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VisitasKeat said:
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?
Oh! That's a really good point. I actually have a short story with a dude alone in a haunted house. I'd been thinking more slasher/creature horror kind of stuff where a bunch of people get picked off as the story goes.

Regarding your question, I think the number of effective 1st person characters would be limited by the skill of the author, and how many unique voices they can juggle in a single book. Because if I'm going to be reading 1st person, I would want the characters to be unique enough that I can tell them apart by their voices. And for third person, I'd say as many or as few characters as one wants. To me, 3rd person is neutral - it allows the story to be told and gets out of the way - which is my preferred POV, because I like to immerse myself in the story and forget that someone is telling it.
 

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*snip* because I like to immerse myself in the story and forget that someone is telling it.
This is exactly why I like good first present - the telling of it disappears. The reader is experiencing the story along with the main character.
 

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Nope said:
This is exactly why I like good first present - the telling of it disappears. The reader is experiencing the story along with the main character.
I find the exact opposite. In most cases, I find that 1st person isn't as immersive for me, because the constant use of 'I did' or 'I said' takes ownership of the story away from me. It's someone telling me the story of their exploits, and reminding me of the fact that it's their exploits every time they say 'I'.
 

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ShayneRutherford said:
I find the exact opposite. In most cases, I find that 1st person isn't as immersive for me, because the constant use of 'I did' or 'I said' takes ownership of the story away from me. It's someone telling me the story of their exploits, and reminding me of the fact that it's their exploits every time they say 'I'.
I average about 4 uses of 'I' per every 300 words. Is that a lot? But, just as we like what we like, the opposite is true. I am not a fan of most country music - and I'm not going to be, no matter how many musicians I give a chance to. But, now and again...one slips through I kind of like.

Nina Huffney said:
Wonderful! Thank you, Nope.
:)
 

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ShayneRutherford said:
I find the exact opposite. In most cases, I find that 1st person isn't as immersive for me, because the constant use of 'I did' or 'I said' takes ownership of the story away from me. It's someone telling me the story of their exploits, and reminding me of the fact that it's their exploits every time they say 'I'.
Exactly.

That doesn't mean it can't be done well, of course.

I prefer third person past. It's flexible and easy to make it work well.

I'm also tainted perhaps from having read too many first person books that just struck me cold, with a few exceptions.
 

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Hats off to those who write in 1st person. I'm doing a book in 1st/present right now (first ever) and it's exhausting.  I don't know if I'll ever write another one in that tense, but I wanted to see if I could do it—and do it reasonably well (Jury's still out on that)
 

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1st person present is very tricky and difficult to do well.  Reading books written this way is very difficult for me... it often feels awkward and I feel pulled out of the story, and usually don't make it more than a few pages.

1st person past can be good; I've read a few books in 1st-past that were quite good, and it didn't feel awkward at all.  It seems just as 'urgent' and 'real' as 3rd person.

Just one person's opinion.
 

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jb1111 said:
Exactly.

That doesn't mean it can't be done well, of course.

I prefer third person past. It's flexible and easy to make it work well.

I'm also tainted perhaps from having read too many first person books that just struck me cold, with a few exceptions.
It absolutely can be done well. I just powered through a 1st person story in one day and loved it. But 1st person tends to be the default of beginner writers, so there's a ton of it out there that's really poorly done. Basically, if the voice doesn't win me over with it's competence in a page or so, I'm out.
 

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ShayneRutherford said:
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.
]

I avoid - I - like the plague for opening a sentence when writing 1st person past tense, but still use it, though as sparingly as possible for the very reason you quote. Saying that, I've read some best sellers where nearly every sentence began with - I -. The repetition does grate and so I usually pass on those after reading a sample. .
 

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My current WIP uses both. The setting is a small town. The protagonist arrives in town in 1st person, present tense. A lot happens to her, including interactions with various characters, before she goes back to the city. At that point, the story switches to 3rd person, past tense, with each chapter (clearly marked) being told from one of several character's POV. When the protagonist returns, she continues her story herself in 1st person, present tense. She travels in and out of town more than once. Always 1st when she's present; always 3rd when she's away.


It's complex to write, but I like the effect. I was afraid it might be jarring to a reader. However, when I asked my critique group, the responded it was not at all jarring and the story flowed well. In fact, a couple of them said the transitions were so smooth they didn't even notice.


I have had to do a lot of rewriting and fine-tuning as I go, and it isn't finished yet. Even I am curious to see how the final version comes out.  :D
 

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First person past tence enables the writer to establish an emotional/intimate connection with the narrator from the off. It takes the reader right inside their head of the narrator to their innermost thoughts, feelings, fears and joy, in ways that 3rd person cannot. . This can be put to good effect with either a protagonist or an antagonist as the MC. It is particularly useful if you want to portray an unreliable narrator where they put themselves forward in one way, but act in another, much as a psychopath would do, but not forgetting that we are all capable of lying. Done well, 1st person could have you reaching for a browser search to check if the story is fact rather than fiction with books such as Color Purple.

Voice is an important factor in any method, but I find it easier when writing 1st person to create the voice of the character rather than an unknown narrator relaying the story.

I couldn't write in 1st present bacause I feel it is more acceptable to a younger audience who enjoy an immediacy and fast paced action throughout that present tense allows.
 

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MaxDaemon said:
Oh come on - who's ever heard of those books?? :)

Edited to add a :) just in case.
Actually, I've never heard of a LOT of those books. On a whim, I peeked at the Look Inside of one of the more notable books (that was big in the last few years)... I hate to say it, but it feels awkward for me to read. Maybe it was just that particular book, though. Guess I'm just a curmudgeon. 8)
 

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Discussion Starter #37
nail file said:
Pros: One of the POVs I write well in.

Cons: I don't write well in the other one.
I used to write ONLY in 3rd person, but with this steamy romance pen name, I've been writing in 1st person, which is the industry standard. I'm getting used to it.
 
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