1. Liza
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    Liza Active Member

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    Switching POVs

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Liza, Jun 13, 2011.

    Okay, so I have written my story in first person so far, but I've seemed to lose flow. My story would be much better acquainted with third person. Is it a good idea to convert it? I just like first person better because I absolutely love to think, and it comes naturally. I guess I'm just more familiar with first person. But now, I feel as if I'm awkward with it, just starting to rewrite the beginning.

    Here it is:
    Weaving her way through a crowded school hallway, Alyssa didn’t have much on her mind. She was only wondering about how to get to her class as quickly as possible. Every day, she showed up late for English. She hoped to break that habit, though, starting that day.

    Is this just bad or am I just not used to it?
     
  2. Quezacotl
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    Quezacotl Contributing Member

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    You aren't used to it, however continue to write in third person, it will eventually feel natural to you.

    No writing is bad, really. All writers have room for improvement, some more than others.

    If you think it will make it sound better, go for it.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you aren't experienced with the third person POV, it may take some practice to get into the flow of it. Stick with it, though. Third person is much more flexible than first person, and yet can be every bit as intimate. It is a better choice for the majority of stories. Mastering it will probably improve your first person writing as well.
     
  4. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    I'm sorry, but I have to disagree. Third person is a better choice only if it fits the story you are trying to tell. You can take the same story and tell it in first person then third person and essentially end up with two completely different stories because it's all about the perspective. Good writing is good writing and changing the POV is not going to fix a problem with a story. If you are changing the POV because you need to get into the heads of more people to tell it the way you need to the change is a logical and necessary choice. If you are changing it because your plotline isn't flowing the way you want it to and you think a POV switch will fix it, I wish you luck. It probably won't. It might, but I doubt it. Third person is different, and you can get into the heads of more characters of course, but I don't think that describing it as a "better choice for the majority of stories" is really fair. Just my opinion of course, but I think that if you take your time, think things through, read a lot, and study those writings hard with practice you can make any POV shine like a diamond.
     
  5. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    The trouble is using the terms 'first person' and 'third person' as if there are only those two designations. There's a world of difference between first-person reminiscent and third-person limited, for instance, though not much difference between a first or third that are both limited.

    The first problem writers have is thinking the broad designation 'first person' or 'third person' has actually begun to explain what POV they're working it. It isn't. It's like choosing to write a story in English. Yes, very different from Russian, but how you use a language isn't described by what language you're working in.

    I'd agree that, these days at least, the majority of stories find a limited POV to be the best choice, whether first or third though is a coin toss, as it's more about reader expectation and writer skill than it is any limitations or boons with first or third themselves.

    Most of the time if a story isn't working, for whatever reason, changing POVs won't help, as the POV is usually not the problem. Sometimes the problem is the writer doesn't understand what POV they're actually operating in (again, thinking all first person POVs are alike, and all third persons alike). The problem is usually what the writer is managing to do, or not do, within that POV. Sometimes drafts can improve with a change of POV, of course, but it's more about the writer's skill or comfort level than anything to do with the POV itself.

    In general, though, no good has ever come from trying to solve complex writing issues by using terms as generic and uninformative as 'third person' or 'first person.' Imagine if someone said 'I don't know what's wrong with this story, it's in English, please help!' Uhh, probably true, but doesn't really explain what is or isn't being accomplished in the actual prose.
     
  6. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Granted, it's just an excerpt, so it's a bit difficult to judge what's really going on. I mean, last paragraph she may have just downed a flask of vodka, which would then give new meaning to her weaving and nothing on her mind.

    But, I'd say it's fine. Keep in mind most of a writers work is done in revision refining meanings and honing in on precision. Right now, this passage feels like it's getting us into the general ballpark of stuff, but not quite as refined or precise as it may get. Stuff like "didn't have much on her mind" is probably something that will change in revision. It's a throwaway. Not only does she have something on her mind, as is evidenced by the next couple sentences, but good fiction dictates you PUT something in her mind. So, that part is either simply not really true, or not very compelling, and at some point in revision I'd look for something more precise into what she actually is thinking or feeling.

    Wondering how to get to a class quickly is a bit odd, especially because you reference the wondering, but only indirectly. If you're writing in a limited POV that has a close psychic distance, meaning we aren't only watching the character, we are the character, then I'd try to refine the meaning of that wondering to something specific. We shouldn't be left with the question 'what is she wondering?' It's either important enough to tell us--perhaps she's wondering if she risks cutting through the teacher's lounge that she'll get to class on time--or it's not important enough, and only need a vague reference, at which point I'd replace it with something more specific.

