1. Ex Leper
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    Ex Leper Member

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    Problem Choosing Perspective

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Ex Leper, Jul 6, 2015.

    So here's the problem: I can't decide from what perspective to write my story. Third person or first? I see the whole story laid out in front of me and two very different ways of telling it.

    The third person way is more conventional, dare I say forumlaic, but is easier to write. The key point for me is I can get a really exciting opening hook from this method, before calming down for the first act.

    The first person perspective is less conventional, the way I plan to use it, and therefore trickier to get right. My main problem with this is I would lose the exciting opening hook that the third person offers. But, this is my prefered method of writing my story.

    Let me go into more detail:

    THIRD PERSON

    Prologue - recount events from two years ago. Tense, exciting opening. Main character doesn't know about these events until the third act. In this version story opens with a ton of questions and no answers. A decent hook.

    First Act - slow build to second act.

    FIRST PERSON

    Narrator is clearly speaking to the reader from after the events of the book and is recounting the events. In recounting the events she recounts the account of another character. So, a narrative within a narrative within a narrative. Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft. Fits my story very well. Problem is it would be a very slow, possibly awkward hookless opening.

    Any body else encounter problems like this? What would you do?
     
  2. carsun1000
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    carsun1000 Active Member

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    I know the feeling. It's really hard to decide sometimes which way to go. What I had done in the past was to write a full first chapter in both perspectives. I then read each one of them aloud and made a choice from that point. I went with the third person because I found it easier to "recount" as opposed to "being" the action. This worked for me. Not sure it would do wonders for others. But the perspective you find easiest to write is probably the way to go.
     
  3. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    There's actually a pretty recent thread over here that might have some posts you might fund useful.

    You could always do your prologue in third and then switch to first. Or, find some other hook in the 1p recounting.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2015
  4. mad_hatter
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    mad_hatter Active Member

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    I don't get what you're trying to do with your first person perspective. Is the narrator a character within the story? If not, and they're telling somebody else's story, then they are, essentially, you. And therefore, this middle-man (so to speak) becomes unnecessary.

    In third person, you will write: 'She walked into the house...' In first person, you will write: 'I walked into the house...'

    What you're talking about doing would end up looking more like: '"She walked in to the house," I told her.' You'll end up having a whole third-person story told within the dialogue of a first person character. It'd become even more confusing if there's dialogue in the story: '""No, thank you," she said, as she left the house," I told her.' If fact, reading the OP, you’re talking about a story within a story within a story. So, perhaps: '""The girl screamed at the monster, “Leave me alone!”” she said to the children,” I told her.’ Of course, you could do this, but I feel it would become incredibly difficult for your readers. You’d soon lose them. Can you think of any examples of something similar to what you’re thinking of?

    I could be completely misunderstanding what you’re planning to do here, so please correct me if I’m wrong.
     
  5. Ex Leper
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    Ex Leper Member

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    Carsun1000, thanks for the advice. I've already tried writing both styles. Still can't decide.

    izzybot, I'll check out that thread. Thanks.

    mad_hatter, have you ever read H.P. Lovecraft? He does this a few times. The narrator will be someone in a mental institute, for example, writing about how he got there. He will make it clear at the start that he is writing from after the events he is about to tell you. Often the narrator will then tell you how he discovered a mysterious and forbidden book. The majority of the story is now the words of this book, which may contain another account of another character's point of view. So, after reading the mysterious and forbidden book the narrator will then tell the reader how it affected him, and of the mysterious monsters he sees in the shadows and how he has been driven mad by all this. So you have the narrator recounting an account from a book and telling you how it affected him.

    Something like that. Lovecraft's not the easiest author to read.

    EDIT: From Wikipedia: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein at one point features the narration of an Arctic explorer, who records the narration of Victor Frankenstein, who recounts the narration of his creation, who narrates the story of a cabin dwelling family he secretly observes.

    A more well-known story that uses story within a story on mulitple layers.
     
