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  1. #1

    Favorite Point of View

    1st person, 3rd person? What points of view resonate best in your works and why?

  2. #2
    Registered User JimF's Avatar
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    I prefer to read and write in 3rd person. When reading first person I always feel the text calls a little too much attention to itself. (If that makes any sense.) I just think 3rd person is a more natural way to tell a story.

    On a related side note I tried to watch an old movie last night. "Lady in the Lake" based on the chandler novel. It was shot in the Point of View of Philip Marlow. I love old movies, but I could only stand about 20 minutes of this. It was too much. 1st person novels aren't the same, but it is a similar idea.

    Jim.

  3. #3
    Registered User Alan_87's Avatar
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    1st person is good for stream of consciousness narrative and can be used brilliantly (As I Lay Dying anyone?) but for sci fi and fantasy I'm not really aware of any writers who use 1st person from the top of my head.

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    benh benh's Avatar
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    As I Lay Dying is brilliant. Mmm Faulkner.

    I find Bret Easton Ellis and Chick Palahniuk to both make good use of first person narratives. Their novels would not be the same without it.

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    aurea plectro goldhawk's Avatar
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    Do both. Sherlock Holmes is written in the 1st person with Dr. Watson as the POV character but he tells of Mr. Holmes' adventure in the 3rd person. It is also the only work I know of that uses 1st person plural POV without putting a lampshade on it.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Alan_87 View Post
    1st person is good for stream of consciousness narrative and can be used brilliantly (As I Lay Dying anyone?) but for sci fi and fantasy I'm not really aware of any writers who use 1st person from the top of my head.
    Roger Zelazny did good work with 1st person when writing his Amber chronicles. John Steakley uses it effectively with his John Crow character in the latter half of his novel, Armor. And of course, H.G. Wells was a fan of this narrative in several of his stories.

  7. #7
    I prefer to read and write in third person. It is the most natural to me.

    However, one book that used the first person extremely well was Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness because almost every chapter alternated between the two main characters' points of view (with some historical narrations thrown in).

  8. #8
    Registered User Elixir's Avatar
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    I tend to write in third person, as it allows the reader to discover the character from a distance and make their own assertions, otherwise the story is compromised by the character's subjective perspective. I have always been against multiple perspectives. Generally, I see multiple perspectives as being strung together to tell a greater narrative. Often in these cases the story loses sight of character to focus more on a grand and intricate plot. What can I say? I guess I must be a purist of character driven narrative.

  9. #9
    We Read for Light Window Bar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jordanlanni View Post
    ... one book that used the first person extremely well was Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness because almost every chapter alternated between the two main characters' points of view (with some historical narrations thrown in).
    Alternating first person is often quite interesting. This format is essentially the same as exchange of letter format.

    Otherwise, first person tucks us into the spell quite easily (remember Huck Finn?), but it limits us in a very important way: We can't pull a "meanwhile, back at the ranch" shift of time or place. Alternating viewpoint within first person solves that problem.

    Third person has many, many gradations between full omniscient and third person tight focus. The British literary style (also quite popular in Canada) often uses a storyteller mode. It's often omniscient and often poetic. I relish the chance to read such books... but I'm quite aware of my own limitations. It is so difficult to maintain intimacy within that mode. Maybe some of the Brits on this board can divulge the secret.

    American style usually calls upon a tightly focused third person narrative, non-omniscient, where even the "he said / she said" phrases use the actual vocabulary and vocal tics of the character with whom we are currently tight. Alternating viewpoint is easily done in this style; it involves no artifice beyond the change in voice from one character to the next.

  10. #10
    Chocoholic ShellyS's Avatar
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    As a reader, I have no preference, only that the story be well-written. If I recall correctly, Steakley's military sf Armor alternated first and third pov. Alternating povs can be used very effectively.

    When I write, I tend to use third person, which is not pov, exactly. It's voice. The pov is omniscient, camera-eye, tight third (inside the characters head but in third person voice), first person which can be in one character's head or can be an outside narrator a la omniscient (I don't recall all the various names that have been used for some of these and there are many names for many of them). The pov is who's telling the story. The voice is how the pov is telling the story. And with voice comes tense.

    I don't write first person voice much because it's hard for me to maintain the voice. I tend to slip into mine. I've done it twice. Once with a character I based on me, so her speech pattern matched mine. The second was with a character with an accent and odd inflections and idioms, so I could quickly see where I went awry and be able to quickly correct it. Third is easiest for me, and I like writing tight third pov which is almost like first person narration for me.

    But if a writer is skilled he or she can make anything work. One of the most amazing books I've read is a short novel based on a historical incident: Stewart O'Nan's A Prayer for the Dying, written in second person present tense. I think the main character was the pov, but in a way, with second person, the reader is almost the pov.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Window Bar View Post
    Alternating first person is often quite interesting. This format is essentially the same as exchange of letter format.
    Funny you should say that, the narration was told as journal entries. It gave perfect opportunities for character descriptions (of which there were plenty) and insights into two dramatically different interpretations of one action or event. I learned a lot from that writing style.

  12. #12
    Master Obfuscator Dawnstorm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ShellyS View Post
    The pov is who's telling the story. The voice is how the pov is telling the story. And with voice comes tense.
    Actually, "who's telling the story" is the "narrator". The "point of view" is the perspective that the narrator takes, usually his own, sometimes an objective one (attempting to hide all subjectivitiy), and sometimes their channelling another character's subjectivity.

