1. eclipsenow
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    eclipsenow Member

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    Is first person *the* young adult POV?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by eclipsenow, Jan 11, 2014.

    Hi all,
    In "Allegiant", Veronica Roth starts a chapter with this beautiful, simple sentence.

    "Something is brewing."

    It then continues, "I can feel it as I walk..." and on it goes. It draws you in. You hardly notice the first sentence is only three words. Something is brewing. Something is going to happen. What? Do we need to run, to get out of here? Is a fight coming? What is it?

    Noticing this simple sentence, I wanted to compare it to how it would work in the Third Person. Here's my attempt to keep it neat and simple.

    "Frodo noticed that something was brewing." I can't even write it in the present tense. "Frodo feels that something is brewing," feels artificial somehow. What do you all think? Does Young Adult fiction (in the Hunger Games, Divergent style) just have to be First Person POV?
     
  2. Glacial
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    Glacial Member

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    What do you mean by the 'hunger games, divergent style'?

    But to answer your question, here's what I think: Absolutely not. No. Young adult fiction does not have to be first person point-of-view. That is silly. Before 2008 I'd say it was the norm to have third person past tense as the more common choice. The hunger games did present tense because it fit the novel perfectly. It flowed so naturally that I bet a lot of people reading it didn't even think about the fact it was present tense until someone else mentioned it. And because it was so successful it started a fad. I'm not knocking present tense at all, it does its job well with some novels. But no, young adult fiction does not have to be first person.
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    You don't need to attribute the thought/feeling to Frodo when you switch to third person, any more than you needed to for first person:

    Something is brewing. Frodo feels it as he walks...

    Though I prefer past tense:

    Something was brewing. Frodo felt it as he walked...
     
  4. eclipsenow
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    eclipsenow Member

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    Thank you both. Wow... I must be rusty to miss those seamless transitions ChickenFreak!

    (PS: It's weird timing that you answer this thread with that avatar! I'm currently about to build a new chicken run for my 2 Isa Browns. Their food needs protecting from all the possums and cockatoos we get here in Sydney).
     
  5. Glacial
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    Glacial Member

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    Haha that's funny, I missed those too at first. So simple.
     
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  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    What's wrong with, "Something was brewing. Frodo felt it as he [did something more substantial than just walking]"

    I have more problems with the present tense narration fad than with first person fixation. First person is more difficult to write well than third person, but it is a perfectly workable choice.

    Avoid focusing on how the POV character perceives. Instead of "Frodo noticed X happened," stick with "X happened." This will usually be stronger and cleaner writing.
     
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  7. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    I don't think it's the style; there are many YA novels I've read in third person. I personally prefer third person omniscient, past tense, but that's just an opinion. You need to decide what tense would suit your story, not bend it to suit the current market - if you ever got the story published, likelihood is that the market will have changed, anyway. So you need to ask yourself: what do I need my readers to feel when they're reading my story? Do I want them to know what many characters are thinking, and how the consequences of that are realised? Then you want third person omniscient, probably past tense. Do you want the reader to feel like the story is happening now, and the main character is talking to them? Consider using first person present tense.

    Have a search on Google for the different tenses, and then decide which one works best for you, your story, and your characters. :)
     
  8. eclipsenow
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    eclipsenow Member

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    Thanks again. Wow, Thomas writes in omniscient? I thought that went out with Lord of the Rings! I just haven't been reading enough lately. What recent Sci-Fi or Fantasy novels are in the big O?
     
  9. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series, The Iron Council (Bas-Lag series) by China Mieville, A song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin, Dune by Frank Herbert (if you count that as recent), etc.
     
  10. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Not at all. It's just not as common in YA lit. Sometimes it's hard to draw a line in the genres of Fantasy and Science Fiction, given the age-old reputation both genres have of belonging to younger people. MiƩville and Martin's work noted y @Thomas Kitchen, and also Herbert's Dune, don't qualify as YA at all to me. That's an important thing to note. They all posses deeper structural scaffolding than YA tends to have, and LotR is the very definition of thematically driven work in Fantasy. None of these are YA to me, though they may enjoy a YA following. There's all kinds of fantasy and science fiction aimed at a more adult audience and these works tend toward the 3rd person O or L.

    As others have already noted, the use of noticed, felt, took note of, considered, etc. is called filtering and is something to be careful of in any POV.
     
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  11. Glacial
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    Glacial Member

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    Thanks for that little article on filtering wrey. It had some great points in it. After reading that I thought I might have an issue with that as well in my writing. So I took a look at the only thing I've posted on here so far, and lo and behold! In the first sentence of a writing prompt I did (oh dear hahaha):

    "I heard my captors shuffling about in the other room."
     
  12. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    This is so simple and so obvious and so immensely helpful. I just changed the sentence I was working on before I tabbed over to WF and it improved immensely.

    Thanks for the insight Cogito.
     
  13. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Sorry, @Wreybies, I didn't mean that they were YA. The OP just asked for fantasy and sci-fi with omniscient, but maybe they did mean only YA omniscient anyway. In which case, my bad. :oops:
     
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  14. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    Please elaborate.
     