  6. mad_hatter
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    mad_hatter Active Member

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    I've read some Lovecraft and I've read Frankenstein, both quite some time ago. I don't ever remember being confused by the writing of either though. I think what your attempting to do (and what Frankenstein does, if I remember correctly) is to change from one characters perspective to another, either telling the same story, or different interwoven stories. That's fine. I'd just try to avoid switching characters during a chapter. New chapter, new character, no problem.

    I think izzybot offers some good advice there; consider writing a prologue in third person, then switching to first person for the bulk of your story.

    Personally, I much prefer to read third person than first...
     
  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Actually, other than the preference of the writer, 1st person is just as easy to write as third person, and just about anything that can be done in 1st person can be done in 3rd person limited. 1st person is preferable if you need an unreliable narrator. I find 3rd person preferable if I want to have multiple POV characters (and I usually do), because while it is possible to have more than one POV character in 1st person, one must them make absolutely certain that their "voices" are all dissimilar from one another.

    3rd person has been used more than 1st, but here lately, I think 1st has become very popular. Neither can be considered, by itself, to be "formulaic".

    Certainly a point in favor of using 3rd person in your story.

    You say you prefer it and that it fits your story well, but you don't say why. I haven't read anything by Lovecraft, but it strikes me that you are inclined to 1st person because you think it's "less conventional" and because a writer you admire used it. In my opinion, neither is a sufficiently good reason to use a technique when you already think it makes telling your story harder. My advice is to use whatever method makes it easiest to tell your story, because that will also make it easiest for your reader to read it.

    Good luck.
     
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  8. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Difficult choice - but I would think the story should dictate more than just the opening on whether you pick first person or third.
    With first person your mc has to learn everything - either through a third party or be present or it's like it never happened. With third you can show an army descending on her castle ( I have no idea what your story is just using this as an excuse ) while she's brushing her hair and build some tension. The reader can be aware of things the mc isn't privy to yet.

    With first person you have to be more clever about building tension. The reader can never be aware of something the mc doesn't know unless it's something like the mc can't understand why she feels so warm and giddy around Mark. Or rumor has it an army is heading their way and the mc is ignoring the clues that the reader is picking up.

    You seem to prefer 1st person pov over third assuming 1st is more unconventional. Actually it's all on voice and how you work it. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

    I haven't read H.P. Lovecraft but to me it sounds like recounting events could lead to tense issues and possibly a lot of telling.
     
  9. Rosacrvx
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    Rosacrvx Member

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    I wonder why so many people say this. I don't agree at all! As an omniscient narrator you have to be extra careful not to be intrusive, descriptions are usually boring unless you "borrow" a character's point of view, and you're expected to tell the reader what's going on in all of the main character's minds (or at least I am expecting that of the narrator!) which can be tricky when you have a gathering of three or more characters and you have to skip from one to the other constantly. Sometimes I feel very tired writing from so many perspectives. It's like I'm acting all the roles in one play.
    With the first person you remain in the safe zone of one character who is telling the story and no more is required of you. And if this character is emotional, poetic even, he can say nothing wrong.
    I always write as the omniscient narrator but sometimes I let this or that character "think out loud" and I find those are the easiest parts to write. A lot less tiring for me, that's for sure!
     
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  10. Sal Boxford
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    Sal Boxford Active Member

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    @Rosacrvx I agree that third person is not easier to write. When I write in 3rd person the results are usually pretty bad. I get over-wordy and boring - I become this big know-it-all creator, in love with her own characters, marvelling at her creativity, drifting off on tangents. I find it difficult to write well in this POV.

    For me first person is always easiest, for the reasons you give. I know what to include or not (because I just report what he sees/thinks), any poor grammar or other foibles are his problem, not mine, mood/emotion builds naturally because the way he writes/speaks will change with the situation. It feels so much less artificial - both to write and (hopefully) to read.
     
