1. Stammis
    Offline

    Stammis Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2015
    Messages:
    275
    Likes Received:
    50
    Location:
    Sweden

    Style First, Second or Third person

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Stammis, Jul 5, 2015.

    Hi, I have been messing around with this Fantasy story for a while, and I am only about 10 000 words in, but I cannot decide if I want to go with first, second or third person, or maybe both? I figure I should make a decision before I continue writing and I want your opinion of these pieces of text. Sorry that the text is out of context.

    Second person
    You nod a bit uncomfortably and leaves the house with the rest of his classmates. Outside you see your classmates gathering together to say goodnight. You think to yourself that you kind of envy their casual relationship towards each other, and wishes them a good night as well while walking away, unsure if anyone have heard you. After walking a few meters, you hear someones say, “good night Fendrael”. You turn your head around towards the person that responded to you, surprised for the response, you are greeted by Yve´s smiling face. she repeats the words and walks away towards her house. A bit flustered, you notice Isac and Androu staring at you from afar, apparently they have been arguing with each other since you left the Grand Masters house. While smiling you move out of their sight as soon as possible to not antagonise them even further. Just to be safe, you walk down the the main street of the residential area for the nobles, hoping that you would not be attacked in the ray of the street lights. The city is divided into four layers, each layer is built on top of the lower layers. The noble residential area is located on the third layer, close to the Palace on the top layer.

    -skips a few sections

    Third Person
    It only takes a few minutes for Fendrael to get from the Grand masters house to his family´s house. Since the nobel residential area is 300 meter above sea level there is a great view of almost the entire city from Fendraels house. While at home, Fendrael notices that his father is going through some paper work as usual at this time of day. He do not trust anyone but himself so he insists to double check the paper work himself. At the other side of the room Fendrael finds his mother reading "the" book, a book that she has been reading for as long as Fendrael can remember. I don't know what the book is called or what it is about, it is written in a strange language and sometimes I wonder if even my mother understands what she is reading. She has told me in the past that the book is a treasured heirloom of our family but will not tell anything more about it, until I get older.

    First person
    My dad is the first to notice that I am home, he turns his head towards me and smiles for a second before returning to his paper work. He asks how the lecture was, while simultaneously looking through the papers. I don't mind that he does this because I know here really do care what happens in my life. Afterwards my mother is awoken from her book and looks over at me, she stands up and gives me the cup of hot chocolate and welcomes me home. Even though she seem to be lost in her own world most of the time, she still manages to have a cup of hot chocolate ready for me. I asked her about how she does this several times, but the answer is always the same. “A mother simply knows”, was her response, whatever that means. My family is part of the red tribe, and pure blooded, which makes us a noble family. Our tribe was apparently the smallest but also the strongest when we first settle on these lands, the first emperor was someone from the read tribe, and the supreme commander of the invasion army. Our kind, and other pure bloods are becoming fewer because of inter marriages between other tribes. Race has never been an big issue for me, but I can understand the desire to avoid our our kind from truly disappearing. Even though there is nothing different between other peoples other than eye colour, as far as I know.
     
  2. SethLoki
    Online

    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2011
    Messages:
    585
    Likes Received:
    472
    Location:
    Manchester UK
    Can I say your first option of second person is exceedingly difficult. Been there, done that (or at least attempted it). I tried to buy the t-shirt but you did it instead. The problem I had, and you'll likely discover too, is that you're instructing the reader in what they're thinking; a short walk into the novel and they'll be saying to themselves ' I don't agree with that' or 'that's not what I'm thinking'. T'was with a heavy heart I abandoned a very long piece, thousands of words in after ceding to the opinion (my own and confirmation by a third party) that the entire venture sounded like a cross between a self-hypnosis book and one of those old world text based role playing games. You can by the way try a trick or two and introduce second person to first person by way of dialogue.

