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Old Sep 27, 2005, 11:53 PM   #1
MonaMe577
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Smile 1st or 3rd Person POV?

I was wondering if anyone had any preferences when it comes to fanfiction. Which POV do you prefer to read? Which do you prefer to write?

A good story is a good story, regardless, but...quite frankly, I find it extremely difficult to get into a story that is not written in first person. Every story I've ever written has been in first person POV. I like the feeling of intimacy it creates--the audience knows and sees only what the character does, and IMHO, that heightens both the suspense and the emotional impact. The only way I like third person is if the story features only one character's viewpoint throught the entire thing, period, no exceptions.

Now I'm sure I'm going to be in the minority with the opinion, and I'm also sure that not too many people feel as strongly about this as I do. But I'm interested in hearing opinions. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?
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Old Sep 28, 2005, 12:31 AM   #2
HMVNipper
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Oh boy, do I have thoughts on this!

Actually, I can read a story that is in either POV. If it's a good story, it will draw me in and I can get into it. But WRITING a story is a different animal altogether...

I actually prefer to write in third person. It's easier, anyway, because then you can change POV and get into other people's heads if you have to. You can have scene changes so that some scenes are from one character's POV and some are from another's, and sometimes that is necessary. I find it interesting, Mona, that you say that you will only read a story that is in third person if it remains in one character's POV for the entire story, no exceptions. But the point of third person, I think, is that you CAN change POV from chapter to chapter if you want -- for instance, if you wanted to write a story about, say, a cross-country romance, and you wanted to have Cathy in Los Angeles and David in New York, and you wanted to have, in addition to the chapters where they were together, what was going on with each of them when the other wasn't around. You'd have to have some chapters from Cathy's point of view in LA, and some from David's in NY, and you just can't do that in first person! If a third person story is going to be from only one POV and one only, then what's the point of writing it in third person? I personally find third person more versatile from a storytelling perspective, depending on what I want to do.

In first person, the entire story HAS to be from the POV of the person telling the story -- so that you can't, for instance, have your narrator knowing what's going on in another character's head unless that other character TELLS them. (I tried to explain that to someone who gave me a first-person POV story to edit. She wanted to have a scene where the narrator was dancing with another man in a club and describing John's feelings as he watched her -- and I told her, unless John TOLD the narrator after the fact what he was feeling as he watched, there was no way she'd be able to know, because the whole story was told in HER voice, in HER head, and so, logically, she wouldn't know what John was thinking, since people aren't usually mind readers! We finally figured out a way for her to do what she wanted to do in a first-person story, but it was a kind of half-assed solution from an editorial standpoint, and I didn't like having to resort to it...)

As for me -- I think writing a story in third person is easier on a personal level. But having said that, I am in the middle of one that I've been working on for some time that is in first-person. I originally started it as a bit of a writing exercise -- I had never really been able to sustain a first-person story from start to finish. And then this particular story started coming easier once I got into it. But I really find first-person sort of limiting in the sense that (a) you can't change POV at all (as discussed above) and (b) there's not much of a sense of suspense in that if your narrator is the one telling the story, it's clear that they're going to be there for the whole thing. So if you're planning to write a story in which a main character dies or something (not that I write a lot of those, mind you), it clearly can't be told in first person from that character's POV.

Writing in first person has been an interesting writing exercise for me. I do think that even if a writer isn't comfortable with that kind of thing, as I wasn't with first person, he or she should try writing a story in the less comfortable way at least once. Learning how to handle and sustain a writing style you may not have tried before can be invaluable experience and can only help you grow as a writer.
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Old Sep 28, 2005, 01:07 AM   #3
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How funny, Nipper. We're exactly the opposite!

See, I've never written a third-person story, and my "baby" is in first-person. Like I said before, I like the intimacy created between the character and the reader, something I feel is lacking in stories with multiple POV's. And honestly, I'm never really that interested in what's going on in the other characters' heads. I think it's so much more interesting to observe from a distance, like the hero or heroine does, misinterpreting actions when they do, having the same reactions they do. Heightens the emotional impact, IMO.

