1. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Multiple 1st Persons

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Chinspinner, Mar 15, 2015.

    Shudder.

    I have only read novels with multiple 1st person narrators a couple of times and it pulled me so swiftly and completely out of both novels I discarded them there and then. It felt strangely disingenuous for the author to suddenly switch to a different 1st person narrator, I found myself genuinely irritated that they hadn't just written the thing in 3rd.

    Which led me to wonder, does anyone have any examples where this does work?
     
  2. Lotti
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    Lotti New Member

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    I personally have never seen that work either. It just feels weird to constantly remind myself of whose head I'm in. To me, first person means that the narrator is actively telling the story and should really only be done when there is a good reason, so switching between first person POVs can be really jarring. I suppose it could work when the different POV characters have very distinct voices, but again, I have yet to see that work as well.

    I once read a book that was mostly first person, except for a few chapters that were in third limited, so that was even weirder.
     
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  3. Darkkin
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    Darkkin Reflection of a nobody Contributor

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    First person perspective is an acquired taste for some. ( I still can't stand it, I 'll read it, but I don't have to like it.) Doing first POV well is tough enough, to try and do multiple first POV is nigh on to cruel. A cinder block tumbling down a flight of stairs is probably smoother.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2015
  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's quite common in YA and NA. I'm currently writing the third book in a YA romance series that alternates between the male and female leads' POVs, each in first person.

    It's useful to have a distinctive voice for each character, and if necessary the breaks can be labelled with the character names to show the shift.

    But if it doesn't feel natural for you, don't do it. There are lots of ways to write - no need to use one that doesn't seem like a good fit.
     
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  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    A Home at the End of the World by Pulitzer Prize winner, Michael Cunningham. A moving book, profoundly uncompromising in its humanity. I loved it. I cried. Books rarely make me cry.
     
  6. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Interesting. Looking at the synopsis it seems to be going all out to tug at the heartstrings, it made me think of that Stewie quote "prepare to feeeel, Brian" before playing his rendition of Everything I Do.

    Does it have a tendency to pile one heart breaking scenario onto another until you feel uncomfortably manipulated?
     
  7. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    No.... I would not say that is the modus operandi of the writer in this work. I'm not one to enjoy being emotionally manipulated in books or in film. It is a sad book, to be sure, though. It cannot be denied.
     
  8. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's a really good book. I would say the emotions are understated, rather than manipulative.
     
  9. theoriginalmonsterman
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    theoriginalmonsterman Pickle Contest Administrator Contributor

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    It would be interesting to see a story with multiple first persons... but the question is how you would portray that, because directly saying that "Now this part will be another person's perspective" sort of ruins the story's vibe.
     
  10. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    The Poisonwood Bible does this and does it well.
    I loved the style, and the book.

    I'm writing a duology. In book one, the one I'm close to finishing, the story is told by a teen girl who grew up in a village. Near the end, the POV of a young man from the city who is the transition character comes in. In the second book the story is about a teen girl who grew up in the city with the young man connecting the two stories. I think it's working.
     
  11. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    A famous example is Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, which is narrated by fifteen different characters.
     
  12. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Both the examples above quite appeal.
     
  13. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You'll like it or it'll annoy your balls off, but Bret Easton Ellis's Rules of Attraction. It was actually surprisingly easy to keep track of the characters.

    Sure, it made me go "Ellis is such a douche" by the time I arrived at a chapter from some French guy's POV. Written in French. That's almost like my writing the entire novel in English and then throwing in one chapter in Finnish. Have fun with the google translate! Oh, except Ellis's book was published in the '80s, so it was just a fuck you at people who don't know French.

    Entertaining novel though! Resonated even with the 2007 me (I still partied back then), even though it's an '80s product.
     
  14. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    A chapter of an English language novel in French? Pretentious wanker. I'm afraid I'll be skipping that book as a matter of principle.
     
  15. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'd recommend you download/read a sample and see if it grabs you; don't judge a book by its random French chapter. The POVs actually work really well, and the characters have their own voices.

    It is pretentious, but at the same time, I kinda secretly like it. It doesn't reach Richard Milward level of wankery, and it's better (imo) than Ellis's debut novel Less than Zero. Yes, The Rules of Attraction begins à la Joyce's Finnegan's Wake in the middle of the first sentence:

    So that's pretty pretentious. And the characters are quite aloof and at times annoying, but I guess I recognized some of my own annoyingness in them, so I could actually relate.

    Oh yeah, Richard Milward's Apples has several 1st person POVs. I think also the POV of a streetlamp, if I remember correctly. It's readable, unlike his second novel.
     

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