1. bry2882
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    bry2882 New Member

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    is this acceptable?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by bry2882, Jul 24, 2012.

    First im pretty new, so this is kind of a beginners question:

    Im writting a fictional story, and I'd like to write in first person point of view. But im thinking that it might be hard to get all angles of the story from just my main character's voice. Is it common to write in first person but from... say, 3 or 4 alternating characters?

    I was thinkn of it like this: each chapter would be labled by the characters name that was ”speaking”, and through the story it would bounce around between a few different characters.

    It seems as though ive seen this style before, I just cant think of a specific example. So is it common?
     
  2. Frusciante
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    Frusciante Member

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    Most point-of-view switching stories are in 3rd person limited narrative, focusing on one particular character, but I think it could be pulled off in 1st person. It all depends on how you segue chapters, I'd say.
     
  3. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    I have never written in first person, but I've beta'ed at least one 1st person story where they did exactly what you were saying. A big landmine to avoid, is making all your characters have a similar voice. Because you're inside their heads, hearing their thoughts, make sure that they have very different thought patterns, or think about different things.


    So, if a there is a scene where a car runs a stoplight and hits another car, what would each of the characters think? How would they describe that scene in ways that are unique to that character?

    Would Johny's POV be: I turned instantly, hearing the tires scream against the pavement, and saw the 67 mustang T-bone the little Honda - metal on plastic is never a fair fight.
    Would Annie's POV be: The godawful noise caught my attention and I turned just in time. The fear etched on both of their faces is something I will never forget, it was the same look my mother had the night we were hit. It was the last of hers I ever saw.

    (Warning - slight swearing to make a point of POV changes).

    Then Jack's POV would have to be different from both of theirs: Damn, I know that sound. Screw this, I thought to myself and threw the roses down. If Sarah doesn't understand, screw her too. The people in those cars may be dying. Damn! Damn! Damn! On my friggen day off too. I reached into my coat and didn't even bother with 911, but called Bobby directly. "Dude, get your ass in the wagon and down to 41st and Jefferson. . . ."

    I'd also make sure the POV changes weren't abrupt, and made sense. One last thing, (and if others disagree with me, take their opinion instead, as I don't have enough experience here, except for reading), don't revisit the same exact scene from multiple POV's. I don't mean don't change a POV, then go back and relive the last few lines of the previous scene, just to pick up where you left off from a different POV. What I mean is, readers will get board reading the same scene multiple times, unless you're doing something very specific with it and one POV sees something very, very different in the scene, like say, a man in a cheap suit that keeps appearing as things blow up, but no one else can see him except for one character.
     
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  4. Morkonan
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    Morkonan Senior Member

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    Writing such a story might seem like fun, right? But, what about reading it?

    Picture this - Your reader settles down with your novel. They start reading and get wrapped up in the first character. That character does things. That character has experiences. That character's story progresses. Then, the come across the next character and the story starts over. The character experiences many things, most of which relate to the same story. But, the reader has to go back in a time-machine to the start of the action or is otherwise separated from what they liked in the original character's story. Then, it's on to another character, with different views, but within the same story. Back and forth they go, where it stops... is likely to end up being where the book is thrown in the garbage can. Unless it is done well, that is. Do it well and you'll probably be rewarded. Do it poorly and your adventurous style of multiple first-person views will fail, horribly.

    As a writer, instead of trying to rely on this gimmick, what you should be doing is finding the character with the most interesting story and telling it from their point of view. If you can't find one and don't want to leave the others behind, then it's off to the Third-Person, Omniscient point of view table. That is why it's so darn popular - Third-Person, Omniscient affords you the opportunity to tell everyone's story, from their point of view, without any gimmicky First-Person hijinks.

    There could be a calling for multiple First-Person views, but only if you construct the story and the scenes so that they compliment that unique writing mechanic. You'll need to work on specifically building the story so that it meshes naturally with First-Person views from multiple perspectives. You'll have to easily be able to distinguish Narrators, locations, time-lines, scenes, sub-plots, the whole bit. That won't be easy. It can be done, for sure. But, it's not going to be easy to do for one story.

    One of my favorite Anthologies, "Thieve's World", has multiple authors tracing their characters through a shared plot, sometimes even giving a fresh perspective on scenes their character shares with the character of another writer. It's really a wonderful read and the city of Sanctuary is very flushed out, by the time the series hits its stride. But, many of the inclusions are their own stories, their own plots and characters, and many do not closely interact with the plots of others. So, that wouldn't be likely to be a good model for a book with a single story.