  11. Rosacrvx
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    Rosacrvx Member

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    Funny that you mention this because I had this lovely experience writing through the point of view of a child and, at some point, let this three-year-old "think out loud" in mid sentence as he would speak in "real life" and it was a lot of fun to write! I only hope the readers will enjoy it too when they realise they're suddenly reading a three-year-old child grammar and vocabulary... but I find it so cute! :)

    What's difficult, after letting my characters "think out loud", is returning to the omniscient narrator. Compared to the quirky language of some characters, the narrator can sound dry. My hope is that the reader gets used to this style and keeps waiting for another character's voice to be heard. (If I don't blunder, that is.)
     
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  12. Elven Candy
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    Elven Candy Contributing Member

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    You could always go the Jane Austin style and give the narrator a voice of his/her/it(?)'s own. It's subtle, but it's there, and it adds so much enjoyment to the story. I don't read many omniscient point of view books, mostly just third person limited, but I've never found Jane Austin's narrator dry.

    @Ex Leper, I actually hate prologues most of the time. If a book has a prologue, the back-cover blurb had better have hooked me good to get through that prologue. I MUCH prefer discovering what happened as the main character discovers it. But not everyone hates prologues, so take my preference with a grain of salt.

    The beginning of a book doesn't have to be exciting--it can also be intriguing. In fact, intrigue hooks me a lot faster and for a lot longer than exciting does, especially if the book then gets slow for a while. There HAS to be something interesting happening that you can use to hook the reader while writing in the first person. Or you can do what others suggested and just write the prologue anyway. Prologues often don't follow the viewpoint or rules of the rest of the book (one reason I don't like them, to be honest).
     
  13. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm confused. You seem to be equating third person with omniscient. But third person omniscient is just one of the third person choices. You're absolutely NOT expected to tell the reader what's going on all of the main characters' minds, even in third person omniscient. And in closed third person limited, the writing is very similar to first person.
     
  14. Rosacrvx
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    Rosacrvx Member

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    I wasn't taught literature that way. I indeed thought that the third person was the same as the omniscient narrator. I just read an article on the differences and I get it now. But I wasn't taught that difference during my many years in school and university. It's news to me, thank you.

    I do write as the omniscient narrator so I wasn't wrong about that.
     
  15. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    There's a lot to unpack here.

    Others have explained why third is not formulaic or any more conventional than first. In fact, in young adult, first is probably used more than third.

    The specific style you're thinking of, where a narrator recounts past events, isn't unusual either and certainly doesn't have to be "slow and awkward."

    In any case, I don't see how this is a first vs third question. You can do your "third person" option in first, and your "first person" option in third. You can have a prologue in third and the rest of the book in first. You can use close third limited, which can be identical to first except for the pronouns (she/he instead of I). I write in that style because I prefer third person pronouns, maybe because I associate first with YA books and I write adult. E.g.:

    It was time to tell my story, after all these years. I took a deep breath and began.

    I was born, I said, in...

    It was time to tell her story, after all these years. She took a deep breath and began.

    She was born, she said, in...

    So this isn't a question of 1st/3rd. It's a question of which opening you use, in either.

    This doesn't sound like a great idea, and plays into the reasons that so many dislike prologues. You're going to write a tense, exciting opening, get the reader hooked on that narrative... and then jerk them out of it, put them with a new narrator, and make them sit through another opening only, this time, it'll be slow? Abort! Abort!

    This does not have to be slow and awkward at all. I'm not sure why you think that?

    ---

    Generally, I think it's a bad idea to be this focused on your opening hook before the story is written. That anxiety leads to gimmicks (which is what your proposed prologue sounds like, to me) and annoyed readers who see through it. Get the story written, and THEN worry about your hook.

    And also, don't underestimate readers. I know there are all those articles out there screaming at you that your first chapter/page/paragraph/sentence/word must be dynamite or readers will lose interest and go and play on their Xboxes, but they're misleading. Readers will give you space to get the story going, within reason, and a "hook" doesn't have to mean tense and exciting. It means interesting.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2016

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