1. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    Forcing myself to write in first person...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by JJ_Maxx, Oct 25, 2012.

    So, I'm working on my entry this week into the Short Story Contest and I want to convey a much more personal and emotional main character. All of my writings have always been in the third person omniscient, which is good for humorous stories but this story will be serious and gritty and I really want to show my main character struggling internally with these life and death decisions. But it's kind of scary because I feel hindered in that I can't 'lay things out' or even find good ways to introduce my MC's own name. ('Call me Ishmael.' was taken.) Can someone give me some tips on getting into the first person POV?
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you can have another character call him by name...

    what other problems are you having?

    poe's 'the premature burial' is just one example of a great first person short story...
     
  3. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    Yeah he's the captain of a ship on the ocean, so I may have one of the other people in the boat refer to him by name.

    Do you think I will get more emotion out of first-person?
     
  4. Keitsumah
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    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

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    actually i think most of the time you can get the same amount of emotion whether or not its first or third person -but first person gets your character on a more personal level with the reader. I find that seems to work when i write (making a novel with two chars one third person and one first person to avoid confusion as well as having each character's veiwpoint in separate chapters like the third person POV is in the even-numbered and the first person POV is in the odds)

    emotion is a very flexible thing actually but if you want the reader to get emotional with the character then i'd say go as personal as you can which is first-person. good luck!
     
  5. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Depending on which emotions you want to display it could definitely work in your benefit. Just don't
    o.d on the I's. The best tip I ever read on first person p.o.v was to keep your I numbers really low - use
    them only when necessary. People don't think in I's, or see things as in I saw - they just see, think and
    feel.
     
  6. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    It's important to revise your short story many times. I write a lot of first person stories for my program at school. I usually write one over the span of a few days, and revise it for two weeks before handing it in.

    Also, it's important to understand what you want your short story to be like. You can show a struggle through dialogue with many characters. Or, you can have the narrator's thought interjecting, which is what I feel you are aiming for. However, I must stress I'm not too fond of this interjecting. It's a version of telling, not showing. It's blatant manipulation of the readers. I think it's really important to not have a desperate voice. Don't tell the readers how to feel about the story or the characters. You know how you feel about it/them. Present a story and leave some space in their minds to interpret. Flatter their intelligence. Don't be too explicit with the internal struggle. It will naturally come out.

    I hope this helps. There's not much of a 1 right answer, so I just went on a rant...
     
  7. robertpri007
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    robertpri007 Member

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    This is an issue that I agonize over with each new project. My loving wife--who is no longer with us--and I would talk through the overall plot for days, weeks, whatever. We often talked over the basic plot from C1 to the finish before typing a single word. Invariably, she would suggest first person because they were far more personal. She believed, rightfully so, that I could never get the emotions strong enough in pure narrative.

    But that's me.
     
  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that you can be just as personal with third person limited, and that in some cases you can get a closer and deeper connection that way. With first person, you're limited to the language of the character; with third person limited you're limited to what the character experiences, but you have a bit more leeway in the way that you express it.
     
  9. littleshoe
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    littleshoe Member

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    Keitsumah summarized what I wanted to say. I will add few details about the effect of writing in first person POV.

    - Readers forget it is fiction. I have had readers, even friends, that showed their sympathy towards me when I wrote a sad story in first person POV.

    - There is not too much space left for other characters. Other characters often become accessories. It can be useful when you want to give more weight to the plot than to the development of characters.

    - It allows you to focus. You have more tolerance for inner thoughts, reflections, sensations, experiences and explanations concerning the protagonist. In the other hand, you lose vision concerning other characters, facts and events that could help you to better develop the story. It can be useful when writing a thriller, suspense or mystery. In third person POV, because of omniscience, it is easier to fall into the “Deus ex machine” mistake.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    Do you think I will get more emotion out of first-person?

    ...not necessarily... could actually get less, since the only direct emotion you can show in first person is the narrator's... so, what about all the others on board?... you won't be able to 'get' much in the way of their emotions, since you can't put the readers inside their heads, as you can with the narrator's...
     
  11. Fife
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    Fife Senior Member

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    My opinion is that you can showcase the anguish or emotions of a character through a creative soliloquy. To be honest, I really don't read too much, but in movies, this is done through the use of a secondary character (or, in some cases, an object). For example, in the movie Memento, the main character gets numerous phone calls where he expresses a lot of his anxiety. In the first season of The Walking Dead, the character Rick expresses some of his thoughts when he broadcasts on a radio to a friend (even though his friend possibly is not even listening). In the movie Serpico, from the 70's, Al Pacino shares some of his emotions with his wife. So it is possible to showcase personal struggles in third-person.

    I think the strength of first-person writing is that you can articulate very abstract thoughts--perhaps thoughts that may have never occurred to the reader that are personal to the character. The weakness of first-person writing, in my opinion, is that you are greatly restricted in your ability to narrate other aspects of existence in your story. For example, in third-person, you could talk about event that occurred outside of the main character's purview. In first-person, you must convince the reader that the character is real--and in this endeavor, your storytelling must be as blind as the the main character is. If the main character is emotionally immature, he should be confused about why others feel the way they do. If the main character is a chauvenistic man, he must not be able to see the potential in women. Obviously, a weakness can be turned into a strength if done correctly.

    ...but that is just my opinion.
     

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