?

Which excerpt do you prefer?

  1. First

  2. Third

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  1. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    First/Third -- which excerpt reads better?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Lea`Brooks, May 13, 2016.

    Writing a fantasy, and I can't decide on First or Third POV. It's all from the perspective of one girl. So...

    I never liked cows.

    When I was young, my father had bought a herd of them — at least twenty. They used to roam aimlessly around the field, stomping through mud puddles and chewing on the fence. Late one afternoon, while my father was trimming their hooves, I got too close and spooked one. The cow shot her hind leg out and kicked me right in the stomach. I’d sailed backwards as if I were weightless and crashed against the wall of the barn. My father wouldn’t let her near the cows again. I was happy to oblige.

    So when one of Loren’s came down ill, I didn’t feel sorry for it. I knew I should. It was a living creature, after all. But when I looked at the cow, laying on the hard wooden floor, struggling to stand, all I saw was the one who kicked me in the gut.

    “Is it the sickness?” I asked.

    Loren took off his hat and knelt next to the beast. “Don’t think so,” he said. “Just hunger.”

    I snorted a laugh. Of course it was. They barely had enough money to feed themselves, let alone three cows. I crossed my arms over my chest and leaned against the stall door, watching Loren poke and prod the cow, checking for signs of the infection. When he saw none, he leaned back on his heels with a heavy sigh and wiped the sweat from his forehead. The nearby farmhand passed him a handkerchief, which he accepted. “We should call a healer. Try to ease some of her pain until we get her back on her feet.”

    “What’s the point?” I asked.

    Loren pushed himself up with a grunt, wiping his dirty hands onto his even dirtier trousers. He stuffed the kerchief in his pocket, ignoring my question, but I knew he was considering it. His eyebrows came together, and he absently rubbed the stubble on his chin, leaving streaks of grime behind.

    “She’s going to die either way,” I said. “It’s either this—” —I waved toward the cow— “—or the sickness. May as well kill her now and get some use out of her. Once the sickness sets in, she’s wasted.”

    Loren knew I was right. He had to. This had happened to him before, and he hadn’t acted. Lost over five hundreds pounds of good meat because he hadn’t had the heart to kill the bull. They went without dinner that night. No one blamed him though, especially Adina. She knew her husband was too soft to slaughter. Still, he’d felt guilty about it, though he never said so.

    Seren never liked cows.

    When she was young, her father had bought a herd of them — at least twenty. They used to roam aimlessly around the field, stomping through mud puddles and chewing on the fence. Late one afternoon, while her father was trimming their hooves, Seren got too close and spooked one. The cow shot her hind leg out and kicked Seren right in the stomach. She’d sailed backwards as if she were weightless and crashed against the wall of the barn. Her father wouldn’t let her near the cows again. She was happy to oblige.

    So when one of Loren’s came down ill, she didn’t feel sorry for it. She knew she should. It was a living creature, after all. But when she looked at the cow, laying on the hard wooden floor, struggling to stand, all Seren saw was the one who kicked her in the gut.

    “Is it the sickness?” she asked.

    Loren took off his hat and knelt next to the beast. “Don’t think so,” he said. “Just hunger.”

    Seren snorted a laugh. Of course it was. They barely had enough money to feed themselves, let alone three cows. She crossed her arms over her chest and leaned against the stall door, watching Loren poke and prod the cow, checking for signs of the infection. When he saw none, he leaned back on his heels with a heavy sigh and wiped the sweat from his forehead. The nearby farmhand passed him a handkerchief, which he accepted. “We should call a healer. Try to ease some of her pain until we get her back on her feet.”

    “What’s the point?” Seren asked.

    Loren pushed himself up with a grunt, wiping his dirty hands onto his even dirtier trousers. He stuffed the kerchief in his pocket, ignoring her question, but she knew he was considering it. His eyebrows came together, and he absently rubbed the stubble on his chin, leaving streaks of grime behind.

    “She’s going to die either way,” she said. “It’s either this—” —she waved toward the cow— “—or the sickness. May as well kill her now and get some use out of her. Once the sickness sets in, she’s wasted.”

    Loren knew she was right. He had to. This had happened to him before, and he hadn’t acted. Lost over five hundreds pounds of good meat because he hadn’t had the heart to kill the bull. They went without dinner that night. No one blamed him though, especially Adina. She knew her husband was too soft to slaughter. Still, he’d felt guilty about it, though he never said so.

    Right now, my biggest complaint is that, in Third, you can't tell who I'm referring to when I say "they." Is Seren included in it? Or not? In First, it's much more clear.

