1. ScottM84
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    ScottM84 Member

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    Who here has written in both first AND third persons?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ScottM84, Apr 2, 2015.

    Up until now, my novels have all been written in third person. I came up with an idea for another one yesterday though, that I'm imagining in first person. The story idea just strikes me as being more powerful if it's cast as the main character telling his own story. Having written only third person previously, I'm a little nervous about undertaking a first person story.

    Have you written in both formats? If you have, did you have any trouble making the shift? Are there any pitfalls that I should look out for?
     
  2. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    I had always written my stories in third person, until after university, when I had decided to write a novel. It was awful, it was a novel with no story or plot, my only aim was to experiment and break every rule of writing I'd ever heard about. I got to 25000 words and then called it a day. But I learnt a huge about from such an exercise, and learnt the majority of the rules of writing for myself within a fairly short period of time. My second attempt at a novel is my current one, and again, I decided to write first person, as it was a plot device. 5 years on I'm still writing that novel, but it is hard work, and on one occasion I nearly threw out my work and wanted to revert to third person. So be prepared for a slog. If it is not your natural writing style. But I would say try it, you will only improve as a writer by having a go.
     
  3. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Chinspinner always writes in third.
     
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  4. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've written both first and third: so has Shadowfax.

    It depends on what you're trying to do, and how closely you want to put the reader inside the MC's head.

    I'd say that first person is harder over the course a full-length novel, where you may want to shift POV to show the reader something crucial to the plot, but which the MC isn't party to - yet!
     
  5. Tim3232
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    Tim3232 Active Member

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    I had only written in 3rd until my last. The only pitfall I found was that I was so much in the MC's head and in the MC's voice that I had to be careful to retain that voice. From time to time I had to rewrite several pages because I could see I had wandered away from sounding like the MC.
     
  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I write in both (Romance in close third, YA in first).

    I have a bit of trouble with first b/c I want to use the 'right' words and more complex concepts than my characters would likely grasp, and I'm constrained from doing so. But it's not a huge deal.
     
  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I've written in both. I tend to prefer first person when I have a particular need for an unreliable narrator - that is, when I want to withhold some important detail from the reader until a critical point in the story that an objective 3rd person narrator would have no excuse for withholding. Otherwise, I tend to prefer 3rd person limited because I find shifting POVs is much easier. This is not to say that one cannot shift POVs in 1st person. You can, but the breaks must be more obvious (you pretty much have to do it by chapter change, not just a scene change) and the narrative voice has to be distinctly different for each POV.

    It is also possible to have both 1st and 3rd person narratives in the same novel. Hemingway did so in To Have and Have Not.
     
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  8. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    Both in my current WIP.
     
  9. wellthatsnice
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    wellthatsnice Active Member

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    I traditionally write in 3rd person, however when i have writers block one of my tricks to help break out of it is to write the scene im stuck on in first person stream of consciousness. Its amazing how a change in perspective can open everything up. Once i have that outline i then go back and do a re-write so that its in the same 3rd person style as the preceding text.

    Then to echo what Ed said, i write in first person when i have an MC who i specifically want to be manipulating the reader through withholding information or outright lying.
     
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  10. JTW
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    JTW New Member

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    What would be considered easier? Or is that just down to the individual? I have only written in first, although I would like to learn more about third.
     
  11. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    at first i used to write in first person, but each time i did, it got to a few thousand words then stopped, i reverted to third and found to be writing a lot easier, its not to say i wouldnt go back to first, in fact i intend to for one of my next projects
     
  12. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've written in both third and first person. Many of my short stories/novelettes have been in third person POV. All of my novels in first person POV.

    One of the difficult aspects of first person POV to be aware of is that in telling the story via first person POV, you only have access to what the POV character knows, thinks, observes (sees, hears, feels reads, etc.), learns or suspects. While this may seem obvious, it requires quite a bit more planning than using third person, especially with multiple POVs.
     
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  13. JTW
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    JTW New Member

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    Those are my thoughts. I've written a few short stories in first person, albeit I get the notion that the longer the story progresses the more beneficial it would be written in third? So far I'm merely just trying to attain as much knowledge and experimenting as I can to hopefully put to use further down the road.
     
  14. ScottM84
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    ScottM84 Member

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    I can see that there would be places in which the knowledge of the narrator might be limited in the first person, but there could also be places where his knowledge has filled in over time because he's recounting the story years after it happened. The MC is a hockey player who defected from Czechoslovakia in the mid-80's.

    I will have to adjust to observing the limits of the narrator, but I still think it's more effective first person because of the personal nature of the story. I'm also more than willing to tackle the challenge even if first person might be more difficult. What fun is writing if there's not a challenge or something to piece together?
     
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  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I've written in both. First is more restrictive, and most of what you can domin first can be just as effective in third.