    There have been many books that have done what you suggest. But, they do it in different ways, mostly in episodic or anthology format and mostly using an overarching plotline that spans multiple editions, but has many different characters and subplots contained within it. I'm sure that there are plenty in classic literature, but the titles escape me, at the moment. Why is that? Well, they're not really popular, that's why. :)
     
  5. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    I've got a novel in mind with varying PoVs. I'm planning on one view being third-person omniscient, and the other being first-person from a secondary character's view -- think Nick Carraway in the Great Gatsby. I figure such an approach, with the two PoVs being inherently distinct, will minimize (if not eliminate) reader confusion, and at the same time allow me the freedom as author to both investigate details that no one character would know, while at the same time give me a platform (in the voice of a character) for giving opinions without getting preachy.

    At least, that's my hope. The worst that can happen is that the effort doesn't succeed. That's okay. Not every creative endeavor does. If I don't try, it has exactly no chance.
     
  6. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    I read a book written like this recently, Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir. I think the style suited the story in that case because there was a lot of plotting amongst a small group of people so it was interesting to see plans unfold through everyone's eyes (the book is about what happened to Lady Jane Grey, the author is a historian). That said, I wouldn't choose this style just because it seems easier- it will actually be very difficult to pull off effectively, and even then as has been pointed out the style could still put people off.
     
  7. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    If I'm not mistaken, and there's a chance that I am, because I haven't read the novel for quite some time, but Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, is written with first person POV's with each chapter being a different character's interpretation, as to what lead up to the mother's death.
     
  8. bry2882
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    bry2882 New Member

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    Awesome feedback. Thanks to everyone. I think I may attempt it. I was not planning on having the plot overlap through chapters, so Im hoping it wont feel too repetitive, as Morkonan warned about.

    And E C had a great point about establishing different "voices" for each character. I'll def keep that in mind.

    Its a bit relieving to know that this has been done, and apparently pulled off. I think I'll go forward, testing it out for at least a few chapters. If I have to go back and re-write them then so be it.

    Thanks again.
     
  9. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    "Game of thrones" by George R.R. Martin does something like that. It's in 3rd person, but each chapter is from the perspective of a different character. I don't see why you couldn't do the same with first person. As long as each character has a unique perspective and brings different things to the table. That's the only thing you might have trouble with. I've experimented with first person before, and i've found that to write well in first person, it has to be colored by emotion, and to color it with emotion, you have to put yourself in each situation that you're writing, otherwise it falls flat and seems like your character didn't really care about what was going on. To do that with 3 or 4 different perspectives may be difficult. I definitely think it's worth a shot tho!
     
  10. Scott Berman
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    Scott Berman Member

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    Its been years since I read them, but I believe Animorph's were written like that, and I'm pretty sure that is part of what made them appeal to me as a young teen. It can really help a reader connect to the characters if done well. The books are pretty short being that their for young readers, so you might want to check them out.
     
  11. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    It absolutely has been done many times -- it has, in fact, been done so many times that avid readers of fiction have developed opinions about liking it or not liking it. Many people, sometimes including me, don't like it because it can be jarring when you're sitting in a comfy chair with your blanket around you, getting really into what a particular narrator is saying, and you reach the end of the chapter, but the next chapter is from a different narrator, and damn it - you want to know what's happening next with the narrator you were just reading about! So sometimes you skip ahead to read the next section by the first narrator. (As was mentioned by Mork, above.)

    That said, since it's been seen many times, it obviously is an accepted method, and even when readers don't like it they will often forgive it in the end, because it was necessary for the whole story to come out.

    I've been toying with doing this myself, although I think for my particular story this will be particularly difficult and likely won't work. But for many stories it is just the trick that's needed.

    If you have a good bookstore near you, try asking the folks that work there if they have any suggestions as far as books you could read that have utilized this device. If the bookstore has good, avid-reader employees (as many bookstores have), they should be able to give you a few.
     
  12. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    My own view is that the strength of a 1st person narrative is to create a sense of intimacy between the reader and the character that goes beyond a simple recitation of what happened. Having multiple characters in the same story trying to establish that kind of relationship with the reader strikes me as counterproductive and self-defeating. Not impossible, but I would think very difficult to pull off in an effective way.

    Beginning writers always seem to think they must do something bold and different, as if establishing their writing voice depends on it. But it doesn't. Tell a good story in a straightforward manner, and that will do wonders for your writing voice. My advice would be to forget the gimmicky narrative and tell it in 3rd person limited.

    Best of luck.
     

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