Fantasy Faction

Fantasy Faction Writers => Writers' Corner => Topic started by: Overlord on January 06, 2011, 05:00:23 AM

Title: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Overlord 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?
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Darkfire 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 :)
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Tiffany Kysis Tackett 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.
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Autumn2May 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?
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Daniel Polansky 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!
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Dan D Jones 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.
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: ganstream1 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.

 
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Dan D Jones 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. 
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Daniel Polansky 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
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Autumn2May 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! :)
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Arthum 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.
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Overlord 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.
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: The Mad Hatter 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
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Arthum 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.
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: WizardofWestmarch 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.
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: AJZaethe on January 26, 2011, 05:48:35 PM
I am a huge story teller.  I love telling tales, reiterating tales, hearing tales, and seeing them be told to an audience.  And of course, this style is called Omniscient.  It allows me to tell the story and I love doing that.  I like First Person as well, if they story gets really personal, but I personally feel that it just drags you along.  Not in a boring way, but in the "I am an unrelenting story" way.  Which obviously is a good thing, you want to bring the reader along, but I feel like I am being rushed.  Especially when I want to get to know a world more intimately.  Don't get me wrong, I appreciate First Person.  Thoroughly enjoyed Chronicles of the Black Company, but I wanted to know more about their world.  And it never really happened.  So I was dragged along the story. 

I have also written in First Person myself, but sometimes, my story telling comes out and I switch to Second Person by accident.  I can't help it.  The mysterious man by the fire, watching the crowd enjoy their dinner wants to inform them on a moral lesson through his tale and he needs to deliver it soon.  And so he goes into Second Person.

Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Funky Scarecrow on January 26, 2011, 06:05:01 PM
Depends entirely on the story, for me. I usually start writing in third person limited, but for occasions where I realise the PoV character may not be 100% reliable in their interpretation of the 'past events' in the story, I often retool the story into first person. An unreliable narrator is best utilised in first person, in my own opinion.

That being said, I do think a story in first person needs to be either a short story or else a pretty short novel. I couldn't read let alone write 180k words all in first person. There are limits to both its narrative scope and usefulness.
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Overlord on January 27, 2011, 04:39:52 AM
Depends entirely on the story, for me. I usually start writing in third person limited, but for occasions where I realise the PoV character may not be 100% reliable in their interpretation of the 'past events' in the story, I often retool the story into first person. An unreliable narrator is best utilised in first person, in my own opinion.

That being said, I do think a story in first person needs to be either a short story or else a pretty short novel. I couldn't read let alone write 180k words all in first person. There are limits to both its narrative scope and usefulness.

That's a good point. I find it harder reading first person than I do third person, but easier writing first person than I do third person... I think because first person is 'your vision', so to step into someone else's vision for such a long time is difficult... yet staying within your own vision is easy. Third person you are writing to explain too, I guess first person you are writing more to document/record.

Switching from third to first is an interesting concept. Do you know any published authors who do this? I'm just trying to think of one... I'm sure there must be a few.
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: The Mad Hatter on January 27, 2011, 05:29:28 AM
Switching from third to first is an interesting concept. Do you know any published authors who do this? I'm just trying to think of one... I'm sure there must be a few.

Yes, because that's where I got the idea, but I can't remember the name...

Or think of Thieves World, where the first person switched from story to story.

Wayne aka The Mad Hatter
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: AJZaethe on January 27, 2011, 07:41:48 PM
The third novel of the Onslaught Cycle of Magic the Gathering switched between the two.  It was flawless.  Other stories that I have seen do this have been very jarring.  I believe few can pull it off without jarring the reader.
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: MTMaenpaa on February 02, 2011, 03:17:54 AM
I tend to let the needs of the story dictate the POV, though I find 3rd person more comfortable for most longer works.  I have a few pieces written in 1st person, because the characters voice will snap in my mind.

I do like to use 1st person in a writing exercise, writing from the perspective of X character explaining things to me.  Useful for getting a voice down, working out a character's perspective on recent events or even determining motivation.
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Khaldun on February 08, 2011, 06:29:24 PM
At first I wrote all my stories in the third person. Now I'm starting to really enjoy writing short stories in first person, although I'm not exactly sure why. It feels more personal, and its the way we naturally tell stories. My novel length works are all still third person currently, however.
I don't really have a preference either way when reading. First person can be done well (Dresden) and so can third person (GRRM).
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Dan D Jones on February 08, 2011, 08:27:23 PM
That being said, I do think a story in first person needs to be either a short story or else a pretty short novel. I couldn't read let alone write 180k words all in first person. There are limits to both its narrative scope and usefulness.

