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The Pecman

Points of View: 1st vs. 3rd

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I have my likes and dislikes, too. Your list didn't include one of my pet favorites. I can not abide stories where the author gushes on and on, using esoteric words and mind-befuddling metaphors and stream of consciousness blather to the extent I have no idea what he or she is talking about.

BTW, Cole, I forgot to add that I strongly agree with you on this one. I think some degree of description and mood is important, but I think going on and on for paragraphs with a lot of blustery prose can get very tedious.

There are writers who can pull this off -- I recall an Anne Rice vampire novel where she spent about 3 or 4 pages just describing a house as someone walked through it... how the air smelled, the dust on the furniture, the craftsmanship of the woodwork, etc. -- and I thought it was very poetic. Yet I concede that sometimes, brevity works better, and I think keeping this sort of stuff to a minimum is a wiser move, especially for amateur writers.

Metaphors and similes are very tricky to handle, and I occasionally will see a story where a writer is throwing two or three in on every page, just to justify their degree in English Literature. Beyond a certain point, it gets pretty muddled, and I usually start yelling, "c'mon, c'mon... don't bore us, get to the chorus!"

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Let me append to Mr. Pec's comments. We are all amateurs here. Although we may be aspiring Hemingways, Tolkiens, Faulkners, Sallingers, or Shakespeares, we all fall short -- though some of the authors here are getting much, much better at it. If these auspicious writers are better than us, we can learn from them. But when you're starting out, you do have to get the basics down first.

I include myself among "starting out" -- I am better than some of the authors here, equal to others, and worse than some. The only thing I can say for myself is that when I am breaking one of the rules, at least I know it. Most of the people over at Nifty don't even know they've broken a rule and, sadly, it shows. There are some fantastic stories over there that are so badly written it's impossible to get through them. I don't read much there anymore because I have to read so much garbage to get to anything good.

But, the bottom line is no matter what anyone here says: you write it however you want because it's your story. Then again, don't wonder why people don't actually read it if you break every rule in the book.

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Applause! Exactly, Mr. Coon. Bravo! You echoed much of what I said, much more succinctly.

BTW, even if one does follow all the rules, it's still very hard to write a good story. But to me, this is what separates the "readable" from the "unreadable."

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about changing first person point of views:

first off, i want to say i feel i need to defend multiple first person perspectives because i experimented with them in my third novel, Angel.

i also want to note that i believe angel is more a collection of short stories and vignettes in different styles that are directly related to the overall story of angel; which makes angel different from a regular multi-first person novel.

i also want to note that a few people once referred to the style of my second novel, Just Don't Think I'm Not, as "omnipotent first person". which is an alternative to 3rd person. Omnipotent First Person is writing in 1st person as a mind reader. Haha! Not really, but I used information like facial expression, body language and probability to guess what the other characters were thinking. But who cares, anyway? The mc knew those people really well.

As for how I used MFP, i tried to use it without notations. That is, to make the switches between POV's as seamless as possible. But I still used little cues and foreshadowing to give readers a hint the perspectives would be changing. I think I resorted to noting who was speaking in . . . chapter 27 or something, when the ending was near. the script chapter, too.

the only major drawback to this approach was in the final chapter, where it was hard to distinguish whose voice it was written from. (but i'm writing more and am going to do a little re-arranging.)

I know the 3rd person perspective gives the writer more leeway. And it certainly makes things less confusing for the reader to not have me speak to you as a different person in the next paragraph. But that's what breaks are for. I hate putting FROM THE VIEWPOINT OF GOD, or SATAN: before every section I choose to change points of views on.

I know there's a large group of people who want to stick to what gay lit has been for the past two decades. Who wish for literature to be what they think is accessible. But we're running out of conventions to explore. And I'm tired of reading the same gay stories. (yeah, that's a diss.) how many crazed closet-cases, intergenerational affairs and idealized, over-sexualized teenage relationships written without concern for reality will it take for our subject matter to mature.

I want to see internet gay lit that says more than just, we're here!, we're queer!. i want it to be more than a struggle to find true love, more than the fight against classic antagonists like the evil gym teacher, or the blackmailing, back-stabbing friend . . . . god, if i have to read one more ending where the lover gets beat to death, or one more f*king after-hate-crime hospital visit, i'm gonna tear all my beautiful, long, black hair out. (ego is infectious.)

why can't our stories say something deeper about society, or gay people as a culture, or about love itself. why can't gay lit. be a referendum on life? why does it have to be so damn shallow?

i used to write gay love stories to give all the closeted kids out there hope. but now i write it to counter what's out there. i chose to move away from what everyone else expects to find from gay internet lit. and i don't care if anyone thinks it sucks. it's still different.

i can't count how many times i've finished reading something on the internet, sat back, and decided i totally wasted my time.

gay lit is becoming more than just the meeting. and a relationship is being made of more than just two boys and the crazy world they need to defend against.

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i justed wanted to add, more people need to experiment. i'm bringing this back to food, because i'm doing a report right now on Basque cuisine. but basque country is a perfect example. culinarians have always tried to come up with something different, whether it happens to be in the methodolgy or the procedure. using something that we take for granted and making something radically different with it isn't a bad idea. it's evolution. whether it works or not the first time, it gives others the inspiration to try it again, or try something new.

i'd recommend you look at the recipe for Apple Caviar.

When asked to comment on this oddity, Chef Ferr?n Adri?--owner/operator of El Bulli - Roses, Spain--said: “This dish has made me reflect upon the value of creativity…In the past I’ve asked customers what they consider more of a luxury – to eat Beluga caviar or to eat apple caviar for the first time? I believe customers appreciate the value of creativity.”

