split into those categories before, so those are very helpful!

    I'm not sure why I want to write it this way. I have a general shell for the novel, but no details at all yet. It was just the first thing I decided I really wanted to do, so I'm going to have to read some novels and see what I can learn from them. The Green Mile is another book told by an old man about his younger years, which I didn't think about until right now. :p

    Thanks again!
     

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