Writing in 1st and 3rd

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oldhousejunkie
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Writing in 1st and 3rd

Post by oldhousejunkie » June 30th, 2012, 5:16 pm

I could use some opinions on this issue. My completed MS is written in 1st person for the main female MC and switches occasionally to 3rd for the male MC. I'd say about 2/3 of the novel is in 1st female and the other 1/3 in 3rd for the male.

Why I chose to do this? Well I had a hard time connecting to the female MC initially so I wrote it in 1st to better get in her head. But then I don't like having all the other characters filtered through the lens of 1st person. So I did the third person thing for her two love interests.

Would you as a reader find this annoying? It doesn't bother me (obviously) and as I do a final pass through before self-pubbing it, it seems to make sense/work out fine. But I don't want a ton of reviews that say that they loved the premise and the characters but the switch up in tenses annoyed them. :(

I've polled some of my blog readers and most thought they wouldn't like it while some acknowledged that they had never read a book set up like that. Laurie R. King wrote her Mary Russell series with the 1st/3rd thing and I checked out her reviews on GoodReads. It seems that people have a bigger problem with her treatment of Sherlock Holmes than how she wrote the book.

I just want to make the right decision. It's a lot of work to go back and change everything to 3rd person. Sigh. Any advice would be helpful.

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Re: Writing in 1st and 3rd

Post by Sommer Leigh » June 30th, 2012, 8:12 pm

While I believe it's absolutely up to how you as the writer envision it and the skill by which you weave the two, my personal preference as a reader is that I don't generally like multiple points of view when one is obviously the dominant point of the view and the other(s) are there primarily to provide insight to things in which the main character can't be privy to. (I do not mind when the narrative is evenly split with no author "favorite" getting more attention.) And here's why I generally don't like it - when I fall in love with one character and their point of view, I find myself skimming the points of view I'm less interested in. It has nothing to do with first or third. And this is totally my personal reading preference and should not be considered a "norm".

Of course, I've read books that did just this and I actually like how it was pulled off. I think that goes back to the writer's skill and how they are using the point of view switch. For example, when the Twilight books do this, it was very awful. When the book The Rules of Attraction did it, it was awesome and absolutely perfect for the narrative.I think it even switched from 1st to 3rd too, but I can't remember anymore.

My personal opinion? Have beta readers try it out, then ask them about the point of view shift. If you get an overwhelming response one way or another, you'll probably have a good idea of whether it works or not.
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Re: Writing in 1st and 3rd

Post by Amanda Elizabeth » June 30th, 2012, 8:39 pm

I don't mind different POVs of characters if it's done well, but switching from first the third person would really be confusing to me. I've yet to hear of a book written like that unless it was a prologue or a special circumstance. The tricky thing with two POVs (in 1st person) is that they need to sound completely different. And if you did go ahead with one 1st person POV and another 3rd person POV, you'd need to make sure you as the narrator of the 3rd person didn't sound like the character in 1st person.

My book is 3rd person POV because there are two main characters and I didn't want to end up with the problem I stated above. If I was having trouble getting into one of their heads I'd write a scene in first person and then go from there to translate it into 3rd person.

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Re: Writing in 1st and 3rd

Post by polymath » July 1st, 2012, 11:42 am

Two concerns I have with two perspectives, two grammatical persons, first and third, is who's the narrator? Or are there two or more? First person is by default the narrator. Then who's the narrator of the third person perspective? The same narrator?

And first person by default closes narrative distance. Third tends to open narrative distance. The narrator is not present in the scene in the persons, settings, or events of the unfolding action. However, if in past-present tense, the reliability of the scene portrayal tends to be more objective from reporting after all is known about the action. Where present tense, like a first person narrator, tends to be subjective.

A question of who's the narrator for third person passages in a first person narrative can simply be addressed by having the same narrator as the first person passages. The first person narrator identity is established in the first person scenes. Opening third person scenes by establishing the relationship of the first person narrator to the scene takes advantage of that. An unestablished narrator identity feels anonymous, omniscient, and open to question from a lack of establishing ethos, or credibility. Who reports this? If it's the first person narrator, the degree of credibilty for the third person passages is established by the first person passages. If the third person narrator identity is underdeveloped, credibility comes into question, spoiling third person's default objectivity.

