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1st person vs. 3rd person?

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Mon Aug 01, 2011 9:19 pm
Carlito says...

I want to start working on a slightly older novel project again (and actually finish it this time). Up until now, I've been writing it in 1st person. However, I've been doing a lot of thinking about this novel and I'm starting to think it should be in 3rd instead. I'm kind of scared to make the switch because I'm over halfway done with it right now in first person, and I've never really written anything in 3rd before. I've tried, but I'm more of a first person writer.

What are some ways you can determine which is going to be better for your novel?

Thanks much!

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Mon Aug 01, 2011 10:04 pm
Blues says...

I'm writing in First person Multiple at the moment. What made me change from Third Person in my last novel to First Person in this was my Best Friend's writing style. I really enjoyed reading it because it felt like I was being talked to, so I thought I'd have ago myself!

I kept with my choice of first person in this book because there would be many different plot strands, with many different things going on with different characters, I thought First person multiple might help address that.

To choose between First and Third Person... well there isn't much difference. Does your story have more emotion (first) or more action (third)? That's a really rough guide, but it's totally up to you. I say you carry on in First Person and keep going till the end. Take a break (min. a week) then read your story. From there, I think it'd be a lot easier for you to decide.

I hope I helped :)


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Mon Aug 01, 2011 10:11 pm
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Rosendorn says...

First person: A voice you can hear instantly, that just can't be captured in anything but first person because your character has a unique voice that you hear so well you can blend it into absolutely all aspects of the prose. Usually they're demanding first person.

Third person: Everything else, or a character whose voice is such it would be more entertaining to write in third person so you can get a break from it periodically. (Although, for those characters, I tend to use close third.)

For me the default is third. If I don't have a character demanding first person then I don't bother with first person. Since my biggest complaint about first person stories is each character sounds like every other because the voice just isn't strong. You can get away with that in third person, but you absolutely can't in first.

I disagree that there is no difference between first and third person— there's a rather big one. First person has to be coloured by the character's voice. It's never objective. It requires a character important, unique, and strong enough to carry the first person. (Or, a character focusing on fascinating characters that needs an "everyman" to translate the situation, ie- Watson for Holmes) Third person is for characters who might be special, might not be, or just don't demand first person writing.

It also helps for characters who might need a little distance in their thought process. I've seen close third person that sounds a lot like first person, but it gives space to give the bigger picture of a situation instead of always being caught in a character's head. Mostly, it's good for giving space to the character. You can also be one heck of a lot more objective in third person. And lets you show things to the reader the narrator doesn't, can't, won't, or refuses to see. First person is completely limited by the narrator.
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Fri Aug 12, 2011 7:32 pm
writerwithacause says...

If you're planning to insist on character development, feelings (romance stories), choose the first person narration.

If your novel is more about facts and action, what happens in the novel exactly (for example, fantasy/sci-fi) then choose the third person narration.

It's the way I see POV's. :)
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Wed Aug 17, 2011 2:12 am
Starrywolf says...

Well, it depends on how I get the idea. My ideas come in pictures. For example, I've been working on this Stephen King-like story about a small fishing town. The image I got as the idea was birds sitting on the post things on the dock like guardians. (It's a short story, barely started, probably not even going through with it.)
If I like how it looks, I'll let the video start playing. I write first person if the idea comes in first person.
I prefer third (but the people whose stories I tell sometimes demand to tell it themselves.)
Was that confusing?

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Wed Aug 17, 2011 2:50 am
XxMattxX says...

What are some ways you can determine which is going to be better for your novel?

1.What do people actually want to read?
2.Which makes the characters seem more real?
3.Which helps more in the building of character?

Personally, I hate reading 3rd person omniscient/regular views naturally.
Using 1st person just gives you more options and opens you up to the MC's thoughts, humor, and deep, deep feeling. It's an easy way to build up character becuase the reader doesn't only see the actions, but the inner conflict as well.
It's also helpful for the reader to see through the eyes of the main character because it makes the antagonist a little more obvious and realistic.

I shall explain-

3rd person: Bob ran away from his assailant. He was really scared...His heart was beating and (blah blah blah I'm no good at 3rd person anyway)...

1st person: I ran away as fast as I could. With each stride I felt as though my heart would burst out from my chest onto the never-ending pavement. I began to slow down. My assailant was getting closer. I knew now that I had but two options left. Either I died now, like the rest of them, or I just continued running form the inevitable battle that I was destined to fight. ( blah blah blah..)

You see how using 1st person can help reveal the plot also and get the reader hooked?
I'd use it if I were you. Depending on what you want to write about, of course.

Hope I helped...
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Wed Aug 17, 2011 3:33 am
Dreamwalker says...

