First, second and third person p.o.v

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First, second and third person p.o.v

Post by ninafromnorway » August 28th, 2010, 5:42 pm

I have been told that it is much more difficult to write in first person than in third (and that second is most common in songs). Could you tell me your own expreience with this:
What do you find most difficult about
a: First person
b: Second person
c: Third person

Plus why and in what view do you prefer to write?
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Re: First, second and third person p.o.v

Post by ninafromnorway » August 28th, 2010, 5:51 pm

To answer this myself
ninafromnorway wrote:I have been told that it is much more difficult to write in first person than in third (and that second is most common in songs). Could you tell me your own expreience with this:
What do you find most difficult about
a: First person To remember not to write about the other characters thoughts.
b: Second person I haven't tried this one yet in novel writing, but in song writing (and in the forums) I find it difficult to not be misinterprited. You can't hear the tone in the voice you are reading, so you don't know if it's sarcasm or a playful joke. This can confuse the readers, especially if they've already made their mind up about something. For instance in a heated discussion where you are taking person A side. Person B and C diagrees, and then person D makes a sarcastic remark that in writing sounds like D agrees with B and C. I'm really crappy in explaining these sort of things, but hopefully you get what I mean.
c: Third person Here I find it difficult keeping track of the different characters and their thoughts. I notice I need a little more help remembering the different personalities. Especially if the writing comes spontaneously.

Plus why and in what view do you prefer to write? As I always visualize the story happening to myself, I prefer to write in first person. When I close my eyes it's as if I'm the main character in a 5D movie. I can smell, feel and interact with my surroundings. Thank God my husband is a sailor, and can't listen to my blabbering fantasies before I go to sleep!
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Re: First, second and third person p.o.v

Post by craig » August 28th, 2010, 7:22 pm

I have to say that I'm not usually a fan of first person. I don't necessarily find it harder to write in first person, but, to be quite honest, I find first person to be fairly dull. (I wouldn't want to spend all my time with one friend, so the same goes for fictional characters.) I like to know what's happening with all the characters, whether the protag is in the same room or not. There have been a few first person novels I have enjoyed reading, so I'm not 100% against them. I have written in first person before, but only in short fiction -- I would not have the energy to do it in novel length fiction.

I have no experience with second person.

Third person is my favourite, especially if the different chapters are seen from various key characters in the book. I quite often enjoy getting into the minds of the evil guys and seeing the world through their eyes. It's a lot of fun. I swear a lot in my writing when I do that. I generally don't have trouble keeping the personalities straight -- I usually try to make the characters very distinct so that it's easy to slip into various ways of thinking and speaking without worrying if I'm overlapping styles with another character.

I've read a few books that alternated between first and third person. One of them, I thought, was done very poorly -- the chapters from a certain character's point of view were written in first person and the remaining chapters were in third person -- it could have been done well, but the main protag was kind of pathetic and so I really didn't care to see the world from his eyes. However, Karin Lowachee, a Canadian sci-fi / fantasy writer, has done this very well. With her three sci-fi books, Warchild, Burndive, and Cagebird, if I recall correctly, she goes through the childhood developmental stages of the characters in first person, to truly understand how that character has matured and come to see the world. (This is crucial because the main characters in those books are severely messed up and, by seeing how this happened, the reader feels deep sympathy and compassion for these characters that sometimes do very bad things.) Then, for the driving plot of the book, which is usually the remaining two-thirds, she changes over to third person. It was odd when I first read it, but I've come to understand how effective that made her work.

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Re: First, second and third person p.o.v

Post by polymath » August 28th, 2010, 8:19 pm

Grammatic person of a narrator is one of many facets of narrative point of view. Number, as in plural first person, tense, tone, attitude, standing, mood, tenor, register, psychic access, and motility to name several attributes. Nor is a first person narrator per se the entirety of a narrative's grammatic person. A first person narrator can report with third person.

I fell out of the sky. The ground hit back softly, at first, then with the Hammer of Thor. First person first sentence, third person second sentence. First person too easily can become overbearing when the autobiographical I is too close in narrative distance. I came, I saw, I conquered is a classic and artful asyndeton and tricolon phrase. However, I watched Maggie watching Bill watching June watch Reggy. is filled with neck-wrenching stage directions. A best practice for first-person narrators is to spend as much time as practical outside of the narrator's third eye without limiting first person's close interior discourse.

