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Author Topic: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?  (Read 13474 times)

Offline Overlord

First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
« on: January 06, 2011, 05:00:23 AM »
Which do you prefer to use when writing? Personally I 'prefer' to write in First Person because I find it easier and have generally written far more in that style over the years... However in the last 6-12 months I have decided not to write in first person any more but to instead move over to third person.

I know you 'can' sell first person, but it is very, very difficult to do so. The majority of publishers will be far more accepting of third person and readers too - from all the articles I have read. I think it allows you to develop the story more, switch between characters easier and generally give information that is important but that a character may not know / would obviously miss.

How about you guys?
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Offline Darkfire

Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2011, 10:16:19 AM »
I do third person. Honestly, I'm not sure why, as one of my favourite authors writes in first person. But it just feels more natural to me. Also, I've tried and failed to write in first person before :P I just can't seem to pull it off the way I do with third person. I definitely agree with you, that there may be something in the plot that the reader might need to know, to understand something, but it may be something the character is unaware. I don't think revealing something like that would be easy in first person, and I doubt it would go at all well. Still that's just me :)

Offline Tiffany Kysis Tackett

Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2011, 03:47:08 PM »
I write in third person close, which is pretty much first person, only with he and she instead of I.  It allows me to get into the characters' heads as well as have certain characters that know more than others, while at the same time giving me the ability to jump between multiple narrators throughout the course of the book.

What I'm used to writing in the most is third person, because of screenwriting, which is all in third person present tense, and has the distance of narration right over the shoulder, generally.  You can't shoot a person's exact thoughts (dreams and flashbacks, yes, not really stream of consciousness, though), so I had trouble doing third person close for the longest time, but I think I'm getting the hang of it now.

For non-fiction, I write first person.  People tell me it is compelling and has a definite voice, but I don't like it.  It feels stilted and unnatural to me. *shrugs*

When reading, I shy away from first person.  I have a tendency to dislike main characters in books, a lot, so sticking with just one character, so closely inside their head, with just their feelings and thoughts portrayed, can really drive me up a wall, especially if I don't like them.  This is one of the reasons I like sci-fi and fantasy so much: you generally don't see first person narrators.

Offline Autumn2May

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Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2011, 03:59:58 PM »
I'm writing in the third person, because I am I guess. :) Here is where my lack of grammar knowledge is definitely a hindrance, because I had to ask my husband what tense I was writing in. XD I'm good at lots of things, but English is not one of them, even though it is my first and only language. :)

That being said, I did write one scene in this story in the first person.  My main character is telling her newfound friend what happened before the book starts.  I wrote it as if she was telling him, rather then doing it as a flashback.  It was hard to write, and I might change it later.  Is it weird to switch tenses in a story?  It's just one scene, not even a whole chapter, but it seems a bit clunky to me the way it is.  And if I do change it, how exactly do you write a flashback?

Offline Daniel Polansky

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Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2011, 04:28:01 PM »
I prefer first person because it feels more immediate.  I like to imagine the bond between the protagonist and the reader being stronger as a result of the very intimate qualities of the first person narrative.  Of course, then you have to make sure your protagonist is someone whose mind people will want to spend the better part of four hundred pages in!
« Last Edit: January 06, 2011, 05:30:09 PM by Daniel Polansky »
www.danielpolansky.com

Book 1 of the LOW TOWN series will be available in 2011 under two different titles:

LOW TOWN (US/Canada)
Doubleday: August 16, 2011

THE STRAIGHT RAZOR CURE (UK/Commonwealth)
Hodder & Stoughton: 18 August 2011

Also: German, French, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Croat

Offline Dan D Jones

Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2011, 04:37:07 PM »
For me, it isn't a matter of what I prefer.  It's a matter of what works best for the story.  The novel I'm working on at the moment is in first person.  The two short stories I completed before that were in third person.  Put another way, what I "prefer" is what allows me to tell the story to the best of my ability.

I chose first person for this novel because of the dynamics of the story.  The protagonist of the novel is not the narrator.  (An example of this technique is Melville's "Moby Dick."  Ishmael is the narrator, but the story is really "about" Captain Ahab.)  By using a first person narrator who is not the protagonist, the motivations and intentions of the protagonist can be mysterious and ambiguous.  A first-person narrator just "fits" the story I want to tell.

For the short story I wrote just prior to this, the story was about a young woman's meeting an old lover for the first time in years.  It's a character driven story, where the focus is on her growth as she deals with the external and internal issues raised by the meeting.  I wanted the reader to be separate from the protagonist, but also privy to her internal conflicts; to understand the character's turmoil but also to be outside of it so that he/she can recognize the growth as it occurs.  For that situation, I used third person limited - third person to distance the reader from the protagonist but limited omniscience to give visibility and insight into her private thoughts.

Offline ganstream1

Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2011, 04:49:15 PM »
Third person limited.