  15. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    No, no, no. :oops: My comment wasn't meant as a refute to yours, only as an augmentation that 3rd person O and L are very much alive and well in Fantasy and Science Fiction, but one must look outside the YA version of both to really find a good representation of such. I made mention of your post because all are very good examples, in the genres and aren't really YA, though many hold to the idea that anything within both genres is automatically YA by dint of belonging to these genres, as evidenced by the OP mentioning LotR in a thread about YA pov's when LotR isn't really YA at all.

    So, yeah, I was adding to, not correcting you. ;):p
     
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  16. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    You have the idea of first person wrong. The first line is a thought. Why would that change just because the personal pronouns changed?

    It's still, "Something is brewing."

    The second line becomes: "Frodo could feel it as he walked." How is that less useful or interesting? Changing personal pronouns is a writer's preference thing. There are gains and losses with the various POV presention styles, but they're not earthshaking. Were first person significantly better at conveying emotion everyone would use it.

    What you miss is that the reason it caught you is that it's in the protagonist's POV, and told in his moment of now. When you restated it as "Frodo noticed that something was brewing." You didn't just change the mode of presentation, you changed whose POV it is. It went from being his to that of the storyteller. In other words, you went from showing his viewpoint to telling about yours.

    His POV is on the scene and living it in real-time. Yours is a report on conditions somewhere other then where the storyteller is. It's like having someone narrate a slide show of a vacation as against living it.
     
  17. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I agree with Cog. Maybe I've just seen too much of it in my writer's critique group. It's writing first person POV in present tense.

    "I see them in the distance but they don't see me. I slip into a courtyard and duck down behind the wall."
     
  18. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    My novel, YA (emphasis on adult) target audience, is first person POV but shifts to the POV of three different characters before the end of the second book.
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The problem with present tense narrative is that it keeps pace in lockstep with reader time. With past tense narration, the relative time for the reader can vary from nanoseconds to eons. More to the point, the reader isn't dragged along on a leash, especially across the transitions between scenes.

    Present tense can work. Most of the time it falls flat, even by accomplished authors. For short pieces, you may be able to use that lockstep effect to keep the tension high, but for a novel, you're far more likely to irritate the reader.

    With past tense, you can modulate the pace from snappy immediacy, to a comfortable journey through years or millennia, and back again. Being able to vary the pace is a powerful tool, and shouldn't be tossed aside without an equally powerful advantage in return.

    I have not seen any such advantage in present tense narration. You can hold the reader to the moment just as well in past tense, while retaining the choice to ease the grip later.
     
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  20. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    Just as long as it isn't 3rd person passive tense, you're ok. :)
     
  21. eclipsenow
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    eclipsenow Member

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    That's very helpful!

    On a side-note about First Person POV, is this why describing their appearance is so hard? There's the age old device of looking in a mirror (which the whole Divergent series starts with, even in the movie trailer), but I always wondered why they couldn't use the character's thoughts?
    EG: "I know my hair is usually scruffy and I have a short, snub nose, but I'm not that worried about it. I've been told my smile makes up for it all."
    It's not quite the same thing as telling a narrator's POV, but the emphasis in the writing seems to shift a little. How much of First Person can be direct internal dialogue?
     
  22. eclipsenow
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    eclipsenow Member

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    Fantastic summary! It's going 'straight to the pool room'. (Aussie saying from "The Castle", which means, something for keeps, on pride of display).
     
  23. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that the problem with description is that you have to have a good reason for the narrator to be thinking about their appearance. This is true in first person or third person limited. (And in third person omniscient, you still need an excuse for the omniscient narrator to bring up the character's appearance.) If the narrator is aware of the audience, he might just openly describe himself to them, as in the children's book Missing Melinda, which claims to be written by twin sisters:

    There. I hope you're interested, for now I have to quick tell a few other things. Such as what were were doing in the tree. And how our faces are piquant and our uptilted noses have a sprinkling of freckles, ecept they don't. Our noses are almost as long as our braids, and boast no freckles at all...

    But usually the context is more fragile than that--you don't want to break the reader out of the story and make them aware of the narration. So you need a reason why the narrator is aware of their appearance.

    Maybe they're comparing themselves to a friend or enemy or sibling. Maybe they just changed their appearance and are worried about the reaction. Maybe they're seeing a critical parent for the first time in eighteen months. Maybe they're headed for a job interview or a blind date.

    But even there you want to include only what's relevant--for example, the guy going in for a job interview isn't likely to mention the color of his hair or eyes; he'll mainly be focused on whether his clothes are appropriate. And none of them are likely to tell you about their adorably crooked teeth, because they don't think they're adorable.

    To communicate some of the information in your example,

    Mom studied me, with a grieved crease across her brow. "James, your hair..."

    I smiled. "'Mussed', yes, Mom. It wouldn't be Christmas if you didn't tell me." I kept the smile on full power. That always worked.


    (I'm not really thrilled with my example here, but you see what I mean?)
     
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  24. eclipsenow
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    eclipsenow Member

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    Completely! It's show, don't tell. It's a concept I can appreciate when I see it, but can't seem to do myself. But thanks again!
     
  25. GingerCoffee
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    It's funny. I would have never thought to use a mirror scene to describe my first person POV narrator. It seems too contrived. That is unless the character loved looking at her/himself. ;)
     

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