    Also, not asking for a critique on the writing itself. I literally just wrote it for this experiment.

    Thanks!
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2016
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  2. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I know you didn't want critique on the writing but I have to say they both read really well. :D Very smooth and engaging.

    With this style of third, where we're firmly in Seren's head and seeing the world through her eyes, the difference is purely grammatical. Both of these versions give me exactly the same impressions and feelings. The only thing for me (and this won't be universal) is that 1st person automatically makes the book feel younger - more YA than adult.

    I prefer third. It's illogical, but third for me feels richer and deeper than first. Fans of first would say the opposite.

    When you say you're concerned about "they", which instance are you talking about?

    They used to roam aimlessly around the field, stomping through mud puddles and chewing on the fence. > Clearly refers to the herd of cows only.

    They barely had enough money to feed themselves, let alone three cows. > I'm unclear what the relationship is between Seren and Loren. I assume they have separate families (since these are Loren's cows, not Seren's) so, without additional context, this 'they' refers to Loren and his family and doesn't include Seren. If I knew they lived in the same household and pooled resources, it would include Seren.

    They went without dinner that night. > Same as the previous one. I assume it's Loren and his family, not Seren, but its meaning would be different with additional context.
     
  3. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    For me the answer lies in you, yourself. Write it as it comes naturally out and run with it. Both can work, but I second @Tenderiser . Third feels more youthful.

    Both work. Also keep in mind that there are some readers out there who prefer third (which I personally don't agree with), but you certainly have the opportunity to change their minds ;)
     
  4. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thank you! :D
     
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  5. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can't decide! :cry:

    I like them both. lol I was hoping a small scene would make the decision easier, but it just made it harder. And I really don't want to write multiple chapters only to change my mind.

    I like first because it feels more deeply rooted inside Seren. And since she's so angry much on the time, I feel her voice would come out stronger in first. But I worry that in more emotional scenes, first could be more awkward to read.

    However, it's a fantasy. And as Tenderiser said, third feels richer and deeper, so it fits the mood better. But I don't feel as engaged with Seren in third as I do in first, even though the scene is the exact same.

    Maybe I'll write another scene... A more emotional one. See if that helps me.
     
  6. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    It really depends. First person puts the reader firmly in the position of the POV character. This allows for a deeper connection between narrator and reader, while also restricting you to that particular character's view. First doesn't let you explore the views or opinions of other characters, and keeps the story anchored to what the POV character witnesses firsthand. This can work great if the story is a mystery or a romance, or even an adventure.
    Third gives you the option to explore what other characters think and see and feel. While you could choose to be a hitchhiker on a single character's shoulder, seeing what only that character does, but from the outside, you do have the option of hopping to another character. Third can work well if you have a lot going on at the same time on your story. ASOIAF wouldn't work in first person because there are so many characters doing so much. True, some authors head-hop in first person, but it's really tricky to get right, and fails more often than not. But, third puts another layer of separation between the reader and the characters. It really depends on where you want to take the story.

    Edit: PS-- With this being fantasy, third *might* be slightly better, as it allows for worldbuilding exposition to feel a little more natural.
     
  7. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    @Lea`Brooks could you compromise by writing in third but putting in direct, first person thoughts from Seren? I've seen books do that. It's not something everyone will love but meh, nothing is. It might even get it out of your system so you could remove the direct thoughts in later edits and still feel the same connection.

    Dunno, just an idea.
     
  8. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I like third.
    I only use first person when the story calls for a narrow viewpoint and must rely on the mc for total interpretation. That way I can utilize it to my advantage and control the view. This is also good for keeping the other characters more about impressions than 'fully realized.' I don't mean that in a bad way but it is one of the slight disadvantages/advantages of first. Keeping that distance. It allows Humbert to gush about Lolita and give the reader a perception of her without the reader fully understanding who Lolita is. For the book it's not important who Lolita is, but rather who Lolita is to Humbert.

    If though it's important to know who Lolita is then third would've been better.
     
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  9. HelloImRex
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    HelloImRex Contributing Member

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    In third you can talk about stuff that matters to Seren that Seren isn't aware of yet while in first Seren's knowledge has to equal the words on the page. So that's something else to consider.
     
  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    First.

    They both read well. I think you could tighten up the writing a little bit, but that's generally true of writing.
     