First-person narrator's strengths are, contrarily, from its subjective natures, open to interpretation bias. First-person narrators can challenge willing suspension of disbelief, or inform a narrative due to a narrator's unreliableness as an objective reporter. First person by its very nature is the voice of unreliableness. And, again, contrarily, can be an objective reporter when a first-person narrator is closest in time and place and situation to events, such that the narrator's report is the most objectively reliable for any given circumstance of a narrative. Part of the reason first person is so challenging is because of the several attitudes and standpoint combinations it can assume. A common deficit in first-person narratives is their tendency to overlap viewpoints, attitudes, and standpoints, creating an unsettled narrative point of view.

Second person also has unique strengths and several viewpoints and attitudes and standpoints. Implied second person imperative is the voice of instruction, manuals, recipes, assembly, directions, etc. Not good otherwise to boss readers around. Impersonal second person and reflexive second person are uncommon narrative voices, though when done well they help close narrative distance in closer than any other voice. Impersonal second person addresses readers in a nonimperative attitude. Did you hear the one about the poodle, the hooker, and the kitchen sink? Reflexive second person is the closest voice of all from being an address to the narrator's self at the level of a running debate of the conscience. Reflexive second person transposes second for first person. Second-person narratives are widely deprecated in many reading and writing consensuses. When it's done well, though, it can be transcendental.

Third person's principal strength is its objective reporting. A third person narrator is by default from cultural coding conventions most reliable. The narrative distance can be somewhat close, though by nature third-person narrators report after the fact when all salient details are known and evaluated. Third is the most flexible, however, for psychic access, motility, attitude, and variations of all narrative point of view attributes. An overt narrator, for instance, can be as unreliable as first. A close selectively omniscient narrative distance narrator can be as close as second person reflexive. A covert third person narrator transposes first person for third.

And then there's the exotic narrative voices fourth and fifth person not often noticed or seen in creative writing. They are more common in formal writing. Fourth involves animacy, pecking order. An example of fourth person, which might be useful in character dialogue when a character's alien language is translated into English for the narrative: "I you tell when next come again Earth ships." The I is highest in pecking order to the speaker, you second, then predicate phrase, then predicate's object phrase.

Fifth person is the obviative voice used for depersonalizing and diminishing importance. Substituting he for she when refering to a woman depersonalizes her gender identity. It for a person. The impersonal pronoun one used in formal writing is an obviating pronoun intended to depersonalize the writer, used in academic, scientific, and such writing so that one's personhood doesn't intrude on a topic's importance. Fifth person is also used for insulting and verbal and dramatic irony. I.e., overheard in a restaurant, "Some people don't know how to act in public." Some people obviates the actors as different from the speaker and below the speaker's station.

Sixth person, well, one would expect there's more, wouldn't one? Sixth person promotes a thing or a person's animacy from their actual standing to higher. Naming things with personal names improves their standing, imbues them with personifications not native to them.

Knowing the strengths and purposes of grammatic person offers insights on which, when, and how to use them to best effect. Me, I write in all of them. My one greatest weakness is leavening in interior discourse so that it informs a narrative without becoming intrusive. I'm working on it.
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Re: First, second and third person p.o.v

Post by Emerald_Resonance » August 28th, 2010, 9:50 pm

Here is what I've found in my limited experience:

a) Good first-person requires that you be in touch with the character and make his/her voice unique and enjoyable, and not just another version of your own voice. The beauty of first-person is that you get closer to the character than with third-person. But for that to work, you have to really know your character. If your character is not well developed, than the narrative won't be as interesting. (More on this below.)

b) I've never tried second-person.

c) It's easy to accidentally head-hop when you're writing third-person. Otherwise, I think it's the easiest of the three modes.

I prefer writing in third-person. At least, that's what I tell myself. So much of the time I jump into telling a story in first-person, but when I want to show the reader a scene that the viewpoint character isn't a part of, I'm trapped. Not to mention that it requires more work of the author to make sure that everything you say could conceivably come out of the mouth of your viewpoint character. In my current WIP I am using multiple first-person, which has given multiple headaches for the reason that I now have several personalities that I have to keep straight. I'm considering switching the whole thing to third-person in the second draft.

On the other hand, first-person is beautiful because it's intimate, and there are some things that just have more emotional impact coming from the mouth of a character.

