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  1. Miswrite
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    Miswrite Member

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    Third Person is More Professional?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Miswrite, Jun 6, 2008.

    On a writing website I frequent, several users have said they prefer third person to first person. Reasons for this are usually:
    • first person is too easy to write; third person takes 'skill'
    • third person gives the reader a better picture of what is going on
    • first person presses unwanted emotions into the reader
    Is this true, in your opinions? I have always liked first person, and find it very fun to work with.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I would disagree that first person is "easier". But other than that, I do generally agree,

    First person narrative does have its place, though. I find it particularly effective in mystery novels, in which the protagonist's shifting perspective on the observed facts is what the writer wants to keep the reader in tune with. Having the lead character explain his or her reasoning to a sidekick is an alternative (think Holmes and Watson). A third person perspective doesn't have much advantage over first person when most of your time is spent looking into the main character's thought process.

    One particular advantage of third person is that you can reveal information to the reader that the central character is unaware of. That is a critical component of suspense, for example.

    A major disadvantage of first person is that you will find yourself writing "I" and "me" a lot.

    I'd avoid first person unless you are certain you never want to shift the point of view outside the main character's perception. But that is not a hard and fast rule.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'd agree in principle... but...

    sure, 1st is probably easier to do poorly... but it's extremely difficult to do well... only a rare few of even the very finest of writers/successful authors can pull it off well enough to get away with it...

    bottom line is that most 1st person and any person present tense stuff is done by amateurs and beginning writers and isn't done well enough to sell... agents/publishers who are deluged with such stuff daily, usually shudder at first glance and won't bother reading past the first page...

    so, to maximize your chances of selling your work, stick to what people want to read and write in 3rd/past...
     
  4. Miswrite
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    I'll bring up everyone love/hate writer, Stephenie Meyer, into this. She writes in first person, and not excellently, yet her books sell. Is it just the forbidden love factor? :p
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I have never read Stephanie Meyer.

    I think there are quite a few authors who write first person past tense successfully. Sue Grafton wites all her alphabet mysteries as her character, Kinsey Millhone, in first person. Another mystery author I know personally, Linda Barnes, does the same with her private investigator, Carlotta Carlyle.

    Writing in first person is nowhere near as horrid as writing in present tense. It is possible there is some literary genius who has written a powerful novel in present tense, but even so, he or she probably did it on a bet. I certainly have never seen any piece of fiction I could stomach written in present tense, in any voice.
     
  6. Miswrite
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    Present tense is utterly horrible, I agree as I type on my keyboard. I sigh and decide that I can't even bear to write it, and vomit with disgust on the carpet.
     
  7. Lucy E.
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    I don't write or read in 1st person because I generally find it annoying, and the character's thoughts sometimes tend to detract from the story. Also, everything seems sort of like you're viewing it through binoculars or something. I have no idea why, but that's just what it's like for me. I also find every character other than the MC underdeveloped, and the MC her/himself irritating.
     
  8. EyezForYou
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    You must find Stephen King annoying.

    And I do too.

    The man has no story to tell, just rambles on and on, and is horrible in first person.
     
  9. ugu
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    ugu Member

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    I don't think writing in third person takes more "skill," per se. I just think many books that are written in first person are not as well thought-out, especially when said books are also known as "chicklit." I remember I gave up on (teen) chicklit way back in high school because I kept thinking: "This got published? I could've written this, and I don't consider myself a professional writer. Screw you, Meg Cabot."

    There are some first-person non-chicklit novels that I love, but most of the time I do think third-person novels are more "professional." For some reason.
     
  10. EyezForYou
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    More professional, but emotionless--when compared to well written first person.
     
  11. SnipSnap
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    I actually prefer second person, and think it takes much skill, and is easy to understand for the reader, because who else would they understand best but themselves? And that's exactly what second person does. Puts all the reigns directly into the reader's hands. Although that doesn't necessarily mean that every becomes clear as day in second person. Ambiguity is up to the author.
     
  12. Anliya
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    Has anyone read Jonathan Safran Foer's novels? His writing is a great example of first person narrative. Sometimes, it seems like he tries a bit too hard (like how new talented artists are eager to show off their skill), but he makes you fall in love with the narrator. For example, in one of his books, the narrator is a Ukrainian with really butchered English, but the strange word choice and sentence structure are rather endearing. In his other novel, the narrator is a young boy who lost his father on 9/11, and you really hear the intelligent yet innocent voice.

    But you asked if third person is more "professional," so the answer would be yes. You rarely see professional writing in first person, but who would want to want to read a piece of fiction that sounds professional? :)
     
  13. Weston13
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    Personally, I dislike first person and try to never read it, and will never write. I'm not fond of experiencing the story through the narrow viewpoint of a sole character.

    I don't think it's easier than writing 3rd person but, as others have said, it takes a lot of skill to write it well. I'm currently reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and I'm having to force myself through it -- I like to finish what I start -- however, it seems that the character is so obsessed with himself that the conflict doesn't take off until about pg. 120 and then it sinks back into mediocrity.

    Other than that, I agree with the second and third points.
     
