Tags:
  1. Victoria Baye
    Offline

    Victoria Baye Member

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2011
    Messages:
    47
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Hotlanta

    How many perspectives a novel/too many 1st person?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Victoria Baye, Sep 24, 2011.

    Hey everyone :)

    I'm working on my first novel, and while I've written quite a bit of it, I keep going and starting over because I'm having trouble with my perspectives.

    Firstly, I figure that I need a minimum if 4 to pull this together and tighten it. My protagonist/antagonist/and the 2 supporting characters each have their own perspective. Each one makes sense, and, as the 2 supporting characters are integral to the story, I feel the need to allow the reader to look through their eyes fairly often throughout the story...Is that too many?

    Secondly, I write almost exclusively in first person. I have so much trouble writing in 3rd person that I pretty much just never attempt it. While good authors can write in 3rd person and make the reader feel infinitely connected to the character, when I write in 3rd person, it's more of the perspective of someone looking at a character through a crystal ball and narrating their actions. I feel like I disconnect myself and my audience from the character. This is something that I plan to work on, but as I was planning out my novel, I began to wonder if 4 perspectives all in first person was too much? What do you think? Would reading about 4 characters all in first person become tiresome and boring to you?

    Thanks! :)
     
  2. Melzaar the Almighty
    Offline

    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,792
    Likes Received:
    55
    Location:
    UK
    If you can spare the time, set the novel aside and write short stories and do exercises focussing on developing your third person skills. It's handy to be able to write well in both persons... Maybe for example write a simple story *framed* as first person but find a way to make the bulk of the story in third. Could be a good gateway into seeing how a close perspective can follow in third person as well. Pick up the novel again when you're more confident.

    Anyways, if you really want to write the novel well and think you can pull it off well in first persons then go for it, but remember that it can be a risky move and maybe something only technically advanced authors with experience playing with words should try. I think I'm a pretty awesome writer but there are a lot of "advanced" moves I stay away from and won't easily agree to unless I'm 100% confident in them. If it's your first novel and your first attempt at it that's gone somewhere you might not want to commit to something that will create unsalvagable wreckage later... And take it from me, needing to change narration style for a massive work is more of a bastard than tense changes or anything else. :p

    Also ask yourself just how important all the narrators are. Information can always be conveyed in other ways and many first person novels work fine no matter how many events go on around the narrator and out of their sight as long as what the narrator sees and thinks can tie it all neatly together, and you find good ways of presenting stuff you couldn't wrangle the narrator to see in person.
     
  3. Jhunter
    Offline

    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2011
    Messages:
    1,233
    Likes Received:
    45
    Location:
    Southern California
    My favorite book series is The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. He has dozens of perspectives throughout his novels. So I think you will be safe with four.

    For me personally, I bring in another perspective anytime I feel it is needed and adds value to the work. I don't really pay attention to how many there are, so long as it adds something. Also, you can add a perspective just one time to get a point across or someones personality shown better, it doesn't have to always be used.

    Everyone has there own style, so I would go with what feels right for you.
     
  4. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    If you are selecting a first person narration, you should stick with that one perspective.

    I know, a lot of authors are deviating from that with additional third person POVs. Some make it work, some not so much. You may even foind examples swithing between a couple first person POVs. I won't say it cannot be successful, but very few writrers can pull it off.

    Many novices feel they have to make the story first person to make it personal. That is absolutely incorrect. You can be extremely intimate with a third person POV that sticks like epoxy to a character.

    I know some people will jump in and disagree with what I am about to say; I even have a pretty good idea who they will be. But I will assert it anyway.

    No writer should attempt writing first person without first becoming proficient at writing in third person.
     
  5. Jhunter
    Offline

    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2011
    Messages:
    1,233
    Likes Received:
    45
    Location:
    Southern California
    Is writing a characters thoughts like this considered first person?
     
  6. Manav
    Offline

    Manav Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2010
    Messages:
    839
    Likes Received:
    21
    Location:
    Imphal, India
    This is the thought that comes to my mind when I read your post. From my limited experience I can say that the way I write first person perpective drastically changed after I learned how to write third person perspective. The most visible change is the reduction in the numbers of "I"s while writing 1st person. I also gained the ability to write what the viewpoint characters observe rather than always jump into their heads and thoughts. I am sure there are other advantages too.

    Don't just choose 1st person perspective because you are familier writing it, master all the POVs and choose which best suit the way a story needs to be written.

    Edit: when you feel the need to have many perspectives while writing in 1st person, it probably means that the story is best written in third person.
     
  7. Pythonforger
    Offline

    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2010
    Messages:
    405
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Amongst the Mortals
    I prefer third person, actually.