    Also—the third person paragraph above that you've picked to show us seems to switch into first person, I've gotta fess I struggled to follow it.
     
    peachalulu and matwoolf like this.
  3. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,591
    Likes Received:
    5,075
    You're hopping all over in those examples - you've got serious verb issues in your "second person" section - feels like maybe you translated it from second but didn't change all the verbs? And then in the "third person" part you've got first person mixed in. The only one without issues is the "first person" part, which suggests maybe you're most comfortable in first person, so I'd suggest you go with that.

    You may also want to think about the present tense decision. This feels like YA, in which case present tense won't likely be a problem but in other genres there are readers who really don't like present tense. Their loss, as far as I'm concerned, but something to keep in mind.
     
    ChickenFreak and peachalulu like this.
  4. BookLover
    Offline

    BookLover Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2014
    Messages:
    291
    Likes Received:
    186
    I like your first person paragraph.

    The second person one feels like one of those choose your own adventure books.
     
    peachalulu likes this.
  5. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    Second person is rarely used, and most editors are probably not going to like it. So that leaves first and third. Which one are you most comfortable using? That's the important thing. After all, you're the one who's going to be spending months (or years even) writing this piece.
     
    peachalulu likes this.
  6. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,821
    Likes Received:
    2,379
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Not crazy about second person for a novel. It's okay in short bursts but it feels so, I don't know what the word is - gimmicky? - that it's hard not to focus on the writing.
    Your third switches to first and there are some tense issues that made that paragraph hard to read.
    Your first person is also in present tense which is a tough combination for a reader ( to like ) and for a writer to nail.
    It's impossible for me to chose because they're all different paragraphs and the information is different. I could choose one over the other cause it seems more vibrant but that might be due to content not to the pov you picked.

    What are you most comfortable with? What best suits your story? What's the benefit of closing off the view and only focusing on first person? Would third work better because you can show things happening when the main character isn't present?
    I only pick an I pov when I know I don't need to 'switch' povs or show things that the mc isn't privy too.
    I pick third when I want broader viewpoints. I pick present tense when I want a drier more unusual tone.
     
    BayView likes this.
  7. Steerpike
    Online

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,055
    Likes Received:
    5,256
    Location:
    California, US
    Second person can be done well, but it's not easy. Some authors sustain it for a novel, but I haven't seen too many examples. Other novels use second person for certain POVs and not others. I don't think the second person example in the OP works. It seems more like a different POV just rewritten to make it second person. I wouldn't use it unless you can really do something interesting with it.
     
    BayView likes this.
  8. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,936
    Likes Received:
    5,473
    The examples aren't useful, because they're wildly different in every way, not just the first/second/thirdperson choice.

    I agree with BayView that past versus present tense is also definitely a decision to think about. I'm one of those that doesn't like present tense, and that preference is a gut level thing that overrides everything else about a book for me. I prefer third person, but I can read first person with no problem. But I simply cannot handle present tense for more than a chapter, no matter how much I want to. I think I'd need some sort of professional aversion therapy to get over this, and I'm not sure if I'm joking about that.

    I notice that your first and third person are essentially all narrative summary--there's no "scene". I think that this is also a concern.
     
  9. Stammis
    Offline

    Stammis Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2015
    Messages:
    275
    Likes Received:
    50
    Location:
    Sweden
    Thank you all for the pointers, I didn't even notice the mix up! Goes to show that you become blind to your own shortcomings after a while. I think I will exclude second person because it is very difficult to switch character perspectives, and use third person sparsely, for instance when I want to switch to an outside narrative. However, third person tends to make it difficult I think to have interior monologue and interior emotion, which I want to add to make it more personal. Is a mix with third and first person, impossible? For an inexperienced writer that is.
     
  10. mad_hatter
    Offline

    mad_hatter Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2014
    Messages:
    196
    Likes Received:
    59
    Location:
    England
    Don’t mean to sound harsh at all, but you really need to read your own work very carefully; the mix up in tense in your Second person example occurs in the first line! Nearly half of your Third person example is in First!

