Kindle Forum banner

1 - 20 of 51 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
491 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
What do you all feel are the pros and cons to 1st and 3rd person?

I feel the pro of 1st person is that you get inside the character's head, feeling and hearing their thoughts more intimately. The con is that it takes away from the sense of epic scope.

Vise versa for 3rd.

Thoughts?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
190 Posts
There is such a thing as close third which is almost as intimate as first. But first is the most intimate. You need a strong voice for the narrator but it can be like a conversation, someone telling the story.

Third works better if you have more than one POV. I did write one book with multiple first POVs, but I had to work extra hard to make it clear who was narrating each chapter. If I have more than one POV now I always do third.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,455 Posts
The biggest con to 1st person is that when it’s done badly, it’s a litany of I, I, I, which becomes terribly grating in short order.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,884 Posts
Shayne's right, when first person is bad - it's really really bad.

Third is way easier and more forgiving. It allows you to move around in the story and work with lots of characters and conflicts. It's also good for chapter-ending cliffhangers that allow you to shift pov to another character or setting. It's a super common trick, but even so, it works pretty well.

First is way more linear. Everything has to be filtered through the MC. Also, every single word in the book is character development because it's all in the MC's head. For example, you can't write a super cool sentence that eloquently explains the situation, you can only write with the MC's vocabulary, only say things they would say - how they would say/think them. It's really hard to do well. KS is right: you need a strong personality to carry this off - and they (almost always) need to be extremely likable. They can be flawed, make terrible choices, even hurt lots of people, but deep down, they need to be a good person - or at least, someone you can root for.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,455 Posts
D. A. J. F. said:
Is close third the same thing as 3rd Person Limited POV?

If not, what's the difference?
Close third is also called third subjective, and it gives you the character's thoughts integrated into the narrative. With third limited there's more narrative distance, because you don't get the thoughts.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
449 Posts
I think first person best suits for sensational stuff like steamy romance and nail-biting thrillers and horrors while third person is more suitable for a more rounded view which involves appreciation of stuff of literary and philosophical merit.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,455 Posts
VisitasKeat said:
I think first person best suits for sensational stuff like steamy romance and nail-biting thrillers and horrors while third person is more suitable for a more rounded view which involves appreciation of stuff of literary and philosophical merit.
I actually don't think horror would do very well in 1st person, because there are usually a fair number of characters who get killed, so it would be jarring for a lot of 1st person characters to bite it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
273 Posts
1st person

Pros:
Best when used for young adult, contemporary, and romantic driven stories.

Is good for short stories/flash fiction/novelettes.

You have freedom if you really want to get inside a particular characters thoughts.

Cons:
Doing dialogue for first person in my opinion is difficult. As first person in of itself is already dialogue (the character speaking)

You can't really foreshadow/get into other characters events minds that well with first person, and everything has to be as told by how the character/1st person sees it. Not a narrator that knows everything already.

You have to make the story interesting, even though it's only told in one view.

3rd person/Omniscient

Pros:
Are good for adventure, mystery, thriller, science fiction, action, and fantasy stories.

If you have a really long story, it's more entertaining in third person/omniscient perspective in my opinion.

You can explore characters minds/events/places/foreshadowing much easier with third person.

Cons:
You have to tell the story from a person watching on the outside. So no interpersonal monologue. Only reception from the narrator.

Third person does better in more complex stories with a mysterious plot. Stories that are more intimate or personal (such as romance or contemporary) are better if the main character is describing all the action.

In order to make up for the fact it's not being told by a character in a particular setting, you have to make up for that by having the narrator explain everything in detail. As opposed to first person to where you can usually leave certain details out.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,589 Posts
I think close third person is the best of both worlds if you are changing POVs. You get the inner dialog and narration from the POV and it's pretty obvious when the POV swaps to another character. Plus, if first person is done poorly, it's excruciating to read.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
449 Posts
ShayneRutherford said:
I actually don't think horror would do very well in 1st person, because there are usually a fair number of characters who get killed, so it would be jarring for a lot of 1st person characters to bite it.
I had "left alone in haunted dwellings" in my mind when I said so. Certainly not murders committed by a serial killer etc. Anyway, I get your perspective.
So, putting things the other way round:
Is there a tolerable number of characters beyond which first person narration will prove ineffective?
Or, what is the minimum number of characters for which third person narration will prove effective?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,394 Posts
I prefer 1st person for psychological thrillers with third person for other mystery thrillers.

In Girl at the Window, a psychological thriller, I use 1st person for the female MC in the first half of the story to get right inside her head. In the second half of the story I use third person for the crime investigation with a female detective as the MC.

