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Perspective.

  1. Third-person / narrator

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  2. First-person

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  3. Other (please state in reply)

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  1. CerebralToxins

    CerebralToxins New Member

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    New to writing stories. Perspective question.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by CerebralToxins, Jul 31, 2017.

    I am finally deciding to try and write up a small novel/anthology of shorter stories set in the same world. It has been in my mind for well over a year or two now, the problem is when I go to start I am not sure which perspective I should adopt.

    For some insight, the story takes place in the present but also features a large story in the past which will be covered as well, but later on in the story. Along with this, it will also feature a rather diverse range of characters, one more deeply involved in the plot than the others, but not necessarily the 'main' character.

    Since I have not tried my hand at writing proper stories since high-school, my knowledge of options here is a bit underwhelming when it comes to writing perspectives and which ones work for what. What would be a more functional way to go about writing something like this? Take the narrator approach in full third-person? Write in first-person through the characters? Or perhaps another angle I am missing entirely? I'd like some feedback on this predicament. Thanks.
     
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  2. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    You're missing the range of third person. When you say "third person/narrator" that sounds like third person omniscient, where the narrator knows all and tells what it pleases, and may have its own voice and even opininos.

    There's also third person limited, where the POV only knows what one character knows--either the same character throughout a book, or a switching POV that goes to one character at a time. Third person limited has a spectrum of its own, from very deep in the person's head looking at every thought and feeling, or much further away, primarily looking at their actions and words and what's coming in to their senses. The term usually used for this is "close" versus "distant".

    One advantage of third person limited is that you can change your position on that spectrum without too much of a jolt for the reader.

    I prefer third person limited.
     
  3. CerebralToxins

    CerebralToxins New Member

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    This is exactly what I needed to hear, thank you. The close variant of third person limited sounds like the ideal choice here for sure, given the multiple characters.
     
  4. Alex R. Encomienda

    Alex R. Encomienda Senior Member

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    First person always seems very hard for me to get into. It's just an awkward way of telling a story to me.

    "He slapped my ass and told me he wanted to screw me. I winked at him and felt guilty."

    I don't know, to me it isn't as interesting and compelling as reading third person. I like to know what everybody is thinking. Also, more narrative gives more chance to read the writer's dialect, jargon and sentence structure like I'm actually in this crazy world where the things I'm reading are real.

    That's just me and my opinion, man.
     
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  5. CerebralToxins

    CerebralToxins New Member

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    That is more or less the vibe I was getting from first person as well. That, and the fact I'm entwining multiple characters means it would probably get confusing for me AND the reader when shifting to the next character.
     
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  6. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    I'm a 3rd person limited girl myself - everything I've ever written has been in that POV, sometimes with a single character, sometimes with more than one.
     
  7. Walking Dog

    Walking Dog Active Member

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    I'm strictly third-person objective. The advantage of this perspective over other third-person perspectives is I don't have to explain my MC's thoughts or actions. I describe the action and rely upon the reader's imagination to interpret for themselves the emotions in the story. We are all different in our artistry. I've seen plenty of examples of third-person limited that worked beautifully. In a way, I'm being lazy leaving out the details of thought. But I also think it's an excellent way of getting the reader involved in the story. It's a trick to force the reader into getting involved. I suppose there is a balance here, leaving room for the reader to use their imagination, but giving enough detail to make it obvious to what's happening. Below is an example of how I do it. Can you imagine how the characters are feeling? If so, you are doing some of the writing for me. That's my plan - get the reader involved.

    Matt grabbed the guitar from Tommy's arms, raised it into the air, then slammed it on the stage. The amp roared as the guitar shattered into several pieces. The other bandmates stopped and stared. Matt held the broken guitar for Tommy to see. The guitar body was separated from the neck but dangled by the strings. Then Matt tossed the wreckage at Tommy's feet and stormed off the stage.

    "What?" said Tommy, as he knelt by the broken guitar, shoulders slumped, head hung low.
     
