1. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    Style What is your perspective on POV and how has it changed over time?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Alesia, Dec 14, 2013.

    When I started reading books as a kid, I never paid much attention to POV. If the story was good, I read it. Simple as that. After awhile I found myself preferring third person stories as opposed to first which I found to sound like a blabbermouth yapping about things I had little interest in, sort of like a guy chatting to you on a bus stop or a drunk recounting his life story in a bar. Yet as more time passed, I now find that I prefer first person to third person, the latter feeling somewhat disassociated to me. I feel closer to the MC in a first person narrative if that makes sense. As a result, I want to write exclusively in first person (tense is a matter of how the story is working.)

    Has anyone else seen a radical shift in POV preference like this?
     
  2. osu45d
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    osu45d Member

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    i think it is still pretty common especially in YA books and i do like it as you can describe feelings and you can also keep important plot points secret as the character doesnt know them. I am actally considering experimenting with dual first person narritives where the pov switches between 2 or more characters.
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I can't say it's ever made much difference to me. A good story is a good story, whether it's written in first or third person. A number of novels I've read have been written ostensibly in first person, but where the narrator was only a minor character in the main story - To Kill A Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, That Night, The Last Hurrah and Lisa Bright and Dark spring to mind - and in such cases, the novel really read as if it had been written in third person. It's been noted on this forum and elsewhere that a first person narrator as a main character is inherently less reliable because we tend not to trust someone with an emotional stake in the story he is telling to be completely honest. Third person narration carries with it the feel of a more objective storytelling. In my own case, I tend to limit the use of first person narration to those cases in which I want the reader to be getting a somewhat slanted, personal view. In one novel, using first person narration actually allowed me to effectively hide something from the reader until the end on the theory that it hadn't even occurred to the narrator.

    Such situations notwithstanding, my preference is for third person narration, since I tend to like writing from multiple POVs, and I don't like the way that comes across if done in first person.
     
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  4. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I understood third person limited as a POV where you only relate what is known or observed by a scene's POV character. Otherwise it becomes third person omniscient.

    Replies above mine seem to indicate that only happens in first person though. Have I misinterpreted something?
     
  5. Vante
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    Vante New Member

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    I am currently writing a novel in the first person POV. 25000 words into the first draft, I find that it is more difficult to develop characters besides your MC, because your looking at them strictly through the interactions and filter of your MC.

    That's my little tidbit.
     
  6. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    I have to wonder if that is part of the reason I like writing in 1p so much is I don't mind too much to develop the side characters. I like to focus on the MC and the MC alone.
     
  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    No, that's correct. But one can use 3rd limited for a variety of characters, switching from scene to scene to do so. Tom Clancy did this a lot, to name just one example. 3rd omniscient is not giving any one character's particular perspective, so that one can describe anyone at any time from an "objective" perspective without a scene change.
     
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  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I'm with @EdFromNY - I don't care what POV a story is written in so long as the author does it well and writes a great story.
     
  9. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    You're talking about presentation, not POV. While we call it first, or third person POV, it's only the means by which we present point of view, which is a very different thing (an example of what POV is and how it helps drive a story can be found here). Which personal pronoun we use is a matter of writer choice and reader preference. There is no difference between

    I went to the garage and got the car.
    He went to the garage and got the car.
    You went to the garage and got the car.

    Three different personal pronouns, in a line focused on the protagonist, but in all, the same protagonist went to the same garage and got the same car. In reality, none of them are in the character's POV because they're summations of a task and POV is always in real-time, and concerned with what the protagonist is paying attention to in the moment they call now. Were you to say:

    The elevator stopped. As the door opened he checked the area, senses heightened. Everything appeared normal so he got into the car and drove...

    Because we know what matters to the protagonist, and how the character views what they're focused on it's in the protagonist's POV. Changing the personal pronouns would have no effect on it being in that character's POV.

    I mention this because it's something most new writers misunderstand.

    The presentation you use, first, second, third, fly on the wall, omniscient, etc. does impose certain restrictions and have certain strengths, but for the most part, are interchangeable.
     
