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First person perspective.

 

Do you write in first-person?

 

Do you think it is good to see the world through the lens of the main character?

 

Do you believe that younger readers demand first-person perspective?

 

And, of course, anything else you can think of.

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I'll go first.

 

I can't write in first person.  It's like wearing pants that are three sizes to small.  I can see where some may prefer it, but it's just not my thing.  If I have to write in first person, the voice has to be that of the character, and not mine.

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I like third best because you're not stuck in only one person's head.

 

I don't think I've ever read a book and thought, "if only this was a first/third person..." In fact, I get lost in the story and oftentimes don't remember if it's first person or not.

 

I firmly believe that some books are better first person, some are better third, and it should be up to the author. (Also, pretty sure the well-loved American Girl books are all third person? And they do great. Yes, they have more than just books, but still.)

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I like to write first person. It's easiest for me to write what I see, hear, feel, emotionally feel, and so on, but in the other person's personality. Basically, it's a simple way for me to get into their head, and not head hop. I'm bad about head hoping when I write third person. 

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Guest Wesley Southern

I only write in first person. Doesn’t matter the age of my character. I put myself in their head like the Emotions in the film Inside Out.

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It doesn't matter to me, as long as the story doesn't bog down. I agree with Josi, some books are better first person, some are better third. I think these have been mentioned before (in other threads) but some well-known books have been written in first person. Here are a few...

 

To Kill a Mockingbird

Sherlock Holmes

The Raven

Jane Eyre

Moby Dick

Huckleberry Finn

The Great Gatsby

Gulliver’s Travels

Hunger Games

Twilight

Some of Jack Reacher stories

 

 

 

 

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I agree with @lynnmosher.  I have to say as yet, my writing style is not 1st person - although I wouldn't mind trying it one day.

 

i think nowadays because we are so film/TV orientated we then to think more in 3rd person narrative. Just a thought.

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2 hours ago, lynnmosher said:

It doesn't matter to me, as long as the story doesn't bog down. I agree with Josi, some books are better first person, some are better third. I think these have been mentioned before (in other threads) but some well-known books have been written in first person. Here are a few...

 

Interesting. I've read most of the books you mentioned, but something occurred to me when I was reading over that list. I read those books, but only once. There are number of books I've read multiple times, but I can remember only two of them that were written in first person: The Education of Little Tree and The Day of Small Things.  And The Education of Little Tree is a special book that I'm drawn to read periodically, even though it's written in first person.  

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13 hours ago, Jeff Potts said:

Do you write in first-person?

I have before, but I normally write in third person.

13 hours ago, Jeff Potts said:

Do you think it is good to see the world through the lens of the main character?

Yes, first person makes the reader feel really close to the main character.

13 hours ago, Jeff Potts said:

Do you believe that younger readers demand first-person perspective?

I don't think so. Plenty of children's/YA books are written in third person.

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38 minutes ago, Tommie Lyn said:

Interesting. I've read most of the books you mentioned, but something occurred to me when I was reading over that list. I read those books, but only once.

 

Very interesting thought, TL.

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15 hours ago, Jeff Potts said:

First person perspective.

 

Do you write in first-person?

 

Do you think it is good to see the world through the lens of the main character?

 

Do you believe that younger readers demand first-person perspective?

 

And, of course, anything else you can think of.

Which perspective has mostly to do with your character and what happens.

 

In my case, I couldn't do first-person, because my character knows what's going on around him as the bottom stone on a shoreline. Zip. Zilch. Completely, utterly naïve when it comes to the world, or even his small part in it.

 

Also, it had to do with scenes. I had more than one character who could have been the MC, but I chose him because he was in the most scenes throughout the story. Of course, I still have to work around those times he wasn't there, but better him then his buddies, who weren't around more often. (I better get better at this by the next book, since he'll be separated from his buddies for quite some time.)

 

And there is one other thing I considered when deciding perspective. I grew up before first-person was big for kids, so I haven't read as much first-person as omni or third. I only started writing fiction a couple of years before embarking on this story, so frankly, I didn't want to pick a POV I don't get easily.

