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I do not know if this is the correct place to put this, if so I apologise if it is not.

I remember visiting this site a while back and finding a discussion on POV but I cannot find it now, but I feel the need to bring up this topic again due to a recent conversation I was having with a friend.

What the conversation came down to was POV and which one is better, or rather in the words of my friend "superior."

My friend felt that first person POV was inferior to that of third person and that first person POV had an air of immaturity about it. Or rather, first time writers tended to go with first person POV as it was "easier."

She then went on to say that she would rarely entertain reading first person POV as she found it jarring in the extreme.

I countered back that there are many examples of online fiction as well as published works of first person POV which are absolutely amazing and are considered classics.

In my opinion, there is no such thing as a "superior" POV, the important thing is that the POV serves the story itself! I do not think that the POV has any relation to the experience of the writer or how good a writer they are and I can enjoy reading a whole range of stories regardless of the POV.

What I am interested in is what others think on this, writers or readers. Do you think one POV is more superior than the other? Do you find it jarring reading one type of POV? Does a story POV have any relevance to the experience of a writer?

Again, I do apologise if this topic is already on these forums somewhere. I did look but could not find it.

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My friend felt that first person POV was inferior to that of third person and that first person POV had an air of immaturity about it. Or rather, first time writers tended to go with first person POV as it was "easier."

I don't agree with the first statement about 1st person POV, but I do -- to a degree -- agree with the last, about it being somewhat easer for beginning writers.

Some of the greatest books in literature have been written entirely in first person, by authors such as Arthur Conan-Doyle, Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, and many others. I think 1st person is required for certain kinds of stories -- for example, mysteries, where the reader learns about each clue through the eyes of the detective (or his assistant) investigating the situation. I also think that 1st person POV works for autobiographical or "fish out of water" stories. But generally speaking, I think 3rd person is far more flexible, since you can get inside the head of anyone you want, and show things not known by your lead character.

On the other hand, I'm strongly opposed to shifting points of view in a 1st person story, moving from one person to another. We had a long message thread on this over a year ago, at this link.

For more on points of view in fiction, read Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card* (Writers Digest Press, ISBN #0898793076). Card makes the strong case that anything you can do in 1st you can do in 3rd person omniscient, but says the same thing I do: that you have to go with what's appropriate for each story.


* by the way, note that I'm not of fan of Card's views on gay lifestyles. I don't like him as a person, but I admire his writing.

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Some stories are best written in first person; some in third. Superiority (as well as inferiority) is only intended for livestocks.

What I like about first person is the things that the main character do not know. Besides that, the story would always have a personal feel to it.

What I like about third person is that you can focus on any character you want. Also, it's easier to write funny scenes in third person. I also feel more comfortable writing dark stories in this POV.

When reading, I don't really prefer any POV.

Rad :icon_geek:

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I agree with everyone else on this: 1st or 3rd are equally valid and useful tools for a writer.

1st lets you tell the reader the thoughts of your protagonist, and also to hide from the reader stuff your protagonist doesn't know.

3rd lets you tell bits of the story your main protagonist isn't involved in, but you can't tell the reader anyone's thoughts. IMHO, anyway.

Also IMHO it's a no-no to use 1st and jump from one 1st person to another. Even if you flag it clearly with chapter headings or something, it jars for me.

I have a vivid childhood memory that the bookworm that was my young self read everything I could get my hands on, and initially all I had read was 3rd person. When I first came across a book written in 1st person it grated, and I had a real struggle to continue reading. It didn't feel right.

Clearly I got over it, and now I find that most of the stories I've written have been 1st person. I think it is easier to write in 1st person, especially if you are drawing extensively from personal experience for the story (write what you know). For that reason it's probably fair to label it the beginner's POV. Not that it's inferior, unless other readers have the same problem with it that I did as a child??

3rd person is an extra hurdle to surmount when you're developing your story but it will give you extra tools if the story is complex. As a generality I suggest that 1st person lends itself to short stories without sub-plots, while 3rd person lends itself to longer more complex work.

My two-penn'orth.


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As a generality I suggest that 1st person lends itself to short stories without sub-plots, while 3rd person lends itself to longer more complex work.

Not a good generalization. Moby Dick is told in first person. So is David Copperfield. There are undoubtedly hundreds of other long stories told entirely from one person's viewpoint.

1st person POV's biggest strength is also its biggest weakness: the reader can only know what the lead character knows, and can only see what the lead character sees. The first time I wrote in 3rd person, I immediately caught on: ah, we can get inside anybody's head at any moment. But it's easy to overuse that, as well.