We'll have to agree to disagree on this one.  Just off the top of my head, I offer Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun series, Patrick Rothfuss' Name of the Wind and presumably the upcoming The Wise Man's Fear, Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos' novels (twelve published with another seven promised), and Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber (both the Corwin cycle and the Merlin cycle) as evidence.
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Dan D Jones on February 08, 2011, 08:33:48 PM
Switching from third to first is an interesting concept. Do you know any published authors who do this? I'm just trying to think of one... I'm sure there must be a few.

Yes, because that's where I got the idea, but I can't remember the name...

Or think of Thieves World, where the first person switched from story to story.

Heroes Die by Matthew Stover does it.

The Name of the Wind does as well, although it does so via the technique of a frame story and not via viewpoint switches per se.


Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: UnforgivingMuse on February 09, 2011, 01:44:46 PM
It is much easier to write in first person; third takes control, both of how close to the character you are, and also to hold the narrative voice. The temptation with third is to drift off and either pop into other character's heads or just become a vague omniscient voice. All of which are fine if done with control, but if not that narrative voice just switches to the author's and not the character's, something that may well put the reader off.

That said, I'm using both first and third person perspectives in my novel (in different sections); as DDJones mentioned, it's what is right for the story.

John Mullan's book How Novels Work, has some good analysis of the different approaches.
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Nighteyes on February 09, 2011, 04:44:45 PM
I dislike reading first person cos every time I take a break from reading to live my normal life, I have a damn inner monologue going on.  'I was disappointed by the contents of my fridge.  I smelt the milk, it did not smell fresh' etc etc....
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Mark Lawrence on February 09, 2011, 10:46:00 PM
I like both. I don't think there's a publishing prejudice against 1st person.

I think all of Robin Hobb's work is in 1st person.

A lot of contemporary fantasy is written in 1st person (I'm told) - Black Company, by Cook, and Name of the Wind, by Rothfuss (not read those but I'm sure they're 1st person).

It's not new though - I think the 1,000+ Gor books that date back to the 70s are in first person as are Zelany's ten Amber books.

Mark
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Overlord on February 11, 2011, 12:45:57 PM
I like both. I don't think there's a publishing prejudice against 1st person.

I think all of Robin Hobb's work is in 1st person.

A lot of contemporary fantasy is written in 1st person (I'm told) - Black Company, by Cook, and Name of the Wind, by Rothfuss (not read those but I'm sure they're 1st person).

It's not new though - I think the 1,000+ Gor books that date back to the 70s are in first person as are Zelany's ten Amber books.

Mark

Name of the Wind switches between the two... it starts in third and then the character begins to tell another character about his life so that he can document it. You'd probably quite like it Mark, it is done in a similar way to your novel - i.e. a kind of reflective and kind of cocky voice. ;P
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: WizardofWestmarch on February 12, 2011, 07:59:51 PM
To me switching between first and third person as part of a framing story isn't the same as just switching (usually having one or two characters as the First person viewpoints, and the rest being third limited or similar).

After all, at least the vast majority of Name of the Wind (maybe all, I read it over a year ago) is really from Kvothe's viewpoint, including the third person parts.
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: ashleyjbarnard on February 13, 2011, 04:22:12 AM
I write better using first person, but I usually use third. There's always something in another character's head that I need to get to the bottom of. : )

Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Mark Lawrence on February 13, 2011, 08:30:47 AM
I write better using first person, but I usually use third. There's always something in another character's head that I need to get to the bottom of. : )



I've discovered (thanks to a rather excellent new book called 'The Salt Road' by Jane Johnson (not a swords and sorcery fantasy, but an exotic adventure)) that you can write in the first person for one character and in the third person for another, and mix threads in fairly equal measure, and despite expectations it really works. It sounds as though she's done something similar to Rothfuss but taken it further. Anyhow, it's a great technique if you can work it!
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: ashleyjbarnard on February 13, 2011, 08:44:10 PM

