1. lynn89
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    lynn89 New Member

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    Is writing in first person bad?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by lynn89, Feb 24, 2011.

    I am writing my story in first person. However I have come across some people on the internet that seem to look down on anyone who writes in a first person perspective. One of them even said that most publishers won't even consider a story written in first person. Is this the case? Should I change my story to a third person perspective?
     
  2. Paris_Love
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    Paris_Love Member

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    Lots of very famous books are written in first person. The Help, on the NYT best seller's list now (and has been for a very long time) is written in 1st person of four different characters.

    Just know that there is an exception to every rule. Write the story how you feel it needs to be written.
     
  3. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    A ton of books today are written in first person. It's pretty popular right now from what I can see. It's not for everybody, but if you like it and think you can do it, then by all means, go ahead.
     
  4. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    I personally am not a huge fan of first person, reading or writing it. That doesn't make it bad though, it just happens to be my preference.
     
  5. Florent150
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    Florent150 Member

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    Absolutely nothing wrong with first person, although I'm not the biggest fan.
     
  6. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, there are definately markets that are less interested in first person POV pieces.

    But if that POV is the right one for the story being told (better than 3rd person limited for example) and you employ 1st person POV in an effective manner, there are plenty of markets out there.

    Flank Hawk is a first person POV novel. Half of my published short stories are in first person POV.

    Sandra Kring's first novel (Carry Me Home) was in first person POV, present tense. Many people frown upon that combination, but it goes to prove, if you do it well and it's the right choice...

    Maybe re-evaluate your options and do what you think is right for the story.

    Good luck moving forward.

    Terry
     
  7. c.m.n.
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    c.m.n. New Member

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    I write in first person as well. I've always found my writing much more descriptive when I write that way.
    I've heard this too, that people will turn away from 1st person POV's but I've also come to realize many of my favorite (and famous) authors write that way. It's all personal preference really and remember to write the way you want to write.
     
  8. Peerie Pict
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    Peerie Pict Contributing Member Contributor

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    Lynn

    I think the biggest problem with 1st person POV is that everything must be 'seen through the eyes' of your main character. This might seem fine in theory. In fact, it is great if you want the reader to emotionally connect with your character. However, it's hard to impartially bring in external events unless your character is privy to them. Indeed even if the protagonist is there, telling the reader about something that happened, you can only believe the facts insofar as you rely on the protagonist's interpretation of them.

    It's also very difficult to stop the prose from being inundated with 'me, me, me' and 'I, I, I'.

    First person POV is usually used when the protagonist is looking back and narrating a life event. Is that the case in your story?
     
  9. Kitcross750
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    Kitcross750 Member

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    I do a lot of writing in the first person because I write travel pieces where my account of what I felt/saw/did makes the article come alive. The idea is readers can see themselves in the canoe, up the Amazon through my eyes. That's the theory anyway.

    I guess you have to look at what the market is for the piece. I recently wrote an article about drive-in theatres for a magazine. The original story was in first person. On review I changed it to third person. There was no reason for me to be in the story and it took the focus away from the information and the stories told in the interviews. Version 2 was much stronger for that particular piece (and appropriate for the magazine)

    When it comes to fiction, I am not uncomfortable with first person accounts at all.

    Charles Dickens--David Copperfield (Opening chapter) "I am Born" I can't imagine this tale NOT in first person.

    Happy writing!
     
  10. Mystic_snowfang
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    Mystic_snowfang Member

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    Only if you're bad at it.
     
  11. Writing in the Mist
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    Writing in the Mist Member

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    PointOfView

    lynn89,

    Points of view aren't really "good" or "bad" things. Some people do look down on first person, perhaps because when a work is written entirely in one POV or another it can become cramped (my observation). The key is to switch back and forth fluidly and use each to get an advantage over a particular scene.

    Say you want the reader to know exactly what the character is doing:
    "Looking around me at the foliage rustling restlessly in the moonlight I shivered. Reaching up I pulled my cloak more tightly around me in an attempt to ward of the swirling mists."

    But if you wanted to build the mood in the reader and leave them to imagine the character's reaction to their surroundings:
    "Gnarled trees and tangled vines rose darkly up the tall walls shutting them in. The moon shone her beams down through wild foliage and swirling mist."

    With multiple POV options the possibilities are almost endless.

    Cogito has an excellent post on POVs: http://www.writingforums.org/blog.php?b=777

    Remember, no one POV is necessarily best for your story. Each scene may require a different approach to its description.

    Hope this helps, Mist.
     
  12. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Several of my very favourite stories are written first person
    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
    Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearne
    The God Box by Alex Sanchez
    Anything by Gervase Phinn
    The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

    The others in my top ten are all third person limited

    I'm writing some of my stories first person because that is what works better for them.
     
  13. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I use whichever pov works best for a particular story.
    Try writing 300-400 words in first person and the same in third person- then see which works best - which pov sounds/feels/ flows best. Which pov are you the writer most comfortable with?

    I don't look at the point of view as being either good or bad - they are options, tools of the trade. Choose the 'tool' that is best suited for the job. It comes down to style/choice.
     
  14. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    $50 says the person who told you agents won't read first person was born before 1950. If there ever was this kind of sentiment in the publishing industry (and I've encountered absolutely no evidence that there is), it certainly isn't the case now, especially in non-US publishing markets.