First person narrator strengths are subjectivity and close narrative distance. Third person narrator strengths are objectivity and flexible narrative distance. Similarly, present tense's strengths are subjectivity and close narrative distance. Past-present tense's strengths are objectivity and flexible narrative distance. Knowing and applying those strengths and their weaknesses makes for artful prose.
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oldhousejunkie
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Re: Writing in 1st and 3rd

Post by oldhousejunkie » July 1st, 2012, 1:14 pm

Polymath, you just blew my mind. :D

I'm thinking that I should just bite the bullet and change it all to third. It kind of makes me want to cry to think about all the work it will take, but it's starting to sound necessary.

I've had several betas have at it; I can only think of one who objected to the 1st/3rd thing. OK, maybe two. The other two were fine with it. One of the agents that requested a full said that it would be hard to market written that way (on top of the time period being unpopular). I won an editorial critique from a publishing house and she didn't have an issue with the shift beyond saying that I needed to make it clear who the person was, where they were, etc.

So I'm at 50/50. Sigh.

I'm just trying to figure out the best way to transfer the 1st person parts to 3rd. Find and replace won't work completely. If I look for "I" with the intention of replacing it with "she" then every "i" will show up. Any suggestions/

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Re: Writing in 1st and 3rd

Post by Mark.W.Carson » July 1st, 2012, 1:58 pm

If it makes you feel any better, Oldhouse, I wrote my MS starting in first, then redid it in third, then halfway through, restarted in first with some third for another character, and now I am rewriting it again all in 1st from the MC's POV, except in one flashback scene.

That's a LOT Of rewriting.

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Re: Writing in 1st and 3rd

Post by writersink » July 1st, 2012, 2:20 pm

mark54g wrote:If it makes you feel any better, Oldhouse, I wrote my MS starting in first, then redid it in third, then halfway through, restarted in first with some third for another character, and now I am rewriting it again all in 1st from the MC's POV, except in one flashback scene.

That's a LOT Of rewriting.
I was actually struggling to come up with an example where I'd seen this, and I could only think of yours!

Oldhouse, don't worry about the amount of work it would take. One major character in mine was initially a boy, but I changed him/her to a girl, and had to rewrite all her scenes so that it fit with the new story. I changed my idea for the plot three quarters of the way and now I'm stuck with some seriously major rewrites... but, at the end of it, if you get a really good story out of it all, aren't those extra hours worth it? I'm in the same boat, and I definitely think so! :D

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Re: Writing in 1st and 3rd

Post by oldhousejunkie » July 1st, 2012, 2:29 pm

Thanks for the moral support, folks. I know it will be worth it, but I'm hating my life right now! I'm going to go bang my head against the wall right now.

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Re: Writing in 1st and 3rd

Post by writersink » July 1st, 2012, 2:36 pm

oldhousejunkie wrote:Thanks for the moral support, folks. I know it will be worth it, but I'm hating my life right now! I'm going to go bang my head against the wall right now.
Ha! That is exactly what I want to do! I'll bang my head right next to yours!

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Re: Writing in 1st and 3rd

Post by Mark.W.Carson » July 1st, 2012, 2:40 pm

Don't hate your life about it. Just make sure it presses you into making the story better.

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Re: Writing in 1st and 3rd

Post by oldhousejunkie » July 1st, 2012, 4:34 pm

OMG...so I'm going through and changing the tense and all of the sudden my delete button hangs up (or something) and 20 pages gets eaten! I guess it's kind of funny because I'm screaming and carrying on, punching buttons and trying to stop it. And my hubby comes running downstairs (probably thinking I'm getting attacked by someone or something) and tries to stop it. We finally got it to stop but geez! I'm totally freaked out right now. Maybe it's a sign? :mrgreen:

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Re: Writing in 1st and 3rd

Post by Mark.W.Carson » July 1st, 2012, 6:01 pm

ctrl Z

Also, multiple copies all over the place.

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Re: Writing in 1st and 3rd

Post by hooktonfonnix » July 1st, 2012, 10:00 pm

While I've never tried a split first/third narrative before, I do know about rewriting for POV reasons. For my current WIP, I was over 80,000 words into my first draft when I realized that the story needed to be told in first person rather than third. And by that time I had so many improved story ideas that it ended up becoming a full rewrite. I didn't save anything. 80,000 words...useless. It was extremely depressing, but it had to be done. Best decision regarding my novel I ever made. No regrets.

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