It seems to work - no complaints for the switch.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,004 Posts
I write in both. Third for my pen name, first for my main name. In general, my readers prefer first. As a reader, I also read both. I'm not picky except when it comes to tense. I will read both first and third but present tense? I would rather gouge my eyes out. I abandon books on the first page (at least two a week)  for present tense.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
421 Posts
What Amanda said, especially gouging my eyes out.

I wrote first person with a pen name from the POV of an 18-year-old girl. It was intended to become a series. It was fun to write but I abandoned it for several reasons.

Everything else I write is third person, past tense.

As a reader I also prefer third, but will read first if it's any good. One of my favorite authors, James Lee Burke, writes both, sometimes in the same book. A book might be written in first for his MC, but then an entire chapter is written in third for another character when the MC is not involved. Where it really gets sticky is when the MC does appear later in the chapter but it continues in third. I suspect that lesser writers would not be able to handle it as effectively.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,589 Posts
Amanda M. Lee said:
I write in both. Third for my pen name, first for my main name. In general, my readers prefer first. As a reader, I also read both. I'm not picky except when it comes to tense. I will read both first and third but present tense? I would rather gouge my eyes out. I abandon books on the first page (at least two a week) for present tense.
Oh man, nothing says horror quite like first person present tense. I have read only a very few present tense books that didn't make me gag.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,568 Posts
Gavroche said:
What Amanda said, especially gouging my eyes out.

I wrote first person with a pen name from the POV of an 18-year-old girl. It was intended to become a series. It was fun to write but I abandoned it for several reasons.

Everything else I write is third person, past tense.

As a reader I also prefer third, but will read first if it's any good. One of my favorite authors, James Lee Burke, writes both, sometimes in the same book. A book might be written in first for his MC, but then an entire chapter is written in third for another character when the MC is not involved. Where it really gets sticky is when the MC does appear later in the chapter but it continues in third. I suspect that lesser writers would not be able to handle it as effectively.
I have a series written in first, with a character who has also appeared in her own standalone novella. To write the next book, I really need to give her a section, but in five books in the main series, I've never strayed from the MC's first-person narrative, aside from a few framed cheats. (Passages in histories written by another person, etc.) I feel like it would be 'cheating', even though I know i can pull it off and it's the best way to tell this story. So I'm heartened by the thought that this isn't altogether uncommon.

As to the larger question, I've written in first, close third, and omni third. All in past-tense, save for the last section of one of my books, when the past-tense story caught up with the present-tense framing. I have used omni only sparingly, in conjunction with close third.

I have a theory, that first person is *far* more prominent in indie publishing than it is in traditional publishing, which is largely in third.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,884 Posts
When I hear first person, I automatically assume present tense. First past is the worst of all possible combinations - it's like some guy at the end of the bar telling a story for the hundredth time, you know, that same old story they've polished up over the years. How big was that fish again, pops? First past is safe and more than a little pretentious. It's like: is that what you really said when the Bugblatter Beast of Traal confronted you from behind the garbage pails, or is that just what you wished you had said?

Third past is just kind of boring. It's expected.

First present, on the other hand, is way more exciting - hard to do well - but worth it when it is. It works in all genres, and has virtually no narrative limitations, it's just much much harder to pull off. It requires work, often - even rewriting.

___

But here's the deal: writers are incredibility opinionated as readers - and, overall, completely untrustworthy. Some, apparently, prefer bodily harm to reading certain tenses. Why? Maybe it was a bad Trip? Opinionated College Professor? That tense is only used with THOSE sorts of books. *peers down nose*

I write exclusively in first present, and I cannot remember anyone mentioning it, not in reviews, not friends, not betas...or editors. And I don't mean in a bad way, I mean - at all.

___

At the end of the day, any story can be told in any tense. Writers need to check their ego and remember to serve the story. What's the best perspective? Best presentation? Who is your audience? (Serving the story means having it read.) How should it be published: fat-ass door-stopper, series, serial, web shorts? For example, slicing up a novel into pieces usually sucks because the pacing is off, while combining serials into a novel usually reads great. Step one is to figure out where you want to go with it, and then figure out how to get there - hopefully, with your eyes still intact.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
287 Posts
I am one who stays away from reading/writing present tense and that may be due to having read some awful amateur examples in the past. I like to think that bias is revocable. Would those who are more knowledgable than I please give some examples of successful - either critically or commercially - books using present tense?

Ben McQueeney said:
I'm writing a short in the second person.

You have no idea why.
I didn't want to laugh at that, but I did anyway. :D
 
1 - 20 of 51 Posts
Top