1. UnknownBearing
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    UnknownBearing Contributing Member

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    POV Doubts

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by UnknownBearing, Nov 8, 2009.

    I've been writing my novel in first-person view. I thought it would be the best for the story if I could get as close to the character as possible, and differing vantage points wouldn't be a problem seeing as the story centered around one character.

    Just now I opened my file back up to finish the last half of chapter 7 when I realized that the whole first half of the chapter was written in 3rd person. And I didn't even realize it when writing.

    Is this a sign that maybe I should reconsider writing this in 1st person? It's not the first time this has happened, but it's certainly the most severe case.
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'd sure take it seriously as a 'sign' if i were you, since you seem to write naturally that way... also, it's the most preferred by readers, as well as agents/publishers, since first is so limited... in first, the reader can't be told about anything that happens beyond the narrator's view/knowledge, which usually makes for a boring and very restricted story...
     
  3. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do you read books that are mainly written in 3rd person? If so, maybe that's why you're subconsciously doing it. I read mainly first-person and consequently write in that POV.
     
  4. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    It really isn't the kind of thing where you can just flip a coin and decide, nor should it be decided by what agents might want (though personally, I see no reason a good first person novel would not be embraced by readers and publishers; in the past 10 years, 9 winners (of 10) of the Booker Prize were first person novels (though the American equivalent, the Pulitzer, gave only 5 first person novels (of 10) the award for fiction)). You need to think carefully about your story, and about the strengths and weaknesses of each of the viewpoints (which have been articulated at great length in countless other threads already).
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    First person is not the best choice for an unpublished writer. You shoul;d master third person before attempting to tackle first person.

    And yet, many beginning writers insist that "first person is what comes naturally."

    Well, that is true. Most beginning writers write themselves as the protagonist, consciously or unconsciously. And they feel their writing is going well, they just need to get around one little thing -- they have to cut down on the flood of "I" and "me" occurrences.

    What they don't understand is that the "I/me" syndrome is somewhat inherent in the way they are writing first person. They are "looking inward" at their character, instead of writing through the senses of the character, looking outward. It just is not a mature writing habit, and tends to rely too heavily on telling rather than showing (I felt, I saw, I knew, I was, I did this and that).
     
  6. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    I agree it might be just that you read many third person novels. If I write in first, a few times, I'll find myself switching to third by accident and I have to go back and fix it. It's honestly up to you whether or not you should take it as a sign. IMO, Aaron's right. You don't have to think about what readers and agents would want. Just write it. If it's great in first then it's great. If it's limiting and dull, you might have to do one of those humongous re-writes that I am surprisingly fond of.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You might want to think about why agents and publishers look for third person novels, or more to the point, why they are more likely to reject first person writing.

    If a publisher sees a piece of writing done well in first person, it will be immedciately apparent, and that publisher will read on.

    But the sad truth is that most first person submissions they see are written badly, and it is apparent before the end of the first page. It is more difficult to write first person well, and the majority of new writers who think they are writing better in first person than they would in third are deluding themselves.

    Of course there are many good writers who know how to write in third person, and who prefer to do so. But I would just about guarantee that not one of them does so because it is easier! They do so fro the mood they can create with it, knowing full well they are committing to the tight restrictions that go with it. I am equally certain that they mastered third person before they ever wrote a third person story that was accepted for publication.
     
  8. UnknownBearing
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    UnknownBearing Contributing Member

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    This is actually the first time I've written in 1st person. I write all my short stories and my last novel in 3rd person. So that might be why I'm slipping at times. The only problem is that at this point, I can't tell which one I like better. Here's an example of my writing when it's in 1st:


    As I ran, my body screamed at me to stop, but my instinct refused. It kept me going. The anger, hate, rage, and fury all dripped off of my body along with my sweat. I wanted to tell myself that everything was perfect, that nothing changes. But my adrenaline opened up my mind, cleared my vision, and I realized deep down that everything Josiah said was true. It allowed me to let go of my reluctance to accept reality. I admitted the truth to myself: The Commerce lied. That much was simple enough. And in this simple admittance, I realized that nothing is as perfect as it once seemed, that everything changes.

