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First Person or Third

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What are the advantages and disadvantages of writing in either the first person or the third? I have read a lot about this and discussed it in my creative writing class, but I was wondering what the writers and editors here feel. I see advantages and problems with both.

Readers seem to respond better to the first person, however, it limits the writer in areas where the narrator whouldn't have first hand knowledge. He can write about the thoughts and feelings only of the narrator himself and can't describe events he has not witnessed except third hand.

Third person gives more latitude, yet readers don't always feel a connection with an omniscient narrator.

What are your thoughts?

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First person is generally easier to write for a novice author (at least for this one) as all you have to do is put yourself in the shoes of the narrator and tell the story as if you were there yourself. I suspect this is also the reason why readers tend to relate more to a first person story.

Third person gives more latitude to the author as to what is going on, which allows them to present the bigger picture. There are a lot of variations on third person, depending on how much the author is willing to reveal (eg. like a camera, where they only report what can be seen, or getting inside characters heads so the reader can see what each is thinking).

I'm starting to write in third person and I've written a couple of short stories from that POV. It can be very powerful, but it is definitely harder, at least for me. I suspect there is also some subtle differences in presentation that I'm still to learn (such as changing from subjective opinions on another characters feelings to an absolute statement, or a statement that this is the perception of the main character).

I'm still learning, so I'll be interested in hearing what others have to say on this subject.

Graeme

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My two cents: rarely is a first person story as good as a third person story.

Why? First person is VERY easy to write, but most of the people who use it are lazy writers. (Not all: MOST).

Third person GENERALLY requires more work. So those using this tend to write a bit better.

There is no TECHNICAL reason one is preferable to the other. Just that I think more experienced writers (hence better writers) tend to use Third more than First.

Just my two cents and this is no reflection on any author here or at any other site. Disclaimer. Etc. Etc.

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Questioner, you have posed a great and interesting question to ponder. And as in many a good question responses and opinions can vary widely. Ultimately I don?t think there is a firm right or wrong, good or bad here. But there are quite a few gray areas and more then a few subtle nuances.

Graeme?s point about a novice writer producing a work in the first person has merit, since I think many times a new writer may more easily find their own voice by looking through the eyes of one of their characters ? usually the central one in their story. But on the other hand, while I have read my share of first person narrated stories, when I scroll through a source like Nifty, I also find many that are written in the third person by authors I am quite sure are new to the craft.

But to say that writing in the first person is very easy, while writing in the third person is much more difficult I feel begs the question. I have read great stories ? both amateur and professional ? in both voices. Similarly, I have encountered rather poorly written stories in both voices. Of course all of us who are big into reading have had this experience.

Voice is probably one of the very first things that most writers decide when they begin to write their work ? especially those who haven?t really done that much pre-story plot or character development. So in one respect Graeme?s comment about writing in the first person being easy is true. If one doesn?t have a firm grasp of their plot, their characters, the setting, (a beginning, middle and end), it?s probably easier to begin, ?One cold and rainy night I?? as opposed to he, she, it. From that starting point the writer can write looking through the eyes of the character they have chosen and go from there. They may perceive that doing this is easier and at first blush it may be, but they have to take it quite a bit further. The work may or may not be good ? this of course depends on that all important element PLOT?, and its companions: Character Development, Dialogue, Descriptive Narration etc.

Having written in both first and third person I personally haven?t found one easier or more difficult. The ease or difficulty arises when I do or don?t know where the story is headed, my organization (or lack thereof), the plot (presence or absence), my characters (believable or cardboard cutouts), and most importantly how much fore thought and planning I've put into the process. A good work is a good work no matter what voice it is written in, a stinker is? well a stinker!

Third person writing often forces the writer to become more descriptive. This takes a bit of thought and planning; therefore, I can see why someone would think it harder then writing a work in the first person ? it does take more effort (at least on the surface). First person writing can get to be a little trite if the writer is always doing the I? I? I? thing. Also first person writing can tend to be more emotional as opposed to factual, so once more I can see where someone would think this is easier.

But to make a blanket statement about voice probably is over generalizing. I wouldn?t definitively say one is easier or harder. I would read the work and make my assessment based on the story.

Initially writing a first person account may seem easier since the writer is only looking through the eyes of one character. But in reality well-written first person accounts can be quite difficult and taxing for a writer, simply for the very fact that WBMS mentioned ? that of the character not having first hand knowledge of everything. When looking through the eyes of a character in the first person, they?re usually not omniscient so naturally there are things they will not see that may be excluded from the story.

The real skill ? and here I feel the great difficulty ? comes in taking a first person account and making it descriptive to the point where the reader gets to see a picture much broader then just that of the person whose eyes it is being viewed through ? written in such a way that it is subtle and not so completely obvious that it hits you squarely over the head. There are many ways to do this, and they all require careful thought along with sincere and genuine effort.

This I find to be the real challenge. And it involves a whole array of techniques and quite a bit of skill. Depending on the work, an author writing in the first person must consciously move outward and help the reader see the ?big picture.? That?s takes work ? hard work ? and lots of brain cells. So while it is easy to say that a writer writing in the first person is lazy, I would counter that it depends on the story.