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why can't our stories say something deeper about society, or gay people as a culture, or about love itself. why can't gay lit. be a referendum on life? why does it have to be so damn shallow?

Read Jagged Angel, and tell me if you think it's shallow. I deliberately wrote it as a reaction to a school shooting (sadly similar to recent happenings in the U.S.), and framed it around incidents of bullying of gay students at an LA high school.

Oh, and it's all done in 3rd person. Very logical and straightforward, and I deliberately avoided changing points of view to keep certain story elements hidden until I needed to reveal them.

I'm all for experimentation, but I don't think multiple 1st person point of view is appropriate except in the extreme cases mentioned above (radically different cultures and identies, etc.). I still think it's an obvious and heavy-handed way to tell a story. I think there are better ways to present stories that are more subtle and present fewer barriers for a reader.

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I'm dismayed. Instead of supportive advice, I see a proscriptive attitude: "Do it my way or the highway," and the declaration that no web author is good enough. Instead of discussion when someone enters the thread with a comment, I see a defensive, "Read my story." I really expect better here. How discouraging it must be for anyone who'd like to improve his or her work.

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I'm dismayed. Instead of supportive advice, I see a proscriptive attitude: "Do it my way or the highway," and the declaration that no web author is good enough. Instead of discussion when someone enters the thread with a comment, I see a defensive, "Read my story." I really expect better here. How discouraging it must be for anyone who'd like to improve his or her work.

Sorry, blue, but I think I have to politely disagree.

The Pecman has consistently expressed his opinion, which is that while a highly skilled author can use multiple 1st person points of view, the vast majority of authors (and all of the online ones he has seen) do not have that skill. I view this as the equivalent of a saying that a highly skilled pianist can entertain a large crowd at <insert major concert venue of your choice> but most of us do not have that skill. Yesterday, I was going to post an author who HAS used that technique (I found a reference to the use in one of my creative writing books), only to find that The Pecman referenced him in his opening post.

Cole Parker and Rustic Monk have both expressed the opinion that creativity means that "rules" should really be "advice" and can be broken if the author has what he/she believes to be good reasons.

The Pecman has agreed with that, but points out that some rules are easier to break than others. He feels that this is a rule that shouldn't be broken lightly -- and I personally feel that most online authors break it through ignorance or lack of experience, not deliberately. I suspect most start a first person POV story, and then realise after they have started to post it (and it is too late to change) that they need to use a second (or third) POV. They don't have the skills to work out how to do it well while using the original POV, so they switch to a second/third/etc, as required.

To me, this entire discussion goes back to the basics of any creative endeavour (I also do some photography, and this equally applies to that field) -- learn the basics of good writing, and then use your creativity to work out when to vary from those "rules". DON'T break the "rules" through ignorance because, while you may occasionally create a gem, most of the time you'll create a pile of mud. Understand the "rules", understand why they apply, and THEN find the situations where you believe they don't apply.

There is a constant struggle between structure and creativity. Both are important and the two sides in this discussion are simply reflecting the struggle to find the point of balance (and that point is dynamically moving -- it's not static).

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I'm dismayed. Instead of supportive advice, I see a proscriptive attitude: "Do it my way or the highway," and the declaration that no web author is good enough. Instead of discussion when someone enters the thread with a comment, I see a defensive, "Read my story." I really expect better here. How discouraging it must be for anyone who'd like to improve his or her work.

Blue, you miss my point. I gave endless examples as to why I thought multiple 1st person POV's were a bad way to present stories. I presented quotes from a (very recent) writing textbook that says it better than I did, and I offered alternatives that I thought worked much better.

Rustic Monk observed that he felt that current gay stories weren't willing to take chances and make a statement about society or culture. I offered my story as one example of a story that tried to do something more than just present a simple gay romantic story -- though I concede that I did use hate crimes as a story point in a couple of instances. To me, that's just a dramatic choice, and certainly isn't the only way to do it.

I also have emphasized from the very beginning that all of this is just my opinion. I've also continued to say, "if a story uses multiple 1st person POV's, it's going to be nearly impossible for me to read it." I'm not the only person who thinks so (as Nick Archer said in his follow-up post). And I offered solutions as to better ways to present the same ideas.

Experimentation is all well and good. But I think a lot of writers -- especially new writers who are just starting out -- make a lot of damnfool mistakes that are easily rectified if they'd try to learn about their craft before jumping into deep waters. Reading just one or two decent books about writing fiction can do a world of good. Knowing the rules before you break them is a very wise move.

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Sorry, blue, but I think I have to politely disagree.

Graeme, your post should be etched in bronzed and put on the front page of this site. You summarized this entire argument quite eloquently, and I appreciate your insights.

Note, by the way, that I've said all along that this is not just my opinion. Many, many books on writing -- along with other authors -- feel the same way.

I'm grateful for Graeme's observation that the main reason why amateur writers use multiple 1st person POV is because they start out from one point of view, realize they need to show another person's point of view, and begin going back and forth. This was something I hadn't thought of -- why a writer goes this route -- and I'm very glad he brought it up.

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I'm grateful for Graeme's observation that the main reason why amateur writers use multiple 1st person POV is because they start out from one point of view, realize they need to show another person's point of view, and begin going back and forth. This was something I hadn't thought of -- why a writer goes this route -- and I'm very glad he brought it up.

That will be one reason they do it. The other is that they have read, and enjoyed, stories that do it (where it was done because of the reason above), and they think that it is an acceptable way to do it. I suspect that is what happened with the story that started this thread -- the author thought it was an acceptable technique because they had read other stories that did it.

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