    You could do this, I believe there are examples of it being done successfully, but I’m not a fan of switching perspectives. I’d pick one or the other. You can express your characters inner feelings in Third person in exactly the same way you do in First. If you are/your narrator is omniscient, they know everything about everyone.

    And yes; avoid Second person. It’s horrible.
     
  11. Steerpike
    Online

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,055
    Likes Received:
    5,256
    Location:
    California, US
    @Stammis

    If you use second person, you just switch to first or third when you switch to a different character point of view. It can be done; you can find well-received published fiction in which it is done. You absolutely exclude any tool from your writer's toolbox - that doesn't make sense. The problem with second person is you really have to be able to handle it well to make it work, and it's not easy.
     
  12. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,591
    Likes Received:
    5,075
    I love second person, but it seems to be an acquired taste.

    In terms of showing interior monologues, etc., in third, you're looking for something called close third, which is how a lot of books are written these days. You can google it, but for a brief example:

    She felt warm and safe for the first time far too long. Aliens? Explosives? Squid-creatures? Hell, no, there was no reason to think about any of that, not lying there in front of the fire with a cup of cocoa--with marshmallows, even, just like Grandma Jo used to make--and a warm blanket. She'd been paranoid at the lake, seeing monsters in the weeds. She was too old for that nonsense, but at the same time not at all too old for marshmallows in her cocoa. Everything was fine.

    And that was when she felt the tentacle wrap around her neck.
    Or whatever. The idea is that you can express character thoughts just as well in close third as in first. But you need to be careful about mixing close third with omnipotent third, if that's what you're thinking about doing?

    Do some reading, googling any words here that you're not clear on. It's not as simple as three different POVs to tell a story with.
     
    peachalulu likes this.
  13. Steerpike
    Online

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,055
    Likes Received:
    5,256
    Location:
    California, US
    I like second person, too. When the author does a nice job of it. I think it was Charles Stross who carried it off for a whole novel (Halting State?). Nick Sagan does a nice job with it in Idyllwild / Edenborn.
     
  14. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,591
    Likes Received:
    5,075
    I thought Bright Lights, Big City really only worked because it was in second person. In first person or third person I would have thought the narrator was an insufferable, self-destructive idiot... which, I guess, he was, but in second person I was the self-destructive idiot, so it was easier to put up with the mistakes!
     
  15. Steerpike
    Online

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,055
    Likes Received:
    5,256
    Location:
    California, US
    Heh :) I haven't read that one. I'll have to add it to my list!

    Was the author intending that you, the reader, be the character or was that just your sense in reading it.
     
  16. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,591
    Likes Received:
    5,075
    It wasn't like a 'choose your own adventure' style, and the character is clearly defined - he's a twenty-something hotshot living in New York. So it's not like the author is yanking me out of my life and putting me in the story, no. But I think second person helped me really identify with the MC, if that makes sense?

    The first lines are:

    You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy. You are at a nightclub talking to a girl with a shaved head. The club is either Heartbreak or the Lizard Lounge. All might come clear if you could just slip into the bathroom and do a little more Bolivian Marching Powder. Then again, it might not. A small voice inside you insists that this epidemic lack of clarity is a result of too much of that already.
    As soon as I try to rephrase it into first, I feel like the guy is making excuses for himself:

    I am not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here I am, and I cannot say the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy. I am at a nightclub talking to a girl with a shaved head. The club is either Heartbreak or the Lizard Lounge. All might come clear if I could just slip into the bathroom and do a little more Bolivian Marching Powder. Then again, it might not. A small voice inside me insists that this epidemic lack of clarity is a result of too much of that already.​

    To me, I just don't sympathize with that first-person MC the way I do with the second person. And in third:

    He is not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here he is, and he cannot say the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy. He is at a nightclub talking to a girl with a shaved head. The club is either Heartbreak or the Lizard Lounge. All might come clear if he could just slip into the bathroom and do a little more Bolivian Marching Powder. Then again, it might not. A small voice inside him insists that this epidemic lack of clarity is a result of too much of that already.
    I don't really care about that third person narrator, I guess. But when it was me in the nightclub, all messed up? I was intrigued!
     