That's why I hate romance novels...but I love chick lit!
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Old Sep 28, 2005, 02:39 AM   #4
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I find it hard to write in the first person and it is over time, effort and practice that I have learned to do do. For many years, writing in the third person was my literary "comfort zone." Until fairly recent years, I was told repeatedly that I tended to "write cognitively and not emotionally." That, too was a comfort zone for me.

The advantage of writing in the first person is that the writer is really concerned with only one POV as opposed to creating other POV or, in the case of fan fic involving real people surmising the likely POV of the real people.

The advantage of writing in the third person is that it provides more of a literary distance. Writers are then freer to play with and insert other POV and I think it is easier to include work with and/or create other POV when employing this writing style.

I tend to keep my characters at arm's length. There are people I know who are my literary/writing opposites. In 2002, I met an author who was so emotionally involved with the characters they created that it actually scared me. This particular author said that in the case of some characters, the characters would tell [the author] things about themselves. It sounded to me as if the person was overidentifying with the characters they had created. In listening to this person's perspective, it sounded to me as if the person was inordinately involved with their characters and I admit to finding that a bit frightening.

Another extreme response to one's own creation is when authors claim to cry when they "finish" with a character. I once met a writer who confessed to crying after finishing a story involving a regular character. This particular writer was, by self admission "attached to the character" and "hated to see the story end" because of "missing" that character.

While I can't claim to have ever had those experiences (and I hope I never do), I have had entire stories come to me. My writing style tends to be in many cases impersonal and cognitive, but again that is just the way that is most comfortable for me.
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Old Sep 28, 2005, 11:18 AM   #5
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I dunno, I feel like my characters "tell" me things all the time, and I don't see anything weird about that. I like to think that when I create a character I like and am comfortable with, that character takes on a life of his or her own to some extent. I don't mean in the literal sense, I don't hear voices or anything, but in the sense that my characters "tell" me how they might interact with the Beatles (or the main Beatle the story is about, at any rate) I think it's okay.

It is perfectly normal to identify with one's characters. They are, in the creative sense, the writer's children. I know my characters aren't real people, but in some way I feel that they are as much a part of me as my son. Does that make any sense?

Many writers feel a sense of loss when they finish a story with a character they enjoyed writing about. It's normal. It shows that the author has put heart and soul into the work and lends a personal and intimate feeling to the story in most cases. I've cried when I've finished stories with particularly wonderful characters -- it's kind of like sending your kids out into the world to fend for themselves when you finish a story and start posting it or sending it to agents or editors...the story has to stand on its own merits, and strong characters can help that happen.

Does any of this make sense regarding identifying with one's characters? I don't think it's "over" identifying, I think it's perfectly normal.
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Old Sep 28, 2005, 12:08 PM   #6
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Interesting topic...I think the main force behind writing in either first or second person is what their comfort zone is, primarily. I would say about 75% of all the stories I've ever written were done in first person. I'm very comfortable with that, and I think it gives the story an overall sense of immediacy as well as intimacy with the reader, as Mona mentioned.

However, there have been quite a number of times when third-person worked out better for me. I tend to use third person if I'm writing historical fiction... or, and I just realized this, especially if the main character is male (I don't want to even try to explore my way into the male psyche enough to write a first-person male character! ). In high school we had a homework assignment to write a journal entry that someone of the opposite sex might write--I seriously think that was the most challenging writing assignment I've ever had!

The overall construction of the story also determines whether or not I use third person, besides comfort level. Years and years ago I wrote a mystery story where I used third person omniscient (where more than one person's point of view was included)...and then I did a series of coming-of-age stories where I used third person limited (only the main character's point of view is used). So sometimes the story genre determines which point of view is appropriate and contributes the most to the story.
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Old Sep 28, 2005, 12:50 PM   #7
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Good points, Susan, and I guess I never looked at it that way before.

It is natural to feel a sense of loss upon completion of a story or when a character's tale has reached a conclusion. I don't mean what you have described above. What I am talking about is the case where an individual claimed their character "literally spoke to them" and even woke them up to divulge more information.

Yeah, it is perfectly okay if one's characters "tell" (in the figurative sense) what they would do or how they would interact with a Beatle. That wasn't what I meant at all.