    And I'll mention that whether first or third person, being precise and revising into refined, specific meanings, actions, images, senses, etc, is of paramount importance. It doesn't seem you have an issue with the POV, just that you're drafting, and hopefully in revision things will get worked out.

    But no, nothing fundamentally wrong with your third person, as expected.
     
  7. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    I have never heard of a POV causing problems with flow. Can you explain?

    As for issues that may arise with First person, I have seen the following in my work:

    1) "I", sores. You tend to start every sentence with, "I" in first person.

    2) You can not tell what the other characters are thinking, you have to show it. The readers have to get this information through inference. How you do this is through actions and dialog which is more of a challenge.

    3) You can not show an event that is happening out side of the MC's view. With third person you can not show a plot that is building against the MC with out his/her knowledge. You solve this with research and other characters sharing info with the MC.

    Are you having one these issues?
     
  8. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    The best example I can think of is again a writer problem, not POV problem. In first person, for instance, a lot of writers get too enamored with the 'voice' and start rambling on just to hear that voice. So, while a gunfight is going on, which should be quick, reactive sort of action, the first persona narration is rambling on, making quips, pontificating on things, asking 'what's with airline food,' or stuff like that just because it's so easy to do in the name of 'voicing' the character.[/quote]

    Same thing can happen in third person with every sentence starting with personal pronouns or their name (though you have two options, which means two ways to get predictable!).

    Same thing in a limited third person. It's an issue... err rather it's a feature of the limited POV, not of first person.

    Again, an aspect of a limited POV not unique to first person.

    This is what I mean by people generalizing the POV's. Because you can in fact have a reminiscent first person, where the narrator is looking back on events and very well can tell you what's happening outside the MC's direct view.

    Those are all common issues, though, just wanted to point out they aren't faults of the POV, and changing POVs will usually just migrate the problem to the new POV.

    Solutions:

    Learn to vary your language so you aren't being predictable and starting all sentences with "I" or "He" (good too in other ways, whether it's sentence length, paragraph length, expected phrases, expected plots, etc.).

    Learn the finer points of a POV. In a limited POV, you're exactly that, limited to the MC's perspective. Just because you're in third person doesn't mean you can bounce around the entire world you've created. Realize first person can also have omni POVs. Get comfortable with not only whether your story is first or third person, but whether it's limited or omni, and even the psychic distance.

    Psychic distance is a big one people often don't realize exists, but there's a big difference even in a limited POV between a 'through the eyes' or 'over the shoulder' or 'birdseye view' as all can be a limited third person, but vastly different POVs in execution, style, and effect.

    A good POV designation looks less like 'third person' and more like 'third person, limited, close, heavily voiced.'

    Voicing: Big difference between how a character is represented in the prose. An accountant might be 'he calculated it was time to retire for the evening' and 'he reckoned it was high time to turn in.' They're both the same information, but how that information is voiced is a major aspect of a POV.

    Most POV issues stem from writers not fully understanding the depth and breadth of what they're dealing with and simply bounce between POVs until they find one they happen to accomplish all the finer points with. Imo it's better to learn the finer points so a writer is using the POV, instead of the POV seeming to use them.
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    My first reaction when I saw this thread was: "Another (groan!) POV thread!" Questions about POV seem to persist, which suggests to me that it's a real problem for beginning and intermediate writers. So, I'd like to make a suggestion to Cogito (or any other mods): since this thread already has some really excellent advice in it, why not "sticky" it to the top of the page, and make it the POV thread? That way, anyone wanting advice on the subject will have it right here, and anytime people want to add to the discussion, they can do so, and not have it out there, separate and apart from related discussions.
     
  10. Eclipse~Illusion
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    Eclipse~Illusion New Member

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    Well, this seemed to answer a lot of my questions I guess. Usually, when I start a story my first thought is "What POV am I going to write it in?" instead of actually focusing on the story itself. I'll write a full scene in one POV then erase it, and go back and write in another, thinking that it'll sound better. So, I'm basically having the same problem as the original poster in a way. I'll be honest that first POV isn't one of strong suits, which is one of the main reasons I want to hone my skills. However, I feel like I keep getting caught in multiple traps along the way, including the "showing vs. telling" one.
     

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