 

Also, young readers are like all readers, they want something they enjoy reading.

 

Although I went third-person, I've also gone with intimate as often as possible, so it feels like first person. He wonders often, and yet I've never had to add tags or italics. Like this:

 

Quote

How could Mom throw him away? Family sticks together. She taught him that. Her arms squeezed him a few hours ago. Her thick black hair rested on his ear, her hand relaxed on his tummy, and her breath eased against the back of his head, like every other night. He loved all of it. She must have given him the Krimpets.

 

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17 hours ago, Jeff Potts said:

Do you write in first-person?

 

Yes, almost exclusively. I grew up reading authors who wrote in this POV, and I loved the voice of their characters, the sometimes unreliable narrator way of looking at the world. 

I'm writing a Fantasy / Noir about a golem detective, and 1st Person voiceover is part-and-parcel of the genre.

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19 hours ago, Jeff Potts said:

Do you write in first-person?

 

I normally write in third person, but I wrote one book in first person. I actually enjoyed it because it allowed me to express a lot about the MC in a way that I normally wouldn't be able to do in third person, and all while tap dancing around the "show don't tell" rule. 😉  It also allowed me to express the MC's interpretations of other characters/situations, and how wrong (unreliable) it can be at times.

 

That book ended up being my most critically acclaimed work.

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It depends, honestly. I normally don't write in first-person, but I would if it seems better for the POV.

 

21 hours ago, Jeff Potts said:

Do you think it is good to see the world through the lens of the main character?

Yes! The readers need to feel and experience with the MC. Otherwise, what's the point of even writing the plot?

 

21 hours ago, Jeff Potts said:

Do you believe that younger readers demand first-person perspective?

If they didn't say "Would you please..." or "May you please...", they don't get such a coveted perspective. 😄

No, I'm just kidding...lol. I'm a younger reader, and I will say that I do like first-person POVs sometimes. The POVs not in first-person can seem a bit monotonous if used improperly. (Or so I think.)

 

 

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22 minutes ago, Ky_GirlatHeart said:

Yes! The readers need to feel and experience with the MC. Otherwise, what's the point of even writing the plot?

 

Well, the problem comes when the character needs to keep a secret from the reader.  Or when you want to slowly unravel the character of the protagonist over time.

 

A prime example is, in my book, my character has multiple motivations to make his decision to stay and become the "chosen one."  One is revealed early in the first book.  However, a second motivation, and something that really underscores some of the internal conflict a character has with his life, is revealed late in the second book.  It's a very poignant and bonding scene between the character and the "mentor" figure.

 

The reason why these two are separated by such distance is pretty simple to understand.  People don't just expose their hearts and souls to everyone.  People keep secrets.  People hold things back.  People have to build a bond of trust to expose their more vulnerable sides.  It give both the writer AND the reader the opportunity to peel back the layers of a character through a story.

 

Something you can lose with the all-access pass of First Person.

 

Plus, your voice is strictly limited to that of the main character.  While I like my main character, I really don't want to have to use his words to explain things.  It makes for a boring narrative, in my opinion.

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46 minutes ago, Jeff Potts said:

The reason why these two are separated by such distance is pretty simple to understand.  People don't just expose their hearts and souls to everyone.  People keep secrets.  People hold things back.  People have to build a bond of trust to expose their more vulnerable sides.  It give both the writer AND the reader the opportunity to peel back the layers of a character through a story.

 

Exactly. There are things that cannot be imparted to the reader in first person POV. For instance, my mouth fell open when, in a first person POV book I just finished, several times the character said, "I got a faraway look in my eyes..." Really? How does she know how her eyes look?? Does she carry around a mirror so she can report how she looks? smh

 

46 minutes ago, Jeff Potts said:

Plus, your voice is strictly limited to that of the main character.  While I like my main character, I really don't want to have to use his words to explain things.  It makes for a boring narrative, in my opinion.