    "Voice", with respect to point of view, is who the narrator sounds like. Does he talk like himself (and if so, his professional self, his private self...), or does he sound like the point of view character he is channeling.

    The difference between first and third person has nothing to do with either, really. It's a formality: is the narrator also a character in story (first person narration) or not (third person narration)? [Since it's possible that the narrator only comes in at the very end, this distinction is not as hard and fast as people would like to tell you.]

    Second person narration cuts across this as it assumes a point-of-view character distinct from the narrator, so that the narrator can address him/her. So it's possible that second person overlaps with first person (a character talks to another character - I can imagine stalker stories be quite creepy that way) or third person (an external narrator addresses a character).

    Then there's the distinction between "omniscient" and "limited", which is basically a function of narrative distance - the distance between narrator and experiencer. Conventional lore only applies the distinction to third person, but that's short sighted, as the narrator in first person stories tells a story about his younger self, and thus there, too, is usually a discrepency between what the narrator (story-teller I) knows, and what the experiencer ("story I") knows. Also, the word "omniscient" is a bit of an overstatement, because very few "omniscient" narrator are really "omniscient".

    Tense is a grammatical category, and - with respect to point of view - usually serves narrative distance: past tense, for example, marks a psychological distance between narrator and experiencer, present tense a psychological connection. I emphasise "psychological", because first person present tense narrators don't necesserily tell the story as it evolves; there's such a thing as "dramatic present" (the type you also use in meditation exercises or choose-your-own-adventure books).

    It's really not even that simple, but the good news is that writers often get it right despite misleading simplifications in how-to books. Remember that there are more point-of-view errors in critiques than in actual fiction: many of them are theory artefacts - they're hard to analyse with the three-point-of-view models.

    So, er, what is my favourite point of view? I have none. Neither for writing nor for reading. My favourite authors often do interesting things with point of view. Ian McDonald, in my opinion, is a master of point of view, and here is what he said about the topic:

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian McDonald
    This links into something I've noticed in some blogs, where PoV seems desperately important. This is something I must have missed through never having been to a workshop or creative writing course, but 'limited third person omniscient' and that seems to be much more of a descriptor than a generator. For me, POV comes from an interaction of character and information: what the readers needs to know filtered the constraints of character. I'd certainly not be comfortable with letting PoV descriptors drive narrative or character.
    Of course, every writer is different. It just made my day to read this from someone who I consider a master of point of view.

  13. #13
    Edited for submission Holbrook's Avatar
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    What Dawnstorm said

  14. #14
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    I prefer writing in 3rd person, but it doesn't matter with what i am reading as long as it grips me. A really good 1st person novel is Kushiels Dart by Jacqueline Carey. The entire story is written from one character's perspective. It's extremely well done IMO.

    Jay

  15. #15
    Chocoholic ShellyS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post
    Actually, "who's telling the story" is the "narrator". The "point of view" is the perspective that the narrator takes, usually his own, sometimes an objective one (attempting to hide all subjectivitiy), and sometimes their channelling another character's subjectivity.
    And how is that different than what I said? Narrator or pov is not the tense of the piece. It's not first, second, or third person. The tense is how the narrator or pov is narrating the story.

    "Voice", with respect to point of view, is who the narrator sounds like. Does he talk like himself (and if so, his professional self, his private self...), or does he sound like the point of view character he is channeling.
    As with many writing terms, there is disagreement as to definitions and connotations and many words for the same thing, ie tight third is also called intimate third. A third person narration isn't telling us the actual pov, which could be intimate, in the character's head, or an omniscient narrator, or a limited third person narrator where we aren't firmly in his or her head. To simply say third person pov is not very informative.

    The difference between first and third person has nothing to do with either, really. It's a formality: is the narrator also a character in story (first person narration) or not (third person narration)? [Since it's possible that the narrator only comes in at the very end, this distinction is not as hard and fast as people would like to tell you.]
    Huh? First person tells me the narration is coming from one character who may or may not be in the story. It is not, however, telling me the pov (see above re: voice vs pov). First person can be omniscient, ie God telling us a story about some humans or aliens. Or the first person pov can be a character in the piece.

    A narrator, even first person ones, can be reliable or unreliable. If unreliable, they can be withholding info, letting us know they're withholding info, not letting us know they're withholding info, have faulty memories, have no memories of some incidents or details, etc.

    Whether a character is or isn't in the story tells me nothing about the pov. Who is that narrator? That's what I want to know. Everything else will follow from who he, she, or it is. At least for everything I've ever read.

    Second person narration cuts across this as it assumes a point-of-view character distinct from the narrator, so that the narrator can address him/her. So it's possible that second person overlaps with first person (a character talks to another character - I can imagine stalker stories be quite creepy that way) or third person (an external narrator addresses a character).
    Uh, no. The book I mentioned, A Prayer for the Dying, led to a very interesting book discussion with a group of librarians. Some of us thought the main character was the narrator, as I know many people who speak of themselves in second person. Others thought they, the reader, was the "you." And one person thought God was telling the story.

    Second person is simply a method of narrating. It's not the narrator/pov.

    Etc.

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