1. CyberFD
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    CyberFD Member

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    Is first person POV a bad thing?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by CyberFD, Jun 13, 2013.

    I'm rather new to writing and although I don't always write in first person, I do enjoy it. I don't know if it's generally frowned upon to have a MC narrate or not, but I do know that most of what I read is third person and not first.
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    There is a lot of first-person material out there. A whole lot. Third person is dominant, but if you want to write in first person there's no reason not to just out of worry it is somehow bad (it isn't) or unpublishable (it's not).
     
  3. PeterJ
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    PeterJ Member

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    Write how you want to write. If you enjoy it, who cares?

    Personally, I like first person writing. It pulls me into the work more. I think.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    There are plenty of examples of first person narration, both by main characters and minor characters. The important thing is to know why you are using first person and to understand its limitations as well as its advantages.
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Read some books written in first person. That will give you an idea of what works and what doesn't.
     
  6. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I sure hope not. I use it all the time.
     
  7. Lixue
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    Lixue New Member

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    No, not at all. There are some genres nowadays that it tends to be a bit overused in, but that doesn't mean you can't use it as well if it's what you think will work best for your story. Both POVs have their merits. One of the advantages to using first-person is the way it allows you to get inside a character's head and make the reader feel and see what the character does. Third-person is usually used for when you want to keep your characters relatively mysterious, in my experience.
     
  8. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    If you find yourself using only 1st person in your stories, then you need to write a few in 3rd. Not that one is better or worse than the other, just most novice writers only use 1st. It's better not to be a one trick pony.
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with Ed in that you have to understand the advantages and limitations. However, if someone tells you the limitations of 1st person, it is worth thinking hard about whether they're actually real limitations.

    Two points by way of example:

    I've often heard people say 1st person POV is limited in that you are restricted to what the viewpoint character can perceive. This isn't necessarily true, and you shouldn't feel bound by this just because you've chosen 1st person. I've read plenty of books written in 1st person where the author switches to some other viewpoint character to bring in information that the main character can't perceive.

    Another thing I've heard stated a lot is that 1st person takes away some of the drama or uncertainty because you know the main character will survive. This also isn't true. In fact, I read a very well done 1st person book not long ago where the main character/narrator dies before the end, and the story is picked up by another viewpoint character (also presented in 1st person).

    As you take in writing advice, you'll see a lot of statements that start with "you can't," or some equivalent thereof. It's mostly bollocks. You can do a lot of things. The only real question is whether you can do it effectively. When you look at standards, the thing to keep in mind is that they reflect how, on par, you're going to be able to write a successful story. The more you deviate from them the stronger you have to be as a writer to pull it off. You're not going to know whether you can pull it off unless you try, so no matter what idea you have with regard to POV (1st, 2nd, 3d), tense, and other stylistic issues, go with what speaks to you and what fulfills your vision of the story. If it works, great. If not, then you go back and figure out why not and what to do about it.
     
  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Good point. In fact, my very favorite of all the stories I ever read by Edgar Allan Poe was "MS Found in a Bottle".
     
  11. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's also possible to have the 1st person POV narrator narrating after he's dead. Since it's fiction, you can do that.
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Good example. I haven't thought about that story in forever. I'm going to have to read it again :)
     
  13. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Then that would be a Multiple First person POV.
     
  14. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    I used to hate first person. I improved as a writer once I started using it more. I'm more me when I write first person. I also feel like I get into said character's head to a greater extent. Obviously this isn't the case for all, but I feel limited in third person...like stuff is set in stone.

    I find first more fun. I also think once you write a lot of third person and a lot of first person, the differences, as subjective as they may be, tend to get slimmer and slimmer.

    To illustrate my point, in my journal, I once wrote the following... Free indirect discourse: third person narration that mingles traits from first person narration, mixes the thoughts, speech of a character with some presentation from the narrator. It is represented rather than related.

    Is the difference that great, beyond "I said" and "He said" ...?
     
  15. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    The first writing I did was in first person. It just came naturally to me. I had to learn to write in third. Ultimately, you'll want to expand your options but 1st person pov is never a bad idea per se.
     
  16. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, clearly. It's still first person. Some people seem to think that once you choose first person you can't switch POV anymore. Not sure why, but I've seen people make that statement numerous times.
     