    I didn't know where I was running to. I was only running away from that horrible place, putting it as far away from myself as I could. I knew one day I would have to return, I would have to face Josiah once more, armed with the knowledge he forced upon me. It was only a partial knowledge, though. It was one piece to a puzzle, a brief glimpse of an intricate web, and before I faced Josiah again I needed to know more than he did. I needed to discover the whole story behind The Commerce's lies.

    I needed the truth.



    And when I slip in to 3rd person...


    Cassandra was a few yards away on the other end, standing casually behind a sculpture bearing a quote from ages passed, "Swords into plowshares." It symbolized the need for beneficial force in the world rather than making violence with fellow man. Michael stared at the statue long and hard, unable to accept its message, considering what he'd gotten in to. Maybe today he could reverse it all. Today he had the chance to set everything right, and prove that message true.

    Weaving in and out between the commuting pedestrians, Michael made his way to a less visible area, toward the power generators for the growing labs. The smell of methane was heavy in the air, drifting over from the nearby crystal mines. He noticed some pedestrians had their various noses crinkled up, wishing they wouldn't have to be exposed to the acrid scent. Michael supposed these were the lower-ranking workers, sent on errands no less important than other duties; just less fortunate.

    Catching Cassandra's eye, he gave a small, short gesture with his hands; now they wait. He was putting a lot on the line, but if anything went awry, Michael would put himself in front of Cassandra. If anyone took the consequences it would be him. It was now 17:30. Michael wondered if he would show.


    Both feel completely natural to me, which is probably why I can't feel the distinction when I switch. I can imagine writing either section in either pov. It's just that now I can't tell which is better for my story, and I don't want to make the wrong choice throughout the book.
     
  9. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Of those, the passage in third is better. In first, you have a tendency to fall into the trap Cog talked about of overusing "I/me". Good first person narratives aren't much different than third person except that the entire narrative is internalized by the narrator/narrated character and allows a certain subjectivity and colour in the text that is not so easily achieved in third person. It delivers quite a particular effect when done well, and you haven't quite got it in the passage there. That's not to say you're not capable of getting to that place, only that of the two passages you've shown here, the one in third seems a better fit.
     
  10. UnknownBearing
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    UnknownBearing Contributing Member

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    I was thinking so... I can imagine rewriting the first excerpt in 3rd more easily than I can imagine writing the second in first.

    So with this in mind, I'm thinking of just writing in 3rd person from now on. It's just that when I get to the more emotionally heavy parts of my novel later on, I don't want to feel the urge to start writing in 1st again @_@

    *I re-read Cog's post though, and I realize what he was actually talking about. I never even thought of it like that...
     
  11. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    The I/me usage isn't the problem...at least not normally within most first person POV stories that I read. A lot of it is the writing itself. For the most part, Unknown, what we see of your writing is raw, totally unedited. What you wrote in both first and third person could both be edited down to it's simplest form and be better. I'm sorry to say, as much of a snob as I admit to being, neither I would consider great. Ok, maybe. On the level of Twilight...there abouts.

    There is something about well written that jumps out at you. It grabs you, sucks you in, and makes it so that you can't put it down. Then there are reads that you go through, grudgingly, and finish because you have to finish it just to make sure you are right...that the writing is not as good as you hoped.

    One of the books I couldn't put down this past few weeks was John Dies At The End...yes I've read it online, but the printed hard copy had some better editing than the original had...though still basically the same. Not all writers need massive editing to have a book publishable, but some do need a good amount.

    If your story is sound, your characters well fleshed out, then the editing process will be simple. So what you made one slip int TP POV, change it for the better back into FP and finish the story...then go back and edit.
     
  12. UnknownBearing
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    UnknownBearing Contributing Member

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    All right.