I'm still working on it though. I have the urge to head hop every time I write a scene involving more than 1 character. I don't know, I just find head hopping to be interesting... but maybe that's just me.

 

Offline Dan D Jones

Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2011, 05:08:25 PM »
Autumn2May, third person is point of view, not tense.  It's easy to confuse.  If you're not familiar with point of view, there's all sorts of info available on the web.  If you're into podcasts, I highly recommend "Writing Excuses."

http://www.writingexcuses.com/2008/07/14/writing-excuses-episode-23-viewpoint/

http://www.writingexcuses.com/2008/07/28/writing-excuses-episode-25-viewpoint-and-tense-part-2/

http://www.writingexcuses.com/2010/09/19/writing-excuses-5-3-first-person-viewpoint/

http://www.writingexcuses.com/2010/09/07/we-5-1-third-person-limited/

Each one is only about 15 minutes long, so they're quick and easy to listen to.  You can listen on your computer or download to your iPod or other media player if you have one. 

Offline Daniel Polansky

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Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2011, 05:17:11 PM »
For me, it isn't a matter of what I prefer.  It's a matter of what works best for the story.

I agree with you on this, DD.  And The Great Gatsby is another good example of the point you make in the second paragraph.

D
« Last Edit: January 06, 2011, 05:30:35 PM by Daniel Polansky »
www.danielpolansky.com

Book 1 of the LOW TOWN series will be available in 2011 under two different titles:

LOW TOWN (US/Canada)
Doubleday: August 16, 2011

THE STRAIGHT RAZOR CURE (UK/Commonwealth)
Hodder & Stoughton: 18 August 2011

Also: German, French, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Croat

Offline Autumn2May

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Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2011, 05:55:39 PM »
Autumn2May, third person is point of view, not tense.  It's easy to confuse.  If you're not familiar with point of view, there's all sorts of info available on the web.  If you're into podcasts, I highly recommend "Writing Excuses."

http://www.writingexcuses.com/2008/07/14/writing-excuses-episode-23-viewpoint/

http://www.writingexcuses.com/2008/07/28/writing-excuses-episode-25-viewpoint-and-tense-part-2/

http://www.writingexcuses.com/2010/09/19/writing-excuses-5-3-first-person-viewpoint/

http://www.writingexcuses.com/2010/09/07/we-5-1-third-person-limited/

Each one is only about 15 minutes long, so they're quick and easy to listen to.  You can listen on your computer or download to your iPod or other media player if you have one. 

Thanks!  I'll have to check them out during my kids naptime.  Listening to anything while they're awake is next to impossible! :)

Offline Arthum

Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
« Reply #10 on: January 06, 2011, 11:04:52 PM »
Ah I always write in third person, but honestly I always wanted to write a longer flashback using the first person narration. But I'm not sure if I'm up for it :/ I have a few good ideas but I'm never sure if I am truly capable of writing that idea.

Offline Overlord

Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2011, 04:01:50 AM »
Ah I always write in third person, but honestly I always wanted to write a longer flashback using the first person narration. But I'm not sure if I'm up for it :/ I have a few good ideas but I'm never sure if I am truly capable of writing that idea.

Just try, try and try again until you are happy with it :) There is a good book called 'Self-Editing for Fiction Writers' which is pretty good. Even if you don't write something you are happy with you can certainly edit it and play with it enough that it can become presentable.
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Offline The Mad Hatter

Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2011, 02:53:39 AM »
Which do you prefer to use when writing? Personally I 'prefer' to write in First Person because I find it easier and have generally written far more in that style over the years... However in the last 6-12 months I have decided not to write in first person any more but to instead move over to third person.

I know you 'can' sell first person, but it is very, very difficult to do so. The majority of publishers will be far more accepting of third person and readers too - from all the articles I have read. I think it allows you to develop the story more, switch between characters easier and generally give information that is important but that a character may not know / would obviously miss.

How about you guys?

In my current novel, I'm using both. Scenes that involve the protagonist are first person, scenes which don't include him are third person.

Wayne aka The Mad Hatter

Offline Arthum

Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
« Reply #13 on: January 19, 2011, 11:47:03 PM »
Just try, try and try again until you are happy with it :) There is a good book called 'Self-Editing for Fiction Writers' which is pretty good. Even if you don't write something you are happy with you can certainly edit it and play with it enough that it can become presentable.

Eh sorry for not answering it earlier. But I have to admit I will really need to get my greedy little hands on that book to read it. Dunno if I'll find it in Poland but I'll try ;) Or I'll have to try and practice editing on my own.

Offline WizardofWestmarch

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Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
« Reply #14 on: January 22, 2011, 02:23:50 AM »
Third limited, because I can't stand multiple first person narrators in stories, and the tales I tend to tell are best split among multiple PoV characters.

If I ever get around to something where a single PoV makes sense, however?  I'll give First another spin.
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