Several years ago, I knew somebody who claimed to be a fiction (not Beatle fan fic) writer. What this person would do would convert every discussion about a particular real person into a public platform for lamentation over the issues and challenges the real person had faced. This was a case where the writer a) did not know the real person and b) behaved in a way that suggested overidentifying with that real person. By overidentifying, I mean that every single time the person was so much as mentioned, the writer would derail the thread to sing the person's praises to the sky; put the person on a pedastal and publicly lament over the problems the person had that were recorded in the book. The writer took this to the extreme of inserting fictitious stories with equally fictitious characters including that real person and this got good and tiresome. Instead of discussing the book and the issues seriously, soberly and objectively, the writer would, as stated above derail the topics and irk other people.

Back to story conclusions - I do think it is natural to feel a certain degree of loss. The better developed the characters and the more plausible they are, the greater that feeling. Good analogy about the characters going off into their own literary world - the writer has laid down the tracks, and the characters have spread their literary wings and taken their literary flights to literary independence.

All of what you said is pefectly normal, Susan. What I meant was that if these same feelings exceed a certain degree or range, then it becomes a whole different story. There are actually people who have abandoned 3D and have decided to take up mental residence in their paracosms - that is scary. Most people don't do that, but for the few who have, that is exceeding that boundary.
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Old Sep 28, 2005, 03:15 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HMVNipper
I find it interesting, Mona, that you say that you will only read a story that is in third person if it remains in one character's POV for the entire story, no exceptions. But the point of third person, I think, is that you CAN change POV from chapter to chapter if you want -- for instance, if you wanted to write a story about, say, a cross-country romance, and you wanted to have Cathy in Los Angeles and David in New York, and you wanted to have, in addition to the chapters where they were together, what was going on with each of them when the other wasn't around. You'd have to have some chapters from Cathy's point of view in LA, and some from David's in NY, and you just can't do that in first person!
Okay, now this makes sense. I can understand why you would use third person POV to write this type of story. Maybe I should clarify what I meant when I said one POV through the whole thing--it's so hard for me to explain myself well at two in the morning!

Let's say I'm reading a story. There's a main plot featuring Tom and Jane, and a subplot featuring Judy and Steve. I start off with a scene about Tom and Jane, from Tom's POV. Great. The story then switches to the subplot and there's a scene between Judy and Steve from Judy's POV. Then it goes back to the main plot, back to where the first scene left off, only now it's in Jane's POV instead of Tom's. I HATE that!

The story can switch back and forth between viewpoints, but it has to be one POV for one scene, period. Even if that scene between Tom and Jane is broken up over several chapters, if it starts in Tom's POV, it needs to stay in Tom's POV for the length of it. Once the scene ends and a new scene begins, then you can switch to Jane's POV--not before.
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Old Sep 28, 2005, 06:32 PM   #9
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Sequencing is a good point, Mona. From what you described above, that technique has to be done by somebody who is skilled at keeping the story from becoming erratic and confusing to readers. The other part to it is staying true to the different literary personalities of the characters.
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Old Oct 15, 2005, 05:22 PM   #10
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nevermidn, someone just took my thought and i didn't notice til after i posted...
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Old Nov 03, 2009, 02:21 PM   #11
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I think I tend to write mostly in third person, but first person is fun too. There are benefits to both, which have been discussed at length already.

What about second person? It's so rare to find stories written in second person, but I think it's a fascinating way to revamp old stories. I've done it myself several times, most recently with a novella I wrote last year. What was interesting for me was the way my readers felt during scenes where the main character made a moral choice. The story is about a young woman and an affair she has with an older man, and plays a lot with her guilt as she tries to figure out a way out of her engagement to her fiance. Whenever anyone read the story, they felt as though they were somehow implicated in the affair and they all said it gave them goosebumps because the tone of the story is almost instantly accusatory -- all the "you's" that get thrown around by necessity, as it's in second person, after all. This was a really intriguing development and not at all what I'd intended (I just wanted it to be an exercise in writing something totally original in second person) but it worked out beautifully and is one of my favourite pieces I've ever written.

Your thoughts? Have you ever read or written anything in second person?
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