  10. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    For once I agree with JayZ - narrator and pronoun are not the same thing. In a way, the terminology (mis)used (for example "third person limited") creates an illusion that you can easily discern between three exclusive "points of view". Fact is, the pronoun may be enough to discern between types of narrators (actually, to easily recognize a homodiegetic narrator=1st person)... I really recommend reading some Genette (and Stanzel) to get a deeper understanding of narrative modes.

    I must admit that I never felt any preference for one or another (especially not on the simple basis of the most frequent pronouns). I do find the unreliable narrator to be great fun - but it's hardly exclusive. However, it is interesting that, when it comes to books that I remember, I never mentally catalogued them by their narrators. For example, I've read (actually, my grandma read it to me) Robinson Crusoe, when I was really young (maybe 5). Later, I always thought that it was an abridged version because I remembered it as told in third person. The book that she read was, actually, the actual original. I mentally switched this, I think, because I've listen to it as a story: my mind created Robinson as a character although he never "spoke" of himself in third person. Not to mention the fact I missed the whole colonialist sub-context, anglo-dominant political position, capitalist ideology, homoeroticism, patriarchal exclusiveness etc (thanks to 20 different academic criticisms, I can never again enjoy that book) :p
     
  11. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    One sometimes-overlooked aspect of first-versus-third-person-POV (touched on by @EdFromNY in his first post, above) is the ever-present question of HOW a first person POV narrator has come to be telling the story.

    Sometimes they do it in a diary or series of letters, which means the story unfolds for us the same as it does for them. (Daddy Long Legs.) Other times they tell the story of their youth after they've reached maturity or old age, either verbally or in writing. (Treasure Island, Old Yeller.) Or, sometime after an important event, they offer hindsight. (The Great Gatsby.) All these methods make sense.

    Ignoring 'how' a first-person storyteller's tale came to be told can produce really ridiculous results.

    The worst example of an idiotic first-person POV that comes to my mind is not actually a story, but a (very long) song which was popular on the folk scene in Scotland some years ago, called The Last Leviathan. It is a modern song, written from the first 'person' POV of ...wait for it ...a dead whale.

    While everybody else in the room was snuffling along as the whale's sad fate unfolded from the lungs of a lugubrious singer, here was me sitting there thinking: WHAT??? How the hell can a dead whale write a song?

    It came across as banal and impossible—and quite ruined the point the songwriter and singer was trying to make.

    I think if you're going to use first person, you do need to keep the 'how' in mind, and make sure the reader knows 'how.'

    As Ed pointed out, a first-person DOES limit you as a narrator. You can be unreliable. You can be blinkered. You won't be able to shift to what others are doing during the course of the story. These limitations can strengthen a story of course, but they are limits.

    The benefit of springing surprise twists on the reader using first person (alluded to by Ed) only works if the story is told in ongoing diary or letter format. If the story is being told after the fact, the surprises will have already been sprung on the POV character. If the POV character then withholds them from the reader, this can make the reader feel very cheated; I've certainly felt that way before, after having read an otherwise excellent book.

    A third person perspective does NOT limit the way a reader can get into a character's head, although sometimes newbie writers use this POV as if it does. But you can write ALL of your character's thoughts and feelings in their own particular voice. Futhermore, from a third person POV, you can drop more hints as to what made them that way.

    The best thing about third person POV is that you can shift perspective between several characters, as the plot unfolds ...getting as deeply into each one's persona as you wish.

    I've read excellent books written from both perspectives, but I know I prefer to write in third. It's like the difference between chamber music and a full orchestra. Both make grand music, but the full orchestra offers more options.
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2013
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not sure why this gets repeated so often on writing forums. Of course you can shift to other viewpoints in a first-person story. Plenty of books do it. Just change to a different character's point-of-view.
     
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  13. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Why should this necessarily be important? I don't think most first person books I've read ever address this issues. Why should changing the pronoun to first person suddenly mean you have to adopt some artifice of letter-writing or journal-keeping to explain how the story came to be. You don't need to explain it any more than you need to explain a third-person story, in my view. The lack of explanation in most first-person books doesn't bother me.

    I guess it varies from reader to reader, but I don't care about this when I'm reading.
     