  17. Stammis
    Offline

    Stammis Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2015
    Messages:
    275
    Likes Received:
    50
    Location:
    Sweden
    Okay, what do you guys think of this? It is a mix of first and third person, the book starts of with someone telling a story, when the story is finished the scene is introduced cene and the people in it is introduced (which is not included here because too much background story is revealed). It takes a few sections before the main character is introduced, then it becomes a mix of first and second person. This section begins with the introduction of the main character (Fendrael)

    The children remain silent and lets the story sink in, the Grand Master looks at one of the boys in the back off the group, a normal looking boy, with dark brown hair and red eyes, has himself. “You have been quite today Fendrael, you used to be the one asking the most questions during my lectures, whats on your mind?”

    Fendrael looks up, surprised of being singled out, “oh its nothing really” he says, “I was just thinking of something I overheard in the market.”

    “I don't engage in gossips”, say the Grand Master. “but if it troubles you to such an extent that your mind has been occupied throughout my lecture I will answer the best I can. What is it that you have heard?”, the Grand master asks.

    Fendrael pauses for a second, unsure whether you should even ask the question. “Is it true that the decedents of the Vaan lives among us to this day?”

    The Grand Master makes a grim face, and thinks for a moment before answering. “Yes, it is true, they live in small secluded enclaves across this lands. No one knows why their ancestors decided to remain, but there has been little contact between them and us the past thousand years and the less we have to deal with them the better.”

    Unsatisfied with that answer, Fendrael, asks another question, interrupting one of your other classmates.

    “Why do we hate them so even though the war ended a 1000 years ago? Why should they have to be outcasts just because their ancestors were evil?”

    The Grand Master sighs, bothered by of your persistence. “Do not let their few numbers and seemingly harmless appearance fool you Fendrael, they are different from us, more prone towards evil. I did not tell you this, but before the surviving Vaan escaped, they put a curse on their remaining ruins and vowed to come back. And when they do they will will summon the lord of the underworld again to reach havoc upon our people. The Grand Master stands up and raises his hands while he speak. “Believe me, if we give them even the slightest opening, they will take their chance and destroy us all!” The Grand Master yells, his eyes looking past the children, as if he is looking into another world or his past. After a few seconds he calms down and eventually returns to his old collected self and says. “Anyhow, that is all for today, have a nice holiday.”, the children stands up, disappointed that there will be no more stories today. Before Fendrael is able to leave the house, the Grand Master stops him at the door.

    “And Fendrael!”, says the Grand Master. Fendrael, stops and turns around, Fendrael can see the seriousness in his eyes, when he says, “no more talk about the Vaan okay?”
     
  18. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,591
    Likes Received:
    5,075
    You should work to meet the requirements of the critique room and post this there. You're not supposed to post things for critique in other areas of the board.

    You have a lot of grammar issues in the first paragraph, so many that I stopped reading because I couldn't get a sense of the way your language was flowing, which was the point of reading the passage. People in the critique room can help you with that, once you're qualified to post there.
     
  19. Stammis
    Offline

    Stammis Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2015
    Messages:
    275
    Likes Received:
    50
    Location:
    Sweden
    sorry, doing this on my free time, things get rushed out sometimes, and I could not edit the reply for some reason.
     
  20. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,591
    Likes Received:
    5,075
    Writing is slow. Take your time, figure stuff out, and try to get it as polished as you can before you post for people's opinions. There's no point in all of us taking time to tell you things you already know and just forgot to apply to the current work.

    If you're having trouble catching the errors, try changing the font and size of your work and reading it like that, or reading it out loud, or doing whatever else you can think of to make yourself focus on the words you've actually written rather than the words you thought you were writing.
     

Share This Page