A well written first person work takes effort, lots of planning, a decent plot, serious character development and that subtle shift of perspective that can help the reader see the forest for the trees. A poorly written first person account is narrow and constrained, a well-written one is much broader and deeper ? and it?s something I think a lazy writer would avoid. Maybe that?s why WBMS says first person writing is lazy, simply because lots of works are written in the first person that aren't so skillfully crafted. I admit a first person account poorly written looks sloppy, although once more I?ve seen my share of third person accounts just as badly written.

I think it is important to point out the differences and compare and contrast the differences in voice. This is important for writers to learn and understand, but for myself I personally would avoid saying that one is easy and the other hard or that one is the skillful writer?s style and the other the lazy man?s half baked effort. There are merits to both and a good writer needs to be able to write in both voices. Kinda like a basketball player that can shoot from the foul line with deadly accuracy, but can?t do much else, or the golfer that has a wicked drive, but can?t putt very well.

A truly skilled practitioner of any thing must be well-rounded and certainly not lazy. Often it?s the simple looking, easy seeming tasks that are in reality the hardest to master correctly. Yeah everyone can do them, because they?re easy? but are they doing them correctly and with the skill and mastery really called for? If you?re a coffee (or tea for that matter) drinker, making a pot of coffee or tea is easy? a no brainer. But if you really love coffee or tea you know that there are heavenly cups of the stuff and rather nasty ones. They can be made with the same ingredients, with the same equipment, but by two different people. Two different people who both can do a very simple and easy job? one just happens to do it better then the other!

Jamie

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Guest rusticmonk86

First peron is a bit easier.

But try to cut down on the verbosity. I can't stand it when people talk my ear off.

You can say I. You can put yourself into the story. Or into charecter. It might be easier for you to see the action than it is for you to play it like chess from both sides.

My problem with first person has always been the seperation from all of the other charecters. How are you supposed to know what everyone is feeling or thinking.

That used to be why I wrote in first person. I could never really imgaine what another charecter was feeling or thinking. Or I couldn't move beyond past the more superficial reasonings.

So there's something like, Omniscent first person. Where "I" know what someone else is thinking or feeling. 'Course, you could always write it into their eyes, breathing or other form of body language. Or you could turn your charecters into perfect communicators.

Third person, like I said, is playing chess from both sides. It's easier to see outside of the little you've allowed yourself in first person. So it's a little easier to imagine what's going on outside.

I find the plot's a little easier to control. For, with first person, it tends to run away from me. And it's more visible.

Of course your problems are things like "what's his motivation". And trying to find words other than "I" to describe what's happening. And then, one's tendancy towards magniloquence.

There's no harm in presenting everyone's point of view, or switching between first and third, or third and second, omniscent, omnipotent or just plain helpless.

Jamie's RIGHT, though. As long as the plot is realistic (if zigzagger can fly and the romblewomber can't, don't tell me that romblewomber dropped down from the clouds and dropped a tenglzeiger on top of the zigzagger's head) and interesting.

As long as the charecters have depth and motivation. And your circumlocution is intelligent and isn't superrerugnant, I don't think you have to worry about first or third.

But that's just my opinion, of course.

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So there's something like, Omniscent first person. Where "I" know what someone else is thinking or feeling.

I don't buy that. To me, there's 1st person POV, and there's 3rd person omniscient; there is no inbetween, in my opinion.

To me, the choice is simple: if you need to tell a story solely through one character's eyes, you go for 1st person. The problem is, you can never know what's going on outside this character's own world, either in terms of story or other characters. (And I don't buy multiple 1st person POV stories, which to me are total amateurville except in the hands of master storytellers, which omits all of us.)

If you need to tell a story where you can show the thoughts and actions of different people, even those far away from your lead character, go with 3rd person.

Orson Scott Card, in his excellent book Characters and Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing), goes into this in great detail. He proves in several examples that it's possible to tell almost any story in 3rd person, but admits (as do some of the others in this conversation) that writing in 3rd person is more difficult to master. There are other books on writing that make the same point, but none do it better than Card. I strongly encourage all budding writers to read this book.

If I can offer some suggestions: Jagged Angel was the first (and so far, the only) 3rd person POV story I've written. I found it was important not to get inside the heads of multiple characters in one scene, because it gets very complicated, very quickly. I only showed other people's thoughts at a scene transition, usually when the lead character entered or exited the room, so the reader could then understand the other character's point of view.

The other great thing that 3rd person does is that it allows the author to comment directly on the events of his or her own story, in the role of the "unseen narrator." This gives you the ability to set up the mood and feel of each scene, using language far more articulate and, well, poetic than your characters. Think of the unseen narrator as like a camera that can instantly crane up or dissolve to any other location -- something you can't do in 1st person, where you're stuck with just one character.

I'm currently writing a story for which I did decide that 1st person POV was appropriate. But in this case, it's a time-travel situation where we have a modern-day teenager confronted with the events of 150 years ago. I felt in this case, the "fish out of water" plot would be better appreciated by readers if we saw things totally from a modern point of view. Getting into the head of a character in 1865 is too much of a stretch, for a story that already stretches credibility. I figure this keeps things much more simple.