  17. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I try not to write in first person for a two main reasons: First, I'm forced to use the vocabulary and style of my character, rather than my own, and I often find that restricting. (It wouldn't be restricting if my POV character was a lot like me, but most of my characters aren't much like me.) Second, I find first person too easy - so easy that I don't trust it. I can spew out thousands of words a day in first person and have no idea whether or not it's any good. That makes me uncomfortable with it.

    Third person limited is more difficult, but I'm more confident in it, and ultimately, I find it more rewarding.
     
  18. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    That actually brings up another point conscerning what the character knows and doesn't know. If you're writing in first person past, then you can write with a little more omnipotence because the character already knows what's happened, and what will be happening. He or she may also know what others are thinking, because they had a discussion about it later on. If you're writing in first person present, that is a lot more limited.

    So, it may look like this (off the top of my head)

    "Come on!" I was holding a hundred and ten pounds of feed and jack was off flirting with the little redhead again. "Let's go!"

    "I'll be there in a second, just hold on."

    I could've killed him. I should've killed him, but I'm glad I didn't. I found out later that was the first time he was ever attracted to a woman's mind, and not just her body. She ended up his wife a few years later. Of course, at the time, I could care less about any of that. "Jack, if you don't get out here . . ."

    Vs.

    "Come on!" This hundred and ten pounds of feed is heavy. Knowing Jack, he's probably off flirting with the little redhead. "Let's go!"

    "I'll be there in a second, just hold on."

    I should beat him with the feed bags. "Jack, if you don't . . ."
     
  19. Caramello Koala
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    Caramello Koala Member

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    OP, I don't know how you came to the conclusion that first person POV is a bad thing.There's a lot of great 1st person novels out there, so it's best to become acquainted with one that is well written in order to gain a better grasp of how to make it work efectively. One of my all time favourite books uses 1st person POV extremely well - The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart. Most fiction uses either 1st or 3rd person and while 3rd person is easily the most used and easily recognisable both have their merits. It's when you start changing tense that it becomes more of an issue. The majority of fiction is written in past tense (both in 1st and 3rd person), but 1st person present tense I find reads a bit strangely most of the time.
    1st person POV past tense: I walked outside.
    1st person POV present tense: I walk outside.
     
  20. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    First person is difficult to do well. Its limitations are also the source of its beauty.

    The fatal tendency is to dwell on the POV character. The best first person writing arises from the narrator being more observer than subject. Also, first person works best in a pure form, where there is only one POV presented throughout.

    Sure, you can use first person other ways. You can also use a large adjustable wrench as a hammer. But its best use is as a wrench.
     
  21. Somnus
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    Somnus Member

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    It's not inherently evil, and a writer can use it to great success.
    The key word is 'can' - it's not a guarantee.
    The complaint I've heard most about it is over-use of the word 'I'; while repetitive pronouns can be an issue for any PoV, in third you can at least change from 'He' to 'Somnus' to 'The man' to 'He who will not shut up'. I'm sure there can be other problems with first person (with any style of writing, for that matter), but this is the one I've heard the most.
    If you feel your story should be in first, by all means, go for it - I might just suggest trying to write short segments in all three PoVs, thus insuring you know which one feels most natural to you and to your story setting.
     
  22. Rimuel
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    Rimuel Member

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    If I remember correctly, the cases in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes were written in first person. I found it greatly enjoyable.
     
  23. ketamineman
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    ketamineman Member

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    1st person is better. I would say it is harder to write than 3rd person. if you want to have something happen in 3rd you just do it. There is some event happening 1000 miles away, just have a scene with different characters.

    1st person is more fun and harder. you only know what the narrator knows. Plus, the unreliable narrator is always fun.

    3rd person puts you in another world. 1st person puts you in another person (no perv intended)

    i would say the hardest thing about 1st person is writing as someone else and not yourself.

    for good reads on 1st person, i would suggest anything by Bret Easton Ellis (rules of attraction is multiple 1st person POVs done right)
     
  24. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Why do you think it's better?
     
  25. mg357
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    mg357 Active Member

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    I write from the first point of view yes it is a challenge but I like challenges.
     

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