    If first person suits your story best, or even if you just want to use it, then use it.
     
  15. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I love it, if it's well-written. One of my all-time favourite books is 'Coming up for air'.

    I've been experimenting with it recently in some short stories.

    Go for it, if that's what you feel is best for your story. :)
     
  16. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    First of all don't listen to such advice without knowing the reasons supporting it. Before you go change your POV, let me give you my words of wisdom :D

    There are advantages and limitations for using first person POV. It can make the readers feel a deeper internal and in-depth emotional connections with the POV char. The same can also be the limiting factor if the story becomes too internal, in the mind of the char. It is very natural for beginner writers to choose and feel comfortable writing in first person POV, and sadly also to write too internally. I think it is for that reason that new writers are not encouraged to write in first person, and the publishers toast such stories just because they are badly written. I don't think publishers have anything against first person POV per se.

    Speaking from my personal experience, if you are a beginner writer I say leave your comfort zone and learn also to write in third person. When you are pretty sure you can write a story in third person fairly good, come back and try writing stories in first person. You'll find that there is a world of difference in the way you approach writing in first person than before.
     
  17. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I suspect that first person is liked by writers more than by readers -- it always seems to me to be a lazy option -- but there are great works written in first person and it's certainly not a bar to publication.
     
  18. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I suspect most readers don't actually care. As a reader I only care when the author has chosen the wrong POV for their story and it is a bar to me becoming engrossed. If I can remember what POV a story is written in it is because it is a bad example of it.

    Not sure what makes first person an easy option - I actually think its harder to get right, work your way round the problems etc. It suits my fantasy quite well because I have 'options' to allow my character to observe what is going on and there is at least one chapter which reads like third person because he watching what is going on as a bird. The few chapters I have written of my third person is much easier - all I need to do is write the story. Lot less thought and consideration is needed.

    My first story wouldn't work right in third person the point of the story would be lost. My new Gus and Iris would be horrible in first person because of the restrictions it places on the story.

    I actually think to use third person past tense as a default is a lazy option - rather than actually looking at the story and seeing what works.
     
  19. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, I think it can be, especially amongst older writers. But younger writers seem to go straight to first person rather than actually looking at the story and seeing what works, and I'm getting to the stage in life when most writers seem to be younger writers so I see that problem more often.
     
  20. zilly
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    zilly Senior Member

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    Seconded.
     
  21. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    First person is easier to fall into but harder to do right. Third person takes more effort to get going, but the results generally feel better because there's already an emotional remove, and the reader doesn't feel bullied into thinking one way or the other. My main character in the first person novel I'm working on is a bit of a jerk sometimes, and I know I'm walking a fine line where someone might say, "Actually, I hate him so I stopped reading," while if it was still in 3rd person as it was, the characters are just presented and the reader can make the judgement up, and love and hate them as they please without feeling it ruins their experience of the story.


    The problem with beginner writers is they write first person that's almost indistinguishable from the way they think and act anyway, because that's the first person they're most comfortable with, and that leads to all sorts of traps and writing wrong-doings. In third person, people can begin to experiment and get away from themselves more confidently, so it's probably a general advice not to stay in your comfort zone or something.
     
  22. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    That is probably more due to the tendancy for young adult novels to be first person - even the Hardy Boy franchise now does one of their series first person, Frank and Joe alternate chapters it works quite well. Lian Hearne's books are amazing however I personally think it would have been even better third person. Alex Sanchez is perfect in first (not sure if all his books are first or just the ones I have read). There is a learning curve to both POVs and I guess each generation uses the one they are most familiar with reading. Although I am finding third person easier to write getting the passion and humour in is taking time to get used to. I also find it's a lot less fun to write - with first person it's like being the character as your write, with third person as a writer I am more of an observer.

    I thought I had done first person present tense naturally until I read my very first draft yesterday its third person past tense lol I thought it had always been first person. Having read the draft I am more convinced first person is correct for the story.

    Like Arron said do what works best for the story. For me it's better to do the right one well - than a default or popular one badly.
     
  23. tristan.n
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    tristan.n Active Member

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    You could do both; my story is in first person right now, but I'm going to make a copy and change it to third person to see which point of view is most effective.
     
  24. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that's good practice, and is what Elgaisma and I are both saying about avoiding the lazy option (even though we have opposite views on which option is the lazy option -- is anybody going to come along and argue that 2nd person is the lazy option? :D)

    I'm reading a book at the moment in which two characters argue over who is going to control the first-person narrative which is a nice little gag (consistent with the rest of the style of the book) and that clearly would not work in 3rd person. The key is for the voice (and POV) to be a choice, not just the only thing you know how to do.
     
  25. ellebell16
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    There's only three books that stand out to me that I've read in the first person; Ella Enchanted, Percy Jackson, and Twilight. Ella Enchanted was an amazing book; Meg Cabot has a specialty for writing in the first person. Most of her books are written as such (Princess Diaries, The Mediator, All American Girl, etc.).

    Percy Jackson had a really good plot and the story was fun to read, but the writing wasn't great. I think it was more because Rick Riordan was writing as he went along and not planning it out.

    Twilight was just...well, Twilight. Smeyer made a mistake in the first person by using it to be like a movie - we got to know every little detail that Bella did. When she flipped her hair, scratched her nose, what types of clothes she wore...it was more of a day in the life than an actual story.

    You just have to know how to use it.
     

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