    I think I'm gonna stick with my gut feeling about 1st person. I know I'm not skilled enough to pull it off, but it is a rough draft. I can always try to perfect my style and get better at it, but in the end after I've finished the draft I can always decide to switch to 3rd person for the rewrite.

    So thanks so much for the advice, and wish me luck. :D
     
  13. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    There have been some pretty heated and highly informative debates about first- and third-person writing on the site. It might be worth spending an hour reading through some of them so that you start to get an idea of the real differences between the two...its a lot more than a different pronoun...
     
  14. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    I just wanted to say that I really liked this comment you made because it's really all about us writing and practicing and trying out different styles and such. So whichever POV you choose to write in, you'll still benefit from the main thing: that you are continuing to write. :)
     
  15. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Two things to consider.

    1. Will the story be a better story if told in first person?
    2. What are you more skilled at writing?
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I think you are understimating the effort to switch viewpoints in a revision. It will almost certainly be a real rewrite. Writing in first person is a very different mindset, and it substantially alters how you tell the story.
     
  17. UnknownBearing
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    UnknownBearing Contributing Member

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    I know, that's why these doubts were kind of holding me back at the moment. POV is kind of a big deal to say the least, but when I get to the end of the story, and if I feel like it could be told better from a different viewpoint... I know it'll be different, and that's what would push me to make the decision if I would choose to do so.
     
  18. SirSmirnoff
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    SirSmirnoff New Member

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    when you rewrite, as I feel that you should... Maybe a 3rd person limited could be feasible? Just a thought. That's what I am attempting to do.
     
  19. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    I read your examples and I really liked the 1st person best. It felt more honest and this is one thing I value highly in things I read. Fine prose comes second, really -- and if I feel like the fine prose gets in the way of honesty, creating a formal facade, then I won't even bother to read it. I wan't uncensored truth in things I read, not wax and polish. :)
     
  20. Operaghost
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    Its difficult as everyone has there own opinions, and whilst it is true that third person can offer more scope as it can give information the character isn't privvy too this isn't always the case, if you take a look at My sisters kepper by Jodi Picault for instance, it is written entirely in first person, but from a different persons persepective in each chapter. Not that i woudl recommend this especially for first time writing but its an example of how you don't need to be limited,
     
  21. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I guess I'd disagree a little with the statement (and it may be the context you're discussing it in Mammamaia is pieces by writers trying to get published), as I write about half of my pieces in first person POV. I would say that it can make for a boring or very restricted story, but if first person POV is the correct one for the story and the writer executes it well the 1st person POV story won't end up boring and won't have any hint of restriction.

    I will agree that it takes more effort to avoid many of the pitfalls of 1st person POV that could lead it to be a boring/restrictive piece, which of course wouldn't be accepted by an editor (and thus published).

    As to the question: If the story flows better with 3rd person POV and it is easier to tell the story in that manner, choose it over 1st person POV. It is better to decide that early as it will require less time rewriting and revising.

    Terry
     
  22. HondaWriter
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    HondaWriter Member

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    UnknownBearing,

    Write what you are most comfortable with and what works best for the story you are creating. Dont worry about publishing and seek your voice, hone your craft and develop your characters until they are as real as your neighbors.

    I've gone back and forth on what to do with my novel and decided that only one character in the book will be in 1st person, the rest of the novel is in the 3rd. I think it works well for what Im doing. All POV's have pros and cons.

    Good luck to you!
     
  23. CaliWriterWV
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    CaliWriterWV Member

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    If I were you I would change my mind on which narrative voice you wanted to use. I think what happened was that you subconsciously told yourself you'd rather have it third person.

    But since your story is dealing with one character only, and you want it that way, keep it first person. Maybe you were just use to writing in Third so you slipped up once.

    If your mind keeps leading you back to third then keep it third. That's what your most comfortable with for the story.

    Just don't ever stop writing in a certain narrative voice because it's hard. Keep trying, all right?
     

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