1st person also forces the reader to identify solely with the narrator. Godo or bad, you have to sympathize with him (or her), so it's important to have them ask the same questions the reader would, and react in a way that's understandable (if not predictable). The "fish out of water" situation is the best reason I can think of to stick with 1st person. That way, if the lead character is surrounded by aliens, or finds himself in a strange land, you learn about this place and these people through the eyes of a familiar person. It would be a tougher challenge to write a story like this, jumping back and forth from (say) an alien's mind to a human mind.

But that could be done, too. I think it's simply another creative choice available to the writer, no better or worse than many others.

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What POV an author uses should depend on how he wants the story to develop, what the focus of it will be, and plot concerns that are involved in this decision.

In everything I write, I ask myself what the POV should be to best allow the story to be told the way I want it to be told. It is not a matter of what's easier for me, but rather what carries the story to the reader the way I want it to be carried.

Writing allows you to do most anything you want, if you're creative enough, and so I disagree a little with my colleagues when they say 1st person only allows you into the thoughts of your protagonist. I find it easy to show the thoughts of anyone in a story at all. I merely have them speak them. It's not exactly the same, there are other considerations involved, but it's close enough for jazz.

I usually write in 1st person because my stories tend to be much more character driven than plot driven. 1st person allows me to delve deeply into my charcter's thoughts and musings, and so allows the reader to get to know who he is better, and, hopefully, identify with him more closely.

I don't really think 1st person is easier to write in than 3rd person. I do think 3rd person gives you greater freedom, greater ease, to introduce things to the story that you have to work a little harder to introduce from the main character's perspective. If I were to write a story that involved things that were happening away from and not involving the main character, I'd probably choose 3rd person to write it in. Again, the story itself commands the decision.

The question, as stated, of whether one POV was superior to another, or whether amateurs would choose one over another, isn't really relevant. You could as easily answer if chocolate is superior to butterscotch, or if Charles Dickens was a better writer than Jane Austen.


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Definitely Charles Dickens over Jane Austin. I can't bear the thought of Jane over Charles. :icon_geek:

I agree with Cole -mostly.

I have seen an author use 1st person and reveal things that he couldn't know by using past tense. This allows him to tell what he has been told that he could not otherwise know.

As I have said before considering POV without considering tense is likely to lead to missed opportunities.

2nd person is 95% too authoritarian as it tells the reader what he is experiencing. No, that just does not work for me at all.

3rd person has the distinct danger of becoming a lecture as well as being a history rather than a story.

However there are lots of good stories, well written in 3rd person.

I also find 1st person that jumps from one character to another somewhat superfluous and jarring. Yet I am mindful of having seen it done well, where the author was deliberately writing a story and showing how each character reacted to the same event and advancing the plot-line via the different POVs. (See Bill and Danny, an extremely long nostalgic story that shows the lives of two young men in college through to their old age.)http://www.asstr.org/nifty/gay/college/billy-and-danny/

The fact that Billy and Danny are from different ethnic backgrounds validates the multi-POV to a degree.

Even so generally, I don't really like multiple POVs.

This is different to the hack simply having people repeat their version of what happened, because that is how they mentally see a story unfolding on day time soap operas.

I think a lot of the poor writing and misuse we see of POVs, tense and character, is due to daytime soap on TV. (Plot? What plot?)

Never switching on these things is sure to contribute to you writing skills. Read a book instead.

I think it might make a good exercise if people tried to write in first person present tense. It is really quite challenging.

As such an exercise you may well find your 1st person past tense writing improves.

As Cole says, however, the story will demand what tense and POV it wants, if we will but listen to it.

It is afterall part of the creative tools from which an author may choose.

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I disagree a little with my colleagues when they say 1st person only allows you into the thoughts of your protagonist.

You can't, not unless you're using multiple 1st person POV, which is very messy.

There are certainly other ways the narrator can observe another character, and reveal the other character's thoughts that way. But it'd be very difficult, if, say, the other person was deliberately withholding information or lying (at least, if they were doing it convincingly). The Sherlock Holmes stories are excellent examples where 1st person (told by Dr. Watson) reveals other people's thoughts by means of Holmes' incredible powers of observation. The detective was practically a human lie detector, but he was also a one-in-a-million kind of character.

Again, I think neither 1st or 3rd POV is better than the other. Each is just a useful tool in the writers' arsenal.

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