    Also, in accordance with the huge number of Rule of Threes, the rule for 1st person perspective is 3. Don't use more than 3 1st person prespectives. There are exceptions, but you're not one of them.

    Also, master 1st and 3rd person(I don't recommend even touching 2nd unless you want your story to be one of those very unorthodox stories, like House of Leaves or something), learn them like they're your family members, abuse them like they're your family members and love them like they're your family members. Then, brainwash yourself and make yourself forget everything you've ever learned about 1st person, write a couple of novels in 3rd person, and repeat the process until even brainwashing doesn't make the 1st person memories go away. Then you can(tentatively) start a 1st person story.
     
  8. prettyprettyprettygood
    Offline

    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2011
    Messages:
    452
    Likes Received:
    46
    Location:
    Edinburgh
    I read a book recently that must have had 5-6 1st person perspectives, structured so the perspective changed each chapter, and to be honest it irritated the heck out of me. It was the retelling of a historical event and in theory it was a good idea, but it just wasn't fun to read. Of course, that may have just been a badly written book and a more skilled author could have made it work, but I have my doubts.

    I struggle with 3rd person too, but it does sound like it would suit your story better, based on the information you've given. If you do decide to go with 3rd maybe practice with some short stories before diving in to your novel?
     
  9. skeloboy_97
    Offline

    skeloboy_97 Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2010
    Messages:
    181
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Australia
    I'm new to third person, liking it more though, as it gives you the ability to switch between characters with ease. Personally, I don't think switching between more than one character in first person ever really works to a mass extent, unless your an amazingly skilled writer.
    Saying so, third person is much easier to switch between.
    For instance, (and i'm only using this example as it was the last book I read) The Da Vinci code through the entire novel, switches between six or seven characters I think, and this ran fairly smooth. Some authors don't have this ability though, and will often mess up a piece if they try and change between too many characters, particularly in first person.
    Also, switching between characters can add suspense, like, if something was about to happen, then you switch to another person, and leave them hanging, then come back and finish it off.

    As I may have strayed slightly off topic here, I shall summarise.
    I think changing between characters in third person works well, but not in first, and personally, I would turn a book away like this.
     
  10. Yoshiko
    Offline

    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2009
    Messages:
    758
    Likes Received:
    27
    One of my favourite books, Real World by Natsuo Kirino, is written in first person with five POV characters: one boy (the antagonist) and four girls who are all around the same age. I don't recall it being at all confusing the first time I read it. Each chapter has the character's name written (followed by "Part 1", "Part 2", etc) as a title.
     
  11. Jhunter
    Offline

    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2011
    Messages:
    1,233
    Likes Received:
    45
    Location:
    Southern California
    Like I said before, The Wheel of Time has DOZENS of first person perspective's littered throughout the series. It is definitely possible to write as many as you want. You just have to do it correctly.

    There is also thirteen of the books out right now, with a fourteenth and final book coming out soon. They average 300k+ words. So the perspectives are spread out fairly well.

    The world Robert Jordan created is so big that he has to have that many perspectives to tell his story correctly. So you may want to think about if you perspectives are definitely needed.
     
  12. Victoria Baye
    Offline

    Victoria Baye Member

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2011
    Messages:
    47
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Hotlanta
    @Melzaar/Cogito/Manav/Python/Pretty/Skeloboy

    That's a great point... I wrote a short story yesterday in 3rd and "transposed" a few scenes of my novel into 3rd person. I'm still struggling with their thoughts though, and just made them think like Neville did in I Am Legend, without italicizing or doing anything to them.

    @Jhunter

    I never even thought about The Wheel of Time... you're right, there are tons of perspectives throughout those books, and he uses all of them masterfully to flesh out the world...

    For my book I still think that I definitely need 4 perspectives, but did I read that I shouldn't mix 3rd person and 1st person within the same book? All 4 of my characters are in different locations, except for my protag and antag, and the antagonist is a sociopath whose actions don't explain his motives, which is why I wanted him in 1st person... that's a good point though, are there any books or anything that would give advice on writing in 3rd person? I definitely need the practice...
     
  13. digitig
    Offline

    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,502
    Likes Received:
    79
    Location:
    Orpington, Bromley, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
    Well, I'm going to jump in and agree. I see first person as being like telling rather than showing or using -ly adverbs. Not technically wrong, but something that novice writers tend to do too much of.
     
  14. Victoria Baye
    Offline

    Victoria Baye Member

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2011
    Messages:
    47
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Hotlanta
    I totally agree, that's how all of my old writing is like, and it's tiresome to read. The first person that I LOVE is stuff like The Handmaid's Tale and Midnight's Children... there isn't the whole "I have to narrate every step I take and thought I think" thing.
     

Share This Page