1. Silver. Fox
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    Silver. Fox Member

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    First Person vs Third person?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Silver. Fox, Nov 1, 2011.

    So, I've been working on finishing a novel for quite a while and I finally convinced my friend (whose goal is to become a professional editor) to look over the first chapter of my project. She told me it was far below what she believed I could accomplish and she blamed it partially on the fact that my story is written in first person. We talked a little bit (and by talked I mean go into it...) about the differences between first and third person and she kinda left me hangin' by saying "Third is always better than first, it's more effective, easier, and..."

    I guess I kinda have to ask what do y'all on writingforums.org have to say about 1st person VS 3rd person? How do YOU know when to use which?
     
  2. Enerzeal
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    Enerzeal Member

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    Not sure about easier. I would in fact say third person is the more challenging. We generally think in first person. So when you consider how to word a sentence it is often as simple as thinking it out in your head.
     
  3. Dresden260
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    Dresden260 Corrupt Diplomat

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    In my Opinion;First person is like being in that character. You know everything that's going on with detail. Third person is like a out of body situation. You are floating around and you know tid-bits of the story but you never get the full grasp of it.
     
  4. Naiyn
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    Naiyn Contributing Member

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    First thing that came to my mind, is if this person actually thinks that "third is always better than first, easier etc..." then she's not going to have a very succesful career as an editor. Both have advantages and either can be better than the other in different situations. It all depends on the story and what the author needs to best tell that story.
     
  5. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    Third person is "easier" in the sense that it's easier to write a plot/story since you aren't exactly restricted to one perspective. Usually when you are writing in third person you do kind of "follow" one character around, at least within each scene... but if something happens and you are writing in third person you can react to it as an objective observer. If it's in first person you have to react to it as if you were said character.

    That being said, if you are in first person it's easy to go 2-3 paragraphs of straight "train of thought" from that person's perspective. In third person this is done with italics usually, but doing it for 2-3 paragraphs is kind of weird. In 1st person it comes naturally though.

    So like people said... it depends on what you want to do with the story. If you want to jump around perspectives from time to time within a scene, 3rd person is probably better. But if you want to get the thoughts and feelings of one character, 1st person is better.
     
  6. Darin Peaker
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    Darin Peaker Member

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    I haven't written, or tried writing, a novel in the first person, but it strikes me as simpler. Multiple perspectives vs one perspective. I find I'm always worried about jumping around too much, making the story too choppy.
     
  7. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    It's not simpler, just different. Like I pointed out, you could get in trouble in first person by saying something in a way that isn't consistent with the character you are following.
     
  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't like writing in first person for a couple of reasons. First, I don't trust myself to do it well. I always find it too easy to slip into my own narrative voice instead of that of my character, and I'm betraying the soul of the work by doing that. Second, third person allows me to freely use my own narrative voice at any level I wish, and to write anything I want whenever I want, regardless of whether or not the main character is present or has any ability to know what's happening in the scene I'm writing.

    There are many writers who find first person easy, and they use it all the time. But it isn't really for me.
     
  9. Bran
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    Bran Senior Member

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    I like both, to be honest. First is great for conveying emotion (especially realistic abstract thought), as well as character development, even though youre limited to one character. In third person, the element of dramatic irony and suspense can be increased.
     
  10. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I tried writing my current book in first person -- it didn't work out, haha. I had to re-write it all back to third person. I find third person much easier to write and I prefer reading in third person as well. I also find that from reading a lot over these last twenty some odd years that it is also more natural for me to write in third person as well. Since almost every book I have read has been in third person.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the vast majority of novels are in third for good reason... aside from it being 'the norm':

    in third, you can let the reader know what's going on with more than one character, show them what's taking place beyond the main character's view/hearing...

    in first, the readers aren't drawn into the story as they are in third, because all those 'i's and 'me's keep reminding us that it's someone else it's all happening to...
     
  12. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think a lot of people are left with the impression that first person is bad because a lot of writers that aren't all that write in first person. Third person on the other hand, while equally difficult to make great as first person, is easier, because you must be really bad to screw it up. So I think a lot of the crappy YA novels I have read that were written in first person might have been improved had they been written in third. As mammamaia said, it's easy to lose the readers because of little things when writing in first.
     
  13. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are quite a few books in first person that I love. If anything, I feel closer to the character.

    I write mostly in third person though. Simply put, I find it easier.
     
  14. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    I would be careful with this line of thinking. There are certain times where you want to go first person... certain times you want to go third person. I've read more than a few stories in first person and it worked, and you got the feeling they couldn't have come across the same way in third person because you wouldn't have had access to the "mind" of the character telling the story.
     
