1. Daniel
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    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors. Founder Staff Contributor

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    First Person vrs Third Person

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Daniel, Nov 28, 2006.

    Which is best to use in a novel? I mean, I know third person is the standard, but do publishers tend to accept more third person stories than first?

    Which is better, and why?
     
  2. Robert
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    Robert Banned

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    There is no such thing as best when it comes to point of view. Use whichever feels appropriate to your story. Some great stories have been written in third person and some equally great stories have been written in first person. Publishers accept great stories.
     
  3. Spherical Time
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    Spherical Time Contributing Member

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    I have to agree with Robert. Use whichever point of view is better for your story.

    I once even read a story in the New Yorker that was in second person. Can you imagine that? Almost no one ever writes in second person, and it's almost impossible to do well.

    That said, about 85-90% of stories that I read are in third person. There's something very limiting about being in first person that I haven't yet figured out how to master.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, first person is both less reader-friendly and hard to do well... which is why publishers aren't that fond of it, since books written that way don't sell as well as third person...

    it's too limiting in scope, re telling a story, because you can only write/read what the narrator knows/observes... and, while it's ok for some short stories, if the writer's good at it, it's generally boring for the reader, to maintain that single pov for a whole book...

    i've written short stories from the first pov, but wouldn't do a novel that way, unless it was the 'noir' mystery genre, such as dashiell hammett and raymond chandler did to a turn...
     
  5. Ferret
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    Ferret Contributing Member

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    Well, in my humble opinion the 1st person is better. I enjoy being able to know what and only what the narrator thinks...imagine 1984 in a first person....Orwell could have done the novel quite well from that point of view...paranoia.
    But I thnk that it is easier to write in third person, altough I tend to like wrtintg in the first better...but it 's all a matter of choice.
     
  6. ariella
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    ariella Contributing Member

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    I have always found 1st person more interesting and easier to write, third person just isn't my sup of coffee.
     
  7. Nexus
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    Nexus Contributing Member

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    Well, only the most creative writers can successfully use first person effectively. The problem with first person is the extremely irritating amount of "I" which seems to occur. Some excellent writers are actually able to NOT use so much "I" in first person. I still think third person is easier to read and more effective.
     
  8. ariella
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    ariella Contributing Member

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    It's no that hard really just gotta put your mind to it and be in the right frame of mind.
     
  9. Vivienne Crow
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    Vivienne Crow Member

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    third person is a lot easier to write then first person, and since its the 'accepted' POV of the literary world its most popular and well known. But i have read some really good, fast paced interesting novels that were done in first person POV.

    It all depends on your talents, the way you write and how long you've been writing for. The more experienced you are with writing i think the easier it will be to write first person well.

    But go ahead, do a few chapters or even a ferw paragraphs and see what suits you and the book the best.

    xXLadyFrostXx
     
  10. IndianaJoan
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    IndianaJoan Contributing Member

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    First person is often reserved for mystery novels or literary fiction.

    I rarely see mainstream stuff done in anything but third person, but that doesnt mean it cant be done. Its done all the time.

    My advice is, figure out which way is the best way to tell the particular story you want to tell. Sometimes, some stories are better told through the first person viewpoint, but this limits you in a novel where there is more than one key character. Third person can be more difficult to write in because you have to be very wary of POV (Point of View) or in writers language..Head Hopping.

    My thought is to go with the method you think YOU can best tell your story because ultimately, whatever you are more comfortable with is going to show in your writing.
     
  11. zerobytes
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    zerobytes Contributing Member

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    I don't want to sound like an echo here - but I have to agree with what's been said. It's really the perspective that works best for you. 3rd person gives you more power but 1st person can be more intense IMHO. One of my favorite books was written in 1st person and I just watched Rear Window (one of Hitchcock's most famous) and, for all intents and purposes, that entire movie was in first person. So it can definitely work, especially for suspense (as IndianaJoan pointed out). Ultimately, it's whichever works best for you and your story. If it works well for you then do it and hopefully it'll work well for the readers. Play with it a bit and find the one that's right for your story.

    zb

    PS
    How on earth did the writer pull that one off?
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    fyi, movies aren't first person unless they're shown entirely from the main character's pov... only successful one i know of was robert montgomery's brilliant turn as raymond chandler's philip marlowe, in 'lady in the lake'...

    the only time you see his face onscreen is when he looks in the mirror [not easy to pull off, took equally brilliant cinematography!]...
     