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The Pecman:  (And I don't buy multiple 1st person POV stories, which to me are total amateurville except in the hands of master storytellers, which omits all of us.)

Are you sure you want to say this?

:p

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Readers seem to respond better to the first person, however, it limits the writer in areas where the narrator whouldn't have first hand knowledge.

I've also been finding that first person can make it more difficult to tell the story in a way that doesn't alienate some readers, at least with a serialized release.

I've been writing Yankee, and it's first-person from the point of view of a kid with Asperger's. The problem I've been finding is two-fold -- first, while he's got a lot of unpleasant history he won't think about it, so it's very hard to give people a feel for why things are happening. Best I've managed so far is to keep the history in mind so his actions are consistent, and make sure the props from the past are still lying around and trigger off some response, even if it's one where he does nothing but catch himself from thinking about what they represent.

The second problem is that the protagonist, in part because of his problem, is desperately clueless when it comes to people, is afwully unobservant in some situations, and has a tendency to misinterpret people and their actions which filters how he perceives them. The trouble there is that I can't show what really is happening and contrast it with what he thinks is happening -- the best I can do is show what he thinks is happening in enough detail to hopefully clue in the reader that he's hopelessly missing the point as well as giving them a chance to figure out what really is going on.

Taken together this can cause some problems. Justin, my lead, has come across as a sort of super-character to a lot of people, which he's not, or at least isn't supposed to be. Rather his past, which he's not thinking about, has conditioned him to avoid situations that cause him trouble, and his cluelessness leads him to miss the things around him that might otherwise affect his behaviour. There's a difference between a character that can get away with anything with no repercussions and one that just doesn't notice the repercussions of doing things, but it takes a while for the difference to manifest, and often people aren't willing to wait to see, and arguably they ought not have to.

This might be less of a problem with a non-serialized story (which is how I'm writing this, treating the serialization as a quirk of the release schedule) where it's not a problem to set things up for a half-dozen chapters and later tear down the reader's mistaken idea of what's happening. There's a mild worry with it that I'll disappoint readers along the way. There's also the question of whether a reader ought have to wait that long to know that something's going on that's potentially very different than what looks like is going on.

Not that this is an argument for or against first person, I suppose. More an argument that more thought should be put into the choice than I did (which is to say, more thought than none) and it's not a bad idea to do a good second or third editing pass before deciding you're done with things, so you can get an intimation of some of the subtler things out sooner rather than later. Not that you have to set everything up in the first five or ten pages, but blindsiding people isn't necessarily a good thing.

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I'm no fan of blanket statements, neither first nor third person is something one can make generalizations about. A lot of top notch literature can be found in either voice. Still, I guess the question is how to decide which way to tell a particular story, esp for us here online, and how we approach first person storytelling, or storytelling decisions.

I looked back at what I've written in the year since I began and found only two short stories in overt first person by TR, 'Something About Tom' and 'King of Shreds and Patches". In the former, the reader knows things that the speaker does not (that the new teacher likes the speaker, for instance), and I think that's a good way to approach first person, not to think of it as limiting the writer but as another way of making the character seem real and likable to the reader.

One danger there would be that the writer might be tempted to tell the reader things that he shouldn't, either things that the character wouldn't know, or things that he'd not think because they were obvious. Now stories that do that I'll agree are not too great and would be better done in third person where, perhaps, the writer might not be so tempted.

In the latter, King of Shreds, the first 'person' is actually a dog, so that let me both tell the story from his perspective, not the usual one a reader might expect, and to allow the reader to BE a dog, in a sense, to see with dog eyes and feel with a dog heart. I guess in that one, too, the reader knew things the speaker didn't, things that people know about other people but dogs might not (that the man was getting old, then that he was dead).

Again, I think that's a virtue in any story, that the reader sees or knows things that characters in the story do not, because it allows the reader to feel an active part of the story and to enjoy it more.

That's what I actually like about first person, the way you can tell things to the reader without the speaker even knowing them, which seems to contradict what some are saying about first person storytelling. I like for the reader to know things that the characters do not, and first person is a great way to do that.

Now that I think about it, Lucky Strike Hit Parade 1941 is a kind of first person story, too, because the story is TOLD by an interviewer (presumably TR) but the story is presented as first person, as told TO the interviewer, and as a MEMORY of events of 1941(maybe it is first-person present-tense stories that writers are finding limiting?). So it was a flashback, and that did present some tricky problems which I hope that I resolved in the telling.

Lucky Strike was really tough to get the way I wanted it, I had so many things I wanted IN it, done a particular way, but I think it does also qualify as a first person story. Still, I had always thought of it as told that way, Johnny telling me about what happened decades ago. That allowed me to interject his comments TO me, about young people today or how things were then, while telling me what happened so long ago. It was fun, actually, sticking myself into a story, even in the background, and having Johnny make comments to me as he talked, calling me 'kid'. So I had a lot of fun writing that I wouldn't had I written it in third person as I