Personally speaking, my default has always been first person, and as much as I wanted to try differently, I would end up simply returning back to what I knew best without even realizing it.

But I have always read for character.

I suppose, what you should probably do is to really focus on is what you're writing for. Plot is always important, but is it your main reason? The concept? Or are you more into the feeling and the passion and the emotion. The cause and effect. The tragic flaw. If you want the deeper, more intimate access with your protagonist, stay in first person, especially if its what you're used to. But if the characterization is a little on the fuzzy side, I wouldn't use first person.

For example; when one has a good, strong characterization such as the character Jane in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, we get an almost inexplicably interesting and beautiful piece of literature. Something that touches us within instead of merely skimming the feelings that we should have. It displays the tragic character flaws that make humanity what it is.

But, and this is where the big but comes in, if you're character's are simply there to move the plot and don't really have all that many flaws, first person is not for you. Take Twilight, for instance. As much as its loved by many younger readers, the characterization is absolutely awful. That's the kind of book that should have been written in a very close third person.

Hopefully this helps you decide. Ultimately, though, its your preference that will win out, so choose wisely. Just know that, as much as first person may be your default, third can be often enough quite a deal easier. You don't need to be fully intimate with your character. Your character doesn't have to exist within you. In first person, if that character exists within you, you will ultimately have a piece of good literature.

Last edited by Dreamwalker on Wed Aug 17, 2011 3:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Wed Aug 17, 2011 3:36 am
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shiney1 says...

3rd person: Bob ran away from his assailant. He was really scared...His heart was beating and (blah blah blah I'm no good at 3rd person anyway)...

1st person: I ran away as fast as I could. With each stride I felt as though my heart would burst out from my chest onto the never-ending pavement. I began to slow down. My assailant was getting closer. I knew now that I had but two options left. Either I died now, like the rest of them, or I just continued running form the inevitable battle that I was destined to fight. ( blah blah blah..)

XD I have to say, that 1st person piece is some good writing right there XD

But I think you exaggerated a bit :p
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Mon Aug 29, 2011 12:04 am
Island6 says...

It really depends on the type of book you are writing.

If you have already written most of it in 1st person, then you should just stick with it. Just use whatever one you feel the most comfortable with :]

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Tue Sep 13, 2011 5:42 pm
Kale says...

Yay for goofs with the drafts feature...
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Wed Sep 28, 2011 1:36 am
TheSage says...

I really prefer 3rd person as it allows you to explain everyone's feelings and thoughts to the Reader instead of making them wonder like the main character.

Reading the Horus Heresy Novels, 3rd person was used to explain multiple peoples' thoughts at one time. I found it more valuable to know what everyone was thinking.

However, 1st person gives the reader more attachment to the character as they see through their eyes. They may not see the entire picture at first, but I feel that they develop a better relationship with the character over time. Where as 3rd person helps develop multiple relationships with many characters at one time.

It's really up to you. But I find writing in 3rd Person much easier and more entertaining, however more work.
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Wed Nov 09, 2011 11:44 am
Lareine says...

I prefer third person limited. I know a lot of people prefer third person omniscient (for some strange reason >.>), but that's the one viewpoint I can't write from.

Sometimes I go for first person, but those are with stories I know I can take my time on and select what happens within the narrator's range very carefully; for example, in one of those such projects, I had to make the decision whether the narrator sees her best friend die or not. I chose not, so she has the information purely word-of-mouth from the woman who did kill him (and, to clarify, he needed to be killed desperately). Thus, that information might not be quite true, but she has to take it as such because she doesn't know any better.

When I want to write, write, write, and let loose as much as I can, I use third person limited. Then I can switch my viewpoints from protagonist to antagonist and back again and, seeing which I like better, I can also cover all sides of the story without having to do some fancy little trick switching viewpoints like I'd have to in first person. Third person also gives me a chance to describe what a self-contained narrator might not notice, some of the little things that have significance in the story, like a ring of characters around the outside of a talisman that the character didn't notice until it was pointed out, but I can introduce it when she's given the talisman if I'm careful about it. That way I'm not springing totally sudden information on others when it's pointed out, you see? (Though I am still going for a bit of a history/shock effect with the curse on it, considering no one can read that language any more. It's an old form of the language they speak, too.)

When I want to drag the reader in for a minute in the prologue or something, I'll write second person. Then I have to be careful with viewpoint because I can't exactly command the reader to do something while they're reading, but if it's like "You scramble over a pile of rocks, picking through the waste left behind by centuries of humans..." you know?

Well, I'd have to say my favourite is third person. It's lovely, and I don't like being confined in a narrator's head all the time. If you look at the Twilight books, for example, Bella Swan sometimes notices things she shouldn't or just *knows* the emotions of others - I'm of the firm opinion that they would be better in third person instead of first, because of those instances.
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