  13. zerobytes
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    zerobytes Contributing Member

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    Agreed - hence, the "for all intents and purposes". I would be very interested to see a movie entirely in true first person tho - I'll have to check out lady in the lake. Thanks Maia

    Some other great examples of creative first person story telling are the Half Life games.
     
  14. Torpeh
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    Torpeh Member

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    While there are certain limitations to writing in first person, such as describing the narrator, I find writing first person much easier than writing third. In third person, thoughts cannot be conveyed as clearly, and thus opinion is explored less. My preference is probably just to do with my writing style.

    As far as publishing goes, I think it has been well summed up here - there are many more third-person novels than first or second, but that doesn't mean first-person narratives cannot be published and successful.

    A quick pointer on the restriction of the first-person, omniscient narrators can be used, allowing the author to switch between first person and third. Omniscient narrators are 'all seeing, all knowing.'
     
  15. WhispWillow
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    WhispWillow Contributing Member

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    hehe, sup of coffee:p

    I would usuall write in third person, but when the occasion calls, I will use first.
     
  16. Daniel
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    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors. Founder Staff Contributor

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    Interesting.

    However, do you think as a general rule, publishers prefer third person writing? Or is that just a myth?
     
  17. Spherical Time
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    Spherical Time Contributing Member

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    I would think that since we see so much of it, that it's not a myth.
     
  18. elfdragonlord
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    elfdragonlord Member

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    First person? Nah!

    I personally prefer third person. Not only because it's easier to do well but it also seems to affect people subconsciously so that they get involved in the story, as if they are the main character.

    The thing I don't like about first person is that there's always an awareness that someone is supposed to be telling you this story - it creates distance between the story and the reader. The character of the narrator gets in the way of the story. This is why I don't especially like reading first person stories either.

    Also first person seems slightly literary a style - and hence a little pretentious. But that's clearly a purely subjective point of view - a personal hang-up I have about first person narrative.
     
  19. IndianaJoan
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    IndianaJoan Contributing Member

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    I think publishers want whats good and it doesnt matter what viewpoint its in.

    I just think that most people who write fiction shy away from 1st person as its a little more difficult to pull off.

    Though it seems easier to write in first person, its not as easy as one would think. First person doesnt give you license to over narrate. Just because you are writing from that persons perspective, doesnt mean that the readers/publishers want to be bored with all the little tedious thoughts and details going on in the MC's head. I think the problem with first person is that people tend to overnarrate rather than using interactive dialogue between the MC and the other characters in the story to tell the story..they also tend to accidentally tell us things about other characters because its natural to want to get into the head of the character you are writing about.

    If you like to write in first person, write in first person and learn where your problem areas are so u can improve your work.

    I just think writers find it easier in third.
     
  20. Avrilkiller
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    Avrilkiller Member

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    "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

    "Call me Ishmael."

    See? They both work pretty well ^.^

    Use whatever fits. Try writing a paragraph or so in one, and if you're not sure, change the tenses to the other and see which sounds better to you.
     
  21. Siggi
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    Siggi Member

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    Darn, double post. Sorry.
     
  22. Siggi
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    Siggi Member

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    (Quote) PS

    (Quote)I once even read a story in the New Yorker that was in second person. (end quote)

    How on earth did the writer pull that one off? (End quote)

    I don't think it's really that hard to do with a short story. Like the other two POVs, it has it's pros and cons - increases the connection the reader has with the character (after all it is the reader that is doing everything, in a sense), but, alas, harder than the other two.

    That short story I read in 2nd person showed the main character as an executioner who had to kill a kid he knew was innocent. I almost cried when I read it:redface:


    PS: The quote stuff is messed up 'cos I messed up when I was quoting it, lol XD
     
  23. Avrilkiller
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    Avrilkiller Member

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    Ever read "Black House" By Peter Straub and Stephen King? It switched POV's a couple times, but it uses second much of the time. It was really interesting to read that way, and I've liked it since...but yeah, it's pretty hard to pull off without just sounding weird.
     
  24. Daniel
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    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors. Founder Staff Contributor

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    Hey killer, I personally haven't... sounds... intriguing. I'll look into it. ;)
     
  25. proka
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    proka New Member

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    Hey Everyone,

    Can I ask a really dumb q?

    What is 2nd person?? I always thought there was only 1st and 3rd....:redface:
     

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