  14. FantasyWitch
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    FantasyWitch Contributing Member

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    I think both styles have merit.
    A good writer must know when it is appropriate to use first person and third person. David Eddings told the Belgariad in third person exceptionally well then went on to do the biography of one of the main characters in "Belgarath the sorcerer" in first person.
    It depends entierly on how well you know the character!
    Eddings spent a long time getting to know his character. So he did his first person well.
    Third person is also exceptionally hard to write well! I write in third person because i find first harder to do. I feel to much of the emotions of the character.
    But personally I think that has more to do with the author as a person then the charcter and skill.
     
  15. Brode
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    The thing about it is that it's pointless to create "professional" first person. The great advantage of the viewpoint is in allowing limitless insight into a character's thoughts and feelings. With a bland character, it just doesn't work. So yes, you can make a clean and technical and professional piece of writing in the first person; but you'll lose the main advantage of writing in the style. First-person stories are generally carried more on character development than plot development, as it right ought to be.
     
  16. Scribe Rewan
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    I dont think first person is easier to write, but I do hate it. I want a book to take me out of the confines of my body and my experiences, and place me in a new situation. But I dont want to be taken out of myself and then shoved into someone else. I can't bear to read it and I will never write he. I should have written that in 3rd person, shouldn't I?
     
  17. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've written and had short fiction published in both First Person and Third Person Limited.

    Each has merits and drawbacks. As was suggested by FantasyWitch, it depends some on the character. It also, I believe, depends on the story to be told.

    I think that some writers in this thread are mixing third person limited with the omniscient point of view. There is also another rarely used 3rd person POV type, called Third Person Dramatic (if I recall accurately), where there is no intrusion into any character's thoughts. It's as if an observer follows characters around and reports what they do and say.

    If written well, to me it doesn't matter what POV the author uses. POV is simply a perspective (tool or method) to tell a story to the reader. Some authors preferring one over the other is perfectly legitimate.

    But back to the original question, one (1st or 3rd person POV) is not more or less 'professional' with respect to fiction. Would one accurately call Roger Zelazny or Steven Brust or Sandra Kring or any other author who writes his/her work in first person 'unprofessional’ for using it?) One or the other POV is not easier every time. It depends on the story being told. When writing essays or similar non-fiction, third person is the way to go (what is generally expected). However, as always, one can find exceptions to every rule.

    Terry
     
  18. Smithy
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    Smithy Senior Member

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    I would never write first person (I'm too fond of switching POVs) but for an example of first person done really well, read the Warlord trilogy by Bernard Cornwell. It's a riff on the Arthur story told party in 1st Person present (the MC writing his memoirs in British monastery) and partly in 1st person past (the actual story itself). Well written and a good story too.
     
  19. Amor
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    I actually don't mind first person, although some better books that I've read are usually in third person. Stephenie Meyer's "The Host" is in first person because there are two minds in one body...correct me if I'm wrong, but it would probably be difficult to write about the emotions of the original mind, as well as the new mind in the body, in third person (sorry if that sounds confusing...it's just a confusing book).
     
  20. Miswrite
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    Amor (that's French for love, right? The one French word I know :p) I have actually read all of Meyer's books, The Host included. Her Twilight trilogy is also first person, and many people I know agree that the books are only good for one time, because if you reread you will realize how bad the first person is.

    Wow, I can't believe how many of you hate first person. For me, I like it more because it follows thoughts, if done right. Thrid person is more descriptive to me, like I am seeing things and then describing them. First person just feels more direct to me. To each his own, eh?
     
  21. Gone Wishing
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    Whenever you talk about a creative medium - i.e. art - opinions are always going to be subjective and have no right/wrong answer; therefore I'd have to say that I disagree with the points in the original post, purely because I find statements like that rather counter-productive to the creative process itself. Most stories seem to have a sort of 'natural state of being' - to me, at least - sometimes it's in first person, sometimes it's not...

    I have no real preference in terms of perspective, though I have never been able to appreciate present tense in any of them. :)
     
  22. Amor
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    It's Spanish for love :) Italian is "Amore" :-D

    Yes, they are good for reading them only once, I think. I think it's the "forbidden love" element of the "Twilight" series that catches readers' attention rather than the quality of the first person -- the stories are in first person, but it's focusing a lot more on Edward Cullen than the main character, Bella Swan.
     
  23. Miswrite
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    Well, I was half-right :p

    Then again, if a story makes the reader focus on the narrative and not the plot and characters, it's probably not very good anyway. If I was caught up in a story, I wouldn't analyze the narrative, I'd turn the page. Unless the narrative was glaring horrible, of course.
     
  24. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, but that's nonsensical... there's no lack of 'emotion' in a well-written story told in third person... and most of the amateurish first person stuff i've seen is so crammed with 'emotion' that i can't read more than a paragraph of it without having to reach for a barf bag...

    nope!... as noted above, it's spanish... and latin... the french version has a 'u' after the 'o'... 'amour'...
     
  25. Brode
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    There seems to be some sort of confused notion here that you cannot switch points of view in a first-person narrative. This simply isn't true. So long as your characters sound different enough, you can switch viewpoints just as easily in first-person as you can in third-person.
     

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