    However, first, in enforcing the single point of view, reinforces that viewpoint to the experienced reader.

    Also, the unreliable narrator approach practically demands first person.

    The greatest pitfall of first is the "I" bludgeon, mostly resulting from excessively focusing inward instead of outward.
     
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  16. Lancie
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    Lancie Contributing Member

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    I write both. It definitely changes the POV which will effect the plot.

    I've also gotten a fair way into something and thought it would be better in a different tense, which is a bugger to sort out.
     
  17. Boger
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    Boger Contributing Member

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    Third person can be considered more easy then first person, since it can make a very descriptive tale of unfolding events, even step wise something like a recipe or summary. First person opens the door easily to more intricacy which is challenging, and needs more work, and if it works it can look much more prettier then the same story written in third person entirely. The mingled combination of both first and third can be messy, but certainly has it charm.
     
  18. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I've used both in novels and short stories. One novel I even wrote in third, wasn't satisfied and wrote the third draft?- I think? - In first.
    I didn't like it and switched back.
    Here's some cons of first -
    the viewpoint is limiting - if your mc hasn't heard about something it's irrelevant whether or not it happened. You're mc has to take notice but he can never be sure unless he's told. For instance in Lolita when Humbert leaves the hotel room the reader can't 'see' her hooking up with Quilty all we can do is take in the evidence Humbert notices - her smudged lipstick, gravely slippers, pleased look and assume like he does.

    the tone needs careful watching - Because everything rests on the I pov the character - whoever he is will effect the tone of the book. If the mc is a naïve dimwit you have to watch that she/he doesn't pull the entire book down to her level ( I'm thinking 50 shades and Flowers in the Attic ). If he's cynical ( Holden Caufield ) the book's tone can become cynical.

    Everything rest on your character - Unlike third which can adapt any viewpoint an I pov rests on how good/interesting your mc is.

    The I's and filter words can get out of control. - It takes practice to get good at not referring to the character constantly. One trick I've learned is to back off from trying to get the reader to 'see' the scene instead to more experience the scene through the character.

    Some pros of first -
    If you want an unreliable narrator it's practically a must.

    If you have a character with a unique pov I pov can really enhance it.

    If you want to have complete control over the viewpoint and action ( albeit filtered ) it's a good pov to use. Romance and horror good genres to use I pov as it can keep the reader in the intensity of feelings.

    I've used I pov for a robot story from the robot's pov, from a teacher's pov who is having a nervous breakdown and becomes increasingly unreliable, from a business owner's pov who is suspicious of everyone and for a few other shorts.

    I'd practice for a scene to decide whether or not it's the right pov for you. I did a whole draft of a novel before realizing it was terrible. I'm not sure if it was the restricted viewpoint or the fact that I was trying to imitate Nabokov and it backfired.
     
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  19. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have a short story written in 1st person (letter by MC), 3rd person (general narration), and 1st person again (another letter).
     
  20. Blighters
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    Blighters Member

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    I've written the odd short story in 1st - Just to see what it was like. Enjoyed it and found it more of a challenge but not sure I could handle a longer peice with it. Found it great with erotica though as so much of the experience was 'internal' (thoughts, reactions, emotions etc). Found it much easier to express these when writing in 1st.

    I should probably have more of a swing at it just to gain experiance.
     
  21. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    I started off writing my novel in Third, but due to my narrator being overly pass remarkable, I decided to give First a go. The weird thing for me, was that it took me to write in First to understand why my Third Person narrative was so intrusive. I'm not sure that information would have clicked otherwise.

    You should give it a go, maybe write up a couple of shorts or passages first to help you get a feel for it. I asked for recommendations of books in different styles and genres to see what was possible. I wouldn't say it is a preference, but I'm glad to have had the opportunity to experiment, as I feel I understand both better.
     
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  22. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's so cool.
     
  23. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Has anyone written in second?

    I wrote a short story in it and LOVED it, but I've never done anything longer, b/c nobody seems to like reading it.

    Except me. I like reading it, I like writing it. There, I said it. I'm a fan of second person!
     
  24. ScottM84
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    ScottM84 Member

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    I'll play around with first person a bit and see how I can do with it. The more replies to this thread that I read, the more convinced I become that first person would be ideal for the story I have in mind.

    The local library here never had the largest collection of books, but one series they had quite a few of that I loved as a kid were the "Choose Your Own Adventure" series. Those were all set in second person, and I liked that perspective. Maybe we're rare, but you're not the only one.
     
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  25. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've tried but haven't able to really follow through. It feels unnatural. I'd have to really think about a way for it to make sense, like a sci-fi setting where you're being told by a computer about your experiences in virtual reality or something. Or a hypnotist or shaman walking you through a vision. But even then I would probably want it as a portion of a story written in primarily 1st or 3rd.
     

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