I've discovered (thanks to a rather excellent new book called 'The Salt Road' by Jane Johnson (not a swords and sorcery fantasy, but an exotic adventure)) that you can write in the first person for one character and in the third person for another, and mix threads in fairly equal measure, and despite expectations it really works. It sounds as though she's done something similar to Rothfuss but taken it further. Anyhow, it's a great technique if you can work it!
[/quote]

I will check that out! I first saw that in Diana Gabaldon's books; while there is no explanation as to the switch in POV, it works and no one, as far as I know, has complained. I tried it with my own work, employing the old "journal entry" cheat to get away with it.
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: UnforgivingMuse on February 13, 2011, 09:16:54 PM
Ian Banks's novel, Complicity uses the second person perspective in certain scenes to powerful, and slightly disturbing, effect; drawing the reader into the acts of a twisted killer as if they are complicit in them (hence the title). It's not fantasy or sci-fi, but it's well worth a read just to see how masterfully he achieves this.
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: ashleyjbarnard on February 14, 2011, 12:50:43 AM


I've discovered (thanks to a rather excellent new book called 'The Salt Road' by Jane Johnson (not a swords and sorcery fantasy, but an exotic adventure)) that you can write in the first person for one character and in the third person for another, and mix threads in fairly equal measure, and despite expectations it really works. It sounds as though she's done something similar to Rothfuss but taken it further. Anyhow, it's a great technique if you can work it!
[/quote]

By the way, I have realized belatedly that you are the Mark Lawrence whose book is reviewed on this site (I'm a little slow). Just wanted to say I think you have an absolutely stunning cover and congrats on your great review! I am looking forward to seeing your book in print.
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: darkshiara on February 18, 2011, 06:21:41 AM
I always struggle with third person and first.  I love first person because your readers' really get a feel for the character.  Everything is out on the plate.  You know the character's neuroses in a way that is different from third.  It's more intimate, more intense.  But at the same time, especially in my writing, I don't like sticking to one point of view.  I don't want to just follow around character A but also want to explore character B.  Third person allows you to do this fluidly without having alternate chapters, parts, or even books where you explore each character's reactions etc.  At the same time though, it doesn't always feel as intimate when you are switching between characters.  It can even be annoying if you don't like the character that the author is focusing on. 

So ... in the end I think I like first person better but feel like I get more out of writing third person. 
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Eclipse on June 25, 2019, 05:37:10 PM
I prefer First person.
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: ScarletBea on June 25, 2019, 06:06:50 PM
I don't really mind either way - but one thing I've noticed is that I can't read many 'first person' books in a row, as suddenly I can't remember who's talking anymore :-[
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Alex Hormann on June 25, 2019, 07:03:23 PM
I find it easier to write in first person, but only for shorter works. With something longer I get bored with just having one narrator, or feel a need for a wider scope. As a reader, I only really like first person if there's a reason for the person to be telling their own story. for example, if the book is framed as a memoir.
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: J.R. Darewood on June 27, 2019, 05:01:52 PM
Third
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Bender on June 28, 2019, 12:21:49 AM
I prefer a mix. A fully first or third person view tends to be monotonous and a mix based on situations should be the norm.
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Elfy on June 28, 2019, 06:49:39 AM
I prefer a mix. A fully first or third person view tends to be monotonous and a mix based on situations should be the norm.
I’m with Bender. I prefer a mix. You also get little gems like one I’m reading now, The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders, which uses alternating 1st and 3rd person.
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: J.R. Darewood on June 28, 2019, 07:41:17 AM
I prefer a mix. A fully first or third person view tends to be monotonous and a mix based on situations should be the norm.
I’m with Bender. I prefer a mix. You also get little gems like one I’m reading now, The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders, which uses alternating 1st and 3rd person.

Ewwww no. I read a book where they did that once. Just no.
Title: Re: First person or Third person, which one do you prefer?
Post by: Elfy on June 29, 2019, 02:54:48 AM
I prefer a mix. A fully first or third person view tends to be monotonous and a mix based on situations should be the norm.
I’m with Bender. I prefer a mix. You also get little gems like one I’m reading now, The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders, which uses alternating 1st and 3rd person.

Ewwww no. I read a book where they did that once. Just no.
If it’s done well, it’s highly enjoyable. Jonathan Stroud did it so well in Amulet of Samarkand that I was about halfway through it before it even registered on me.