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  15. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I will say this for first person: It works great when a main attraction of the story is the unique voice of the narrator. Novels like The Catcher in the Rye and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are notable in part because the narrators have strong and interesting voices. It would have been a mistake, I think, for Salinger or Twain to have written these works in third person, because so much of the charm would be lost.
     
  16. Silent Archer
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    Silent Archer New Member

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    Yeah, I wouldn't agree that third person is easier. First person allows for an easy integration of the character's thoughts and feelings, and finds convenient ways to describe the setting. With third person, you really have to select carefully what to include. You also have to decide as the story teller whether or not to include just the main character's thoughts, or to include other character's thoughts, whether you want to describe things that only the main character can see or describe things that the character might not notice.

    I'm personally not partial to one or the other. If it is written well, I will read it. For example, I love Jack London's work with first person. But with Lord of the Rings there is very little intimacy with any one of the characters in the trilogy, and yet it is still a beautiful story.

    As long as you can write well, it does not really matter in my humble opinion. Heck, I'm trying to write a novel in third person with the main character being a mute. So...challenge yourself if nothing else. ;)
     
  17. Silent Archer
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    Silent Archer New Member

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    Yeah, I wouldn't agree that third person is easier. First person allows for an easy integration of the character's thoughts and feelings, and finds convenient ways to describe the setting. With third person, you really have to select carefully what to include. You also have to decide as the story teller whether or not to include just the main character's thoughts, or to include other character's thoughts, whether you want to describe things that only the main character can see or describe things that the character might not notice.

    I'm personally not partial to one or the other. If it is written well, I will read it. For example, I love Jack London's work with first person. But with Lord of the Rings there is very little intimacy with any one of the characters in the trilogy, and yet it is still a beautiful story.

    As long as you can write well, it does not really matter in my humble opinion. Heck, I'm trying to write a novel in third person with the main character being a mute. So...challenge yourself if nothing else. ;)
     
  18. Question
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    Question Active Member

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    I believe that third person is easier because you have allot more freedom when writing in it. Though this doesn't mean that It is necessarily better than first person. Some of my favorite novels are written in first person. Though some people may prefer one over the other; I think in difference circumstances it can either enhance or hurt the writing and just depends on the piece of writing
     
  19. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    I much prefer third person. It's better for describing the scenery and such and you can get a grander scale. Also you can still get into your character's head in 3rd person, I mean how much do those I's and me's really add to that. Just do a third person perspective limited to one person at a time. You get the best of both worlds that way.
     
  20. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    Third allows for a certain [emotional] distance that is often considered easier to write, because you can decide how much thoughts in the POV you want to show. First Person without showing thoughts is difficult and tension is often difficult to maintain, even with unreliable narrators. I've written in Third and in First, depending on the story. I don't let 'ease of writing' influence my decision to use one or the other.
     
  21. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    You just pointed out exactly what I've tried to put my finger on for some time re: my own problems with first person. It's too easy to let your own voice, thoughts and ideas interfere with the ones of the character, which I guess is one of the reasons they say it's harder to write first person well.
     
  22. Lightman
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    Lightman Active Member

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    I've got to say, I take offense to some of the things said about the first person in this thread. What's being described are not universal faults of that perspective, but rather, the things that make certain people bad at it.
     
  23. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, I think that's it. First person seems to be the voice of choice for young novice writers and for YA fiction, so it's associated with a lot of stuff that in one way or another is immature. That's not a characteristic of the voice itself -- there are some great classics written in first person -- but it is the current trend with it. Third person is far more flexible, so although (as somebody else pointed out) you have more choices to make, it's actually less sensitive to those choices.

    As for knowing which to use -- well, maybe that comes with experience, but until you get there it's probably worth trying a couple of key sections both ways and seeing which works best.
     
  24. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't mean to offend, and I don't mean to say that first person is bad just because I'm bad at it. I'm just saying it doesn't work for me, at my current level of skill, as third person does. The vast majority of my work is in third person. I've written only about three short stories in first person, and in one, the narrator is a school principal, and in another, the narrator is a ninth-grade student, and they both sound the same to me after three pages or so. I'm not good at handling first person narrators and staying in character. That doesn't mean I think first person is bad; I even pointed out Twain and Salinger as writers who have done it exceptionally well. So please, don't take offense!
     
  25. Lightman
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    Lightman Active Member

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    Oh, that wasn't directed to you at all. I find this comment: "in first, the readers aren't drawn into the story as they are in third, because all those 'i's and 'me's keep reminding us that it's someone else it's all happening to... " to be frankly moronic. I suppose the "he"s and "she"s don't have that effect?
     
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