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My Problem with Third Person

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Wed Apr 06, 2011 5:51 am
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Audrey says...



Sometimes, I think third person will be the death of me. I have a short story that I am currently working on that I believe works better in third person than it ever would in first. The issue is, it's just coming out flat. A list of actions, void of personality. I am having trouble injecting my character's voice into my writing. Every time I try, it turns out stilted and awkward. I know some writers use italics to emphasis a character's thought, but I am wanting to do that with such frequency that the technique becomes ineffective.

So, any tips on accurately portraying a character's subjective experience of the world in third person writing?
"I've never told a lie, and that makes me a liar
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I've never lit a match with intent to start a fire,
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Wed Apr 06, 2011 2:45 pm
Ranger Hawk says...



If you have an easier time writing in first person, then why not write out the scene in first and then make the necessary changes so it'll read as third? For example:
I tensed, watching as the zombie shuffled closer. The bat in my hands felt sturdy and I gripped the handle, ready to swing.

Could be changed then to:
Jessie tensed, watching as the zombie shuffled closer. The bat in her hands felt sturdy, and she gripped the handle, ready to swing.

That would a start, at least, towards getting more of an immersed viewpoint from the third person. :)
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Thu Apr 07, 2011 3:17 am
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Kyllorac says...



Word choice is extremely important. Compare "She pranced along like a circus pony to the screamer she sung." to "She skipped to the beat of the melody she hummed." One is much more fanciful and easily leads into a daydream/impression of a daydreamer, while the second is more typical and therefore grounded.

How you describe your characters' actions has a huge impact on how they're perceived, and using different vocabulary for each character can really set them apart and make them feel more distinct.

Another thing you can do is write in third-person limited. Basically, you would follow only one character and narrate things sort of as a translation from their viewpoint. It's a blending of first-person and third-omniscient in the sense that you only follow one character, but you're a third party who has access to the one character's inner thoughts in addition to a clear view of the external.

It takes practice to get the hang of third-limited, but I find that it's my favorite PoV to write from.
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Fri Apr 08, 2011 1:07 am
Talulahbelle says...



It may just be that you need to stop thinking about it and just let the words come. Eventually you'll get the hang of it.
Secondly, maybe your story just doesn't want to be third person. If you have to fight it that much, take a step back and really think about why you want it third person and other ways you may work around it.
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Sun Apr 10, 2011 8:19 am
Audrey says...



Thank-you for your suggestions! ^^
They will definitely help as I try edit my work.
"I've never told a lie, and that makes me a liar
I've never made a bet, but we gamble in desire
I've never lit a match with intent to start a fire,
But recently the flames are getting out of control"




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Tue May 03, 2011 4:21 am
Jash says...



When I use third person (I'm a first person too... I mean I prefer it), I just write away. The thing is, it doesn't have to stray away much from the character. Let me explain, for example, if you're using first and said, "I looked away to the sea, the memories flooding in again"; when you use third, "She looked away to the sea, the memories flooding in again." See? It doesn't stray away much.

I suggest that when you use third person, always use the limited view. Using third person doesn't necessarily mean you know everything. Some writers use third without knowing anything outside a protagonist's mind at all!

Though you might want to research about the omniscient view, too. For me, it's the hardest view to write, because a writer tend to spill out too much information. But yeah...

Hope I've helped!

Jash ♥
A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell

-CS Lewis


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