  8. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    @CerebralToxins - I guess it's up to you, but I'd suggest you take a close look at stories you enjoy reading. What POV is used to tell these stories? Is there one particular story that sounds like what you plan to write? (I mean in terms of tone and perspective, not plot and characters.) If you can figure out what POV that writer has chosen, you'll get a better idea of what POV might work best for your own story.

    I'm with @ChickenFreak and @Laurin Kelly in that I prefer writing in 3rd person limited. I feel it gives me the best range of 'tools' to use to get my story out there. It allows me to get deeply into the head of a particular character, but doesn't limit me to that character alone. It also allows me to 'show' occasional scenes such as the excellent one @Walking Dog just gave us, which allows the reader to decide how characters are feeling.

    However, I think sticking to third person objective for every scene can limit writing, because it only works well in scenes where there is a lot of action and people are doing lots of obvious stuff—like breaking a guitar and storming offstage to signify rage, and slumping to the ground to signify shock and distress. It makes the assumption that all thoughts and feelings are revealed correctly through actions that can be visualised.

    There will also be important scenes in a story, I presume, where not much is happening externally but the characters are deep in thought. Or other occasions when the character's thoughts and feelings are going like a train in the opposite direction from what their external reactions indicate.

    For example, in that same scene, what if Tommy had just smiled, shrugged, stepped aside and picked up a different guitar? That wouldn't necessarily mean Tommy didn't care, or that he wasn't angry, or upset. He might be seething inside, and thinking that's it, Matthew—you are FIRED! but he's not letting his feelings show because he wants the gig to carry on. Or, he could do the slumping to the floor bit, seemingly shocked and distressed, but he's really thinking ya beauty!—it's about time—we'll finally be able to fire that bastard. That's the kind of thing that's difficult to portray in strict third person objective. Not impossible, but difficult.

    First person is excellent in many ways, in that it immediately allows the reader to identify with the character. However, it's limiting in that the reader will only know what that character knows or sees. In a way, the first person character has to interpret everything outside himself using third person objective. :) That can bring up some very interesting vibes ...what the "I" character in the story believes might be very different from what the reader thinks about the same event. The "I" character might be very wrong, and the reader can figure this out by reading the objective cues differently. Very effective stories get written all the time in first person. If you want your readers to identify strongly with one character within a given story (or chapter) then that's a good one to experiment with.

    All in all ...any POV can work if you understand what effect it will have on the reader, and you learn to portray all aspects of your story (including the hidden ones) within the POV you've chosen.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2017
  9. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    Why limit yourself to one POV?

    It's not common to write a novel where POV switches from, say, first person, to third person, but it's been done. It's more common to be in close third person for character A for a while, and then close 3rd for character B.

    But you're not writing a novel, you're writing a collection of linked short stories. You could use whichever POV suits the individual story. Try successive stories in each variant of POV and see if you've got a favourite, or whether you can then see when and where a different POV would work better.

    As far as first person goes, you've had a lot of people saying NO. Consider this; you want a character who lies all the time. So much so that he even lies to himself. How are you going to show that? In first person, you can have him as what's called an unreliable narrator. Everything you learn about the story is through his thoughts. And as the story goes on, you realise that what he thought about Mildred when he first met her has changed now that he knows her better; or the reason why he was a racist jerk he actually justifies as being somehow honourable. So much depth you can give a character that way! Just try that in third person, and he just comes across as a jerk, because all that you get is character A calling him out on his lying, job done, no suspense there.
     
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  10. Seren

    Seren Writeaholic Supporter

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    A lot of it depends on what you feel most comfortable with, I think. I agree with @Shadowfax that first person can be very useful. I write in both depending on how I feel I want to tell a story, but for my big projects I tend to go for first because it's my preferred POV to read in and to write in. It can give you a much closer connection with the narrator.

    But really, you need to write however you feel most comfortable.
     
  11. VytalSigns

    VytalSigns New Member

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    Thank you OP for asking this as I am in the same position as you having plots, characters and scenes from a story buzzing around my head for going on four years now. The info here has helped me a lot and finally I have some words down and the first chapter up and running

    Thank you
     
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