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Re: First, second and third person p.o.v

Post by Leonidas » August 28th, 2010, 11:36 pm

My opinions on the various styles:

First Person: First person is, ironically, the POV I chose for my first story, but the POV I find the most difficult to write now. I think that it's the easiest for beginning writers to start with because you write from your character's POV and get to know your characters that way. It makes sense, if you're writing a story about a character, to write it in their POV. At least, that was the reasoning I had for choosing it with my first story. I didn't worry about voice or description back then, which is what makes it so difficult for me to write now. In order to write a first person narrative well, you have to write it in your character's voice (which has to be unique and interesting enough to keep your readers' attention) while still describing their world and setting up their problems.

Second Person: Interesting to write in, but confusing, since everyone is "you" to the narrator. I think this POV is probably the most useful in shorter works, like songs and poems, because there are less characters to confuse. I don't write in this POV very much, and I've never read a novel written in second person, but would be very interested in seeing how it could be handled throughout a longer work.

Third Person: Lately, I've been writing in third person, present tense. While some people argue that you're more "removed" from your character when you write this way, I think it's the easiest method to incorporate everything a story needs: multiple, fleshed out characters; a lively setting; plot. You don't have to worry about any voice besides your own style and the characters' dialogues when you write in third person, and you're able to "jump heads" if you need to. I normally don't do this too often, but it comes in handy. You're also able to weave in plot, description, and characterization easier with this POV than with any other, I feel.

No matter your preference, to be a truly good writer you have to be able to use all of these POVs well and know their strengths and weaknesses when you write them.

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Re: First, second and third person p.o.v

Post by heyimkt » August 29th, 2010, 12:29 am

A. First Person: I definitely use this the most. I think it's because I'm obsessed with the main character's voice. It's what I love the most when I'm reading a book, so I always want mine to be fresh and distinct. I also have the most fun with first person because it gives you complete insight to your main character's mind. Knowing their sarcasm and fears and secrets make the character so much more fun to write. And my favorite part of all is writing their dialogue, immediately knowing why they said it and their reactions to conversations.

B. Second Person: I don't really use second person. I do write songs, though, so I suppose it's what I use for that. But I never use it for my story writing. I personally don't think I could pull it off. Although, I do think it's really interesting to read, putting a complete twist on the reader's view.

C. Third Person: I use third person pretty often too. I think it's harder to go in depth with characters this way, but I think it provides more room for more characters and plot. In a way, you're given a broader look at things, but I think it becomes complicated when you want to get into a character's head.

Those are my thoughts :) First person is my fave, but I'll read anything in any type. Cool question!

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Re: First, second and third person p.o.v

Post by AnimaDictio » August 29th, 2010, 12:52 am

I wrote a short story in 2nd person once. A friend of mine turned it into a play. It was a hit.

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Re: First, second and third person p.o.v

Post by Down the well » August 29th, 2010, 9:58 am

I've probably written the most in third person. It seems to be the easiest to write for me. I like describing things, emotions, people, etc., and having that omniscient power in a story is fun. When I write in third person I usually keep it close to one character's perspective, though. I think it helps anchor the story.

The novel I'm working on now, however, is in first person. It's the first time I've tried a novel this way, but I wanted the narrative to be as close as possible to the thoughts of the main character. It's her story all the way, and first person was the best way to show her emotions/reactions. It is more difficult to write in my opinion. I'm mentally exhausted from always being in her head (she is much smarter and braver than me, so it's a lot of work figuring out what she should say or do). I've also had more than one critique catch her commenting on something she couldn't know but only surmise, so that part is hard to manage sometimes. But I think this character has a unique voice, and that might not have come through as strongly if I'd used third person.

I can't recall writing anything in second person pov.
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Re: First, second and third person p.o.v

Post by stephmcgee » August 29th, 2010, 11:04 am

I prefer writing in third person because it gives me more freedom to show things the MC isn't privy to. With my latest project I circled around several times to my group of antagonists. While I spent the primary focus of the novel on my MC, with large stretches of chapters devoted to him and what he's doing, I broke it up with a chapter here and there showing what my antags were doing. I don't know how well it's working, but I prefer it the way it is. My MC is pretty insulated, with only a handful of other characters that he interacts with. I think I would have gotten bored of writing if I'd only been in 1st person or only been restricted to his movements and actions for the whole book.

I've tried writing a short story in first person, but I never finished it. Whether it was the story itself that was flawed or the uninteresting viewpoint, I don't know. But it's only one of two attempts at first person that I've made. The other is a story that's very fragmented because it has 3 different 1st person narrators.

I wrote a couple of stupid attempts at songs when I was a teenager. I guess those would have been in 2nd. But I don't know if I could sustain that viewpoint over an entire novel.