  11. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Two things stand out for me:
    1) I like the first person version better but not just because I've been writing in first person for the last year (just ask @Tenderiser; she'll tell you). To me, it feels like a reminiscence and that makes it feel more real.
    2) (and I know you weren't looking for a critique of the writing, but just as a general comment: ) Once you've established past perfect with the first "had <done such and such>," you can drop into past. It'll read more smoothly. I read this as a tip somewhere and adopted it myself; so far no one has complained about getting confused.
     
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  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yep. That's one of the areas I would tighten up. See this a lot.
     
  13. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't need to worry about head-hopping. Whether in first or third, the camera is staying directly by Seren. I only want the reader to see what she sees and know what she thinks. This is very much Seren's story.

    I do agree about the fantasy part, though. I even started a thread a while back, asking if fantasy necessarily had to be in third. Apparently, there are some first-person fantasies. But I've never read them, so I don't know how well they work.

    Yeah, I only want the reader to know what Seren knows, so third doesn't really have any benefit in that aspect.

    Thank you! :D I thought it read a little awkwardly, too, I just wasn't sure how to fix it. I'll keep that in mind in future writings. :)

    I personally like the first person better also. But I know that fantasies are often done in third. So I'm torn. I guess it really all depends on the feeling I want my story to have. I think in first, it feels more personal and allows a better connection to Seren. But in third, it feels deeper and richer. So which would my story benefit from? Up-close and personal view of Seren in all her train-wreck glory? Or a slightly disconnected view, one that takes in the world more? I'm still not sure. I could literally write it either way and be happy with it. That's my problem.

    Actually, this is how I want my book to be. :p That's one of the main reasons I've been leaning towards first, because it is so limited. My MC is very biased towards... well, pretty much everything. She judges people too harshly, she snaps without thinking, and she tries to ignore whatever she just isn't ready to deal with.

    I'm just still so torn. :(
     
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  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Is this YA?
     
  15. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know! :cry: I was planning NA, because all of my characters are between 17-22. But since NA is mostly romance, of which there is none in my book, I'm not sure my story qualifies. People, however, become "adults" in my world at 16 (versus 18 IRL), so they're mostly grown up.
     
  16. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Also, just read this from an article:
    And it pretty much explains why I like First instead of Third. In third, it feels like a narrator, not Seren. And I want it to be Seren. She's sassy, she's angry, and she's kind of cold. I don't get that in the Third-person excerpt. But I do get it from the First.

    I may be going with First!
     
  17. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends, I think, on what overall effect you're going for, but only you know that. From the phrase in all her train-wreck glory I'd surmise this could be a comedy and if so, the most commonly used 'persons' are first or third omniscient.

    I went with first for my WIP because it is comedy and yes, I get what you're saying about limitations. It's tricky to find ways to put your MC into situations so he/she can witness events they aren't taking part in, but it is possible, especially so (I would think) if magic is a card in your deck.

    If this just makes it even harder for you to choose, I apologize... or maybe I don't. ;)
     
  18. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Did you write the third person part on its own or merely translate it? Because translating from first to third probably won't sound as good. Each tense needs its own mindset and angle because each has their own strengths and weaknesses. I'm not gunning for either or I'm just finding it an interesting discussion.
     
  19. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wrote it in third first, then translated it to first.
     
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  20. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's hard to to really prefer one over the other, if it's just a translation from first to third- the impression I got from the texts was that each was more or less a translation of the other. There's nothing inherently wrong with this, but it makes it hard to determine which is more suitable.

    @Lea`Brooks I will say this. If you're going for epic- the world is at stake- fantasy, I would suggest third. It's going to feel a little less about your MC, and a little bit more about the world she's trying to save.
     
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  21. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Third is easier...

    - I am instantly more judgmental of the cold, hard prose re cows in first person. Daughter not loving cows says lunatic to my mind.
     
  22. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    He's right. It's one thing to subconsciously not like cows (third person POV) and another to actively admit you don't like cows (first person POV)
     
  23. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    So does she seem more soft and sympathetic in third versus in first?
     
  24. IHaveNoName
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    IHaveNoName Active Member

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    Just because fantasy is generally written in 3rd doesn't mean you have to do it too. :)

    I don't have a preference re: 1st vs. 3rd in general - I've done both - but in this case, 1st works better for me - like Sack-a-Doo said, it feels more like personal memory, not a recounting of a story. The second has lots of pronoun confusion, and the part with "Loren knew xxx was right" reads better in the first version - it seems more like her opinion vs. a narrator telling us.

    If you really want the reader to feel Seren (in all her train-wreck glory), go with 1st.
     
  25. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    As written, I would say yes. You're describing things to the reader that, when mentioned directly by the MC, make her seem slightly callous.
     

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