Yes! A boring, possibly narcissistic narrative.

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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, Tommie Lyn said:

For instance, my mouth fell open when, in a first person POV book I just finished, several times the character said, "I got a faraway look in my eyes..." Really? How does she know how her eyes look?? Does she carry around a mirror so she can report how she looks? smh

 

Yeah, that's just poor writing.

 

On the other hand, the way you wrote how you felt about reading such a thing was a great example of good first-person writing.

Edited by Accord64
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6 hours ago, Tommie Lyn said:

For instance, my mouth fell open when, in a first person POV book I just finished, several times the character said, "I got a faraway look in my eyes..." Really? How does she know how her eyes look?? Does she carry around a mirror so she can report how she looks? smh

😂

I think some authors default to first person because they think it's easier. Perhaps it feels more natural to them. But it's very hard to do it well.

 

In addition to way too many examples like the one you mentioned, I see a lot of first person books where the narrator has impossible knowledge of what the other characters are thinking and feeling. "She stared at me, mildly irritated about how I had just got the better of her the third time in a row."

 

There was an interesting thread some months ago about how some people have an "internal monologue" while many others don't. I have an internal monologue. Reading first person feels as though the author is trying to hack my brain and project their thoughts on me and override my own internal monologue. Weird, I know. 😆 So, when I read first person, I'm constantly rejecting what I'm reading. Here's the example I gave in the other thread (which I can't find). The "Narrator" is the book and "EB's Thoughts" are my internal monologue while reading.
 

Narrator: Bob smiled at me and my heart melted.

EB's Thoughts: No way is Bob melting my heart. He's an utter sleazeball.

Narrator: He stretched out his hand and stroked my cheek.

EB's Thoughts: Ew! Get off!

Narrator: Bob murmured, "Look me in the eyes and tell me you don't love me."

EB's Thoughts: I'll look you in the eyes while I train my firehose on you.

Narrator: Unable to help myself, I whispered, "I love you, Bob."

EB's Thoughts: Ick! I'm done with this book.

 

I have to push against my internal monologue when I'm reading first person. It takes an effort, and the book has to be written exceptionally well for me to get past my resistance and enjoy the story.

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11 hours ago, Jeff Potts said:

A prime example is, in my book, my character has multiple motivations to make his decision to stay and become the "chosen one."  One is revealed early in the first book.  However, a second motivation, and something that really underscores some of the internal conflict a character has with his life, is revealed late in the second book.  It's a very poignant and bonding scene between the character and the "mentor" figure.

Have you read about The Hero's Journey? Helpful, flexible way of thinking out the epic. (Also, such a big concept, just reading one site about it doesn't cut it, but this is a good generalized one.)

 

The part that fits your story is the beginning of the journey. First there is a call to adventure, then there is a meeting of the mentor, but the true beginning of "chosen one" status is cemented when he/she goes through the first threshold. Sounds like that's what you're doing.

 

But I don't think it means it can't be done in first. When you started writing this story did you know everything that would happen? Maybe generally, but specifically? If you didn't know, couldn't you make room for the protagonist not to know also?

 

I know why I put on my work shirt in the morning, but that doesn't mean I know something will happen that stops me from doing the work I planned. Same thing with your character.

I have taken the "reluctant" part of "reluctant hero" to heart. He's a teddy bear who was thrown into the trash while asleep. He would have sat on that trash bag to watch the sanitation workers toss him into the truck, if another teddy bear didn't startle him off the pile. It took all the way to the climax before he chose to do something, rather than it was thrust upon him. And it won't be until the beginning of the third book before he's been thrust through the first threshold. (He became willing to take care of all the stuffed animals, but not so willing to "fight city hall" for them yet.) But, even though I chose a POV that does reveal some of his thoughts, (example previously given), I'm too busy showing the readers what's really going on by what he sees, to have time to tell all his thoughts. 😆

There are ways to hide his decision until it is time to make it in any POV choice.

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4 hours ago, EBraten said:

😂

I think some authors default to first person because they think it's easier. Perhaps it feels more natural to them. But it's very hard to do it well.

 

When we watch a scary movie, and jump when something unexpected happens, We were actually in a mild hypnotic trance, and had completely forgotten we were safe on our couch, or a theatre seat. When we begin reading a story and suspend our disbelief, we begin to enter the same state.

 

4 hours ago, EBraten said:

In addition to way too many examples like the one you mentioned, I see a lot of first person books where the narrator has impossible knowledge of what the other characters are thinking and feeling. "She stared at me, mildly irritated about how I had just got the better of her the third time in a row."

 

One reason it's rude for the characters to break the fourth wall is that it reminds us we're reading, and disrupts the trancelike state. That state is especially hard to maintain in a first person story, as there are so many little mistakes that also disrupt. Many authors can't do it well enough, and the story seams start to show.

 

4 hours ago, EBraten said:

There was an interesting thread some months ago about how some people have an "internal monologue" while many others don't. I have an internal monologue. Reading first person feels as though the author is trying to hack my brain and project their thoughts on me and override my own internal monologue. Weird, I know. 😆

 

Not weird at all. In a first person story, we have to want the character's experience. That's not always the case, and those would be poor candidates for first person.

 

We not only experience as an observer, but sometimes as the actual character. Using some of Lynn's examples, I think Huck Finn is the furthest away, as it's like hearing a first person story as a third person listener. Huck knows things we don't, and speaks differently from us, and we're constantly reminded that we're not Huck, even though we often slip inside his mind at interesting times.

 

We more often slip into Nick Carraway's mind in Gatsby, because he's experiencing a fascinating world we'll never see. Yet we can slip out as an observer, in some of the sadder scenes. We are immersed into Dr. Watson's mind in Holmes. We are there, experiencing what Watson does, and it's probably one reason the Holmes stories have such staying power after more than a century, and Holmes is constantly imitated, while the other stories mentioned here are not.

 

i think that for first person to work, the character's experiences either have to be interesting enough that we want to be immersed in them (Huck Finn, Gatsby), or that we want to vividly experience the character (enthusiastic Holmes fans will openly admit this...)

 

4 hours ago, EBraten said:

Narrator: Bob smiled at me and my heart melted.

EB's Thoughts: No way is Bob melting my heart. He's an utter sleazeball.

Narrator: He stretched out his hand and stroked my cheek.

EB's Thoughts: Ew! Get off!

Narrator: Bob murmured, "Look me in the eyes and tell me you don't love me."

EB's Thoughts: I'll look you in the eyes while I train my firehose on you.

Narrator: Unable to help myself, I whispered, "I love you, Bob."

EB's Thoughts: Ick! I'm done with this book.

 

I have to push against my internal monologue when I'm reading first person. It takes an effort, and the book has to be written exceptionally well for me to get past my resistance and enjoy the story.

 

We've talked before about making our writings all about our audience and not ourselves. Not every author does this. Not every reader wants the author's idea of a romantic experience, though I think some such books are written to give exactly that experience. Definitely not for everyone.

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12 hours ago, Jeff Potts said:

Well, the problem comes when the character needs to keep a secret from the reader.  Or when you want to slowly unravel the character of the protagonist over time.

Yeah, that is a hard one to pull off, but not impossible. Some people refuse to believe/remember things. Maybe it was traumatizing, or they just don't want it to be true. It's definitely a very challenging thing to do, for sure, and most writers couldn't pull it off. 

 

I've got one but am only able to pull it off because it is a dual POV. (Both first person) I can see it being done that other way, but don't think I have the talent for the kind of word twisting it would take to pull it off with only one first-person POV. 

 

Maybe we should ask a politician? 😄 (Joke!) 

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Sounds fun but I don't know if I could tolerate writing from "I" through a whole story even if it were more than one "I". Actually, my first thought as to your question was, "Memoir". I decided to go fiction and then I decided to step into several heads.

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