As for reading preferences, if 1st is done well I enjoy it. It's tough though because I am not a fan of the unreliable narrator, and you get that more in 1st than any other viewpoint. 3rd is my favorite to read, but that might be because most of what I read growing up was in 3rd.

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Re: First, second and third person p.o.v

Post by Quill » August 29th, 2010, 12:12 pm

This thread is revelatory.

I thought first person narrative was taking over (especially in YA) and here I see writers preferring to write and read in third person. Third person is my favorite because I like being free of first person restrictions as to whose thoughts we can know and in which venues we can witness actions. And I always have loved a good third person narrative voice, giving both sweep and gravity to the proceedings. Glad to see third person is not being pushed out of modern literature completely!

Ironically, I love a good memoir. But there I fit the first person into the larger tapestry of what I know about the era, the milieu, etc. For some reason, non-fiction first person is great, supplying details and an eyewitness quality that enhances my understanding of historical times and events.

Also, didn't realize till now how second person has found a home in songwriting! Of course, it's so obvious now. "You're So Vain" by Carly Simon. "You Light Up My Life" by Debbie Boone, and many others. Here I thought second person was a mostly theoretical mode of writing that never really made it.

So, thanks, everyone!

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Re: First, second and third person p.o.v

Post by cheekychook » August 29th, 2010, 1:44 pm

I have written a lot of things in first person, primarily because I used to think it was necessary in order to fully establish the voice and inner thoughts for a character. I also liked the challenge of getting across other characters' personalities through the perspective of the first person MC.

My WIP is written in the third person, from multiple povs (distinctly separate, not omniscient, no head hopping). I love being able to be inside the head of every single character and having to decide whose pov each scene should be from. I didn't find it at all distancing---it was quite the opposite---there is often internal thought for the pov character, each character has a very distinct voice and way of looking at things, and, for the purpose of the story I'm telling, it allows for a complete view of the worries/revelations/feelings/thoughts/desires of all the characters. I was initially hesitant about using third person, wondering if it would keep me from getting as close as I wanted, but I have to say I've loved every minute of it.

I have never attempted second person in anything other than a blog or a personal letter.

As far as my preferences as a reader---I have favorite books that are either first person or one of the many variations of third person---the key to getting me to like a book is character development and voice---if I feel like I know the characters personally I barely even notice what pov is used---I get sucked into the story and it becomes almost irrelevant. There are plenty of excellent first person stories where you feel like you get to know the other characters as well as the primary, even though the primary is the one who is speaking. Likewise, there are plenty of third person books where you get to know all the characters intimately. My favorites are books where, after you've read them, you can't recall whose pov they were written from because you remember all the characters so clearly.
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Re: First, second and third person p.o.v

Post by sierramcconnell » August 29th, 2010, 10:44 pm

I don't mean to insult anyone -like I did on the other forum!- but I find first person a cop out, simple way of writing. It's too easy.

Third person is very difficult. Especially multi-pov. But I also have to say that if you can pull off multi-pov and make each character stand on their own very well and make them three-dimensional...

...what does that say for your mental state? XD

I must be very unstable.

[curls up with soft things] Of course, I already knew that! XD
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Re: First, second and third person p.o.v

Post by polymath » August 30th, 2010, 12:23 am

I've found first person is much more challenging to handle well than third. Several of the more prominent issues are author surrogacy's self-efficacy and self-idealization issues, unpleasantly overcomplaining and/or overcontemplative narrator, challenges to willing suspension of disbelief, too intrusive autobiographical reporting, intrusively centered narration of action, complication, attention, and involvement, and unsettled narrative point of view from mixing reporting to readers as if from a lectern and back and forth to within the frame of a narrative's time, place, and situation. I've got more reasons first-person narrators often fall short and many reasons first person is a best choice as well.
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Re: First, second and third person p.o.v

Post by amyashley » August 30th, 2010, 11:28 am

First person can be difficult for me (at least in my current work) because it is so much easier to maintain the proper personalities of other characters and develop them fully. Also, I think it is more difficult to maintain tense.

I DO think it is absolutely 100% easier, if you are a skilled author, to lose the book feeling that a reader can have. If you have a truly developed character you are writing in for first person POV and the voice comes across well, the reader can forget they are reading and get lost in the book. They cease to "see" a character and instead see the plot and action through their own eyes.

I enjoy the other styles as well, but I'm a peace, love, and happiness kind of gal, and I think everything has it's season. No ONE thing is best.

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