  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, you're right, of course. I keep thinking of shifting between an "I" POV to a 'he, she or they' POV. This seems incredibly clumsy. However, I forgot there are books out there with "I" POVs from several different characters. This does work. I just wasn't thinking of this mode when I started pontificating away there...o_O

    It does matter to me 'how' a first-person story gets told, though. For example, if the character has died ...how are they telling us a story? If the story is found among old papers or something, it makes sense. But how can the narrator of a story DIE? Or even be about to die? If they're dead, they're not talking or writing, are they? It's one of those little niggles that does bother me. I think it bothers other people as well, hence the frequent reliance on diaries, letters and/or the backward-looking narrator.
     
  15. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think you have to go by your individual tastes as a reader, of course. One series I read a couple of years ago had a main character whose viewpoint was always in first person, and then multiple secondary characters provided in third person. I think Nick Sagan used first, second, and third in Edenborn when switching between viewpoint characters. That sort of thing doesn't bother me, but some people don't like it. And I could see a writer being clumsy about it through inexperience.
     
  16. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, fair enough. I'm not saying I wouldn't like to read one of these ...I just don't think I ever have. However, anything that works is fine in my opinion. More power to the arm, and all that...
     
  17. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I hear you :) I'm not saying anyone else has to like that sort of thing, it just doesn't bother me personally.
     
  18. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    It's individual to the reader. Not a big deal to me. You can apply the same rationale to third-person books.

    Take Clan of the Cave Bear, for example. How is the narrator telling us the story of events that happened 25,000 years ago? Or, in a futuristic book, how is the narrator telling us about events that haven't happened? In a science fiction book that takes place in a distant galaxy, how did the narrator's chronicle of the events make its way to us here on earth?

    I don't think you have to answer those questions because the reader is suspending that disbelief and going along with the tale. Some narrators are more intrusive, others almost invisible. Some present the tale in first person, some in third. It's all a fiction, ultimately, so I don't have any more trouble believing one than the other. I've read books where the first-person narrator dies and someone else picks up the narrative. I'm fine with that. I agree that others aren't, because I've seen this come up a few times here :)
     
  19. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I guess it's because third person means the writer isn't pretending to live the story him/herself, but is telling us what they think might have happened to another person, could happen, or maybe will happen.

    When the story is told from the first person, though, the implication is that the events DID happen, and that the story is autobiographical—even though we know it's a piece of fiction.

    There is a story 'truth' in first person that isn't the same kind of truth as you get with third. Therefore, I always become uncomfortable reading stories where the first-person narrator has died—without some explanation of how we are getting to hear their story—or a story from a narrator who couldn't be telling a story in the first place ...ie yon whale.

    Just me, I reckon. Maybe I take things too literally.
     
  20. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Nah. I think a lot of people read it that way. I just view it more as a fiction / artistic choice, so it doesn't bother me either way (it would if it was non-fiction of course!).
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2013
  21. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Cool that's how I've always understood it. I was just a little confused by the post that seemed to say that first person had the advantage that "you can also keep important plot points secret as the character doesn't know them." I wondered how that was a particular advantage of first person when you can do precisely the same in third person limited if you want.

    To be honest I thought you were saying the same thing as the guy above you, though rereading things, now I've noticed the subtle but crucial difference that you're saying the narrator didn't know the twist (not just the character). Which I guess could occasionally make a difference, though I'd have thought you could still do most plot twists in third person.
    Having had a think about it, one story which wouldn't have worked very well in third person is Fight Club, on the basis of the guy not revealing his name, which is much easier in first person.

    I've so far mostly written in third person and plan to stick that way. Though I have written in second person, in chose your own adventures, that I used to enjoy writing as a teenager and more recently in my work on computer games.
     
  22. Siena
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    Siena Active Member

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    No.

    I really don't worry about it. I just decide early on how to write it and commit.
     
  23. M. B. Wright
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    M. B. Wright Member

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    I haven't felt any radical shift for me when it comes to POV. I've been aware of other POV's besides 3rd but I'm not really familiar with them as much. I've posted somewhere that I tried to read Hunger Games and I couldn't get past the first chapter. But that's just because I wasn't really used to the perspective. I like my 3rd person POV, what can I say? The window's bigger when you look through it that way. I feel that talented authors can do a lot more with 3rd, but my opinion is still growing. :)
     
  24. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    I don't blame you on that. I found the Hunger Games to be like 50 Shades: Dull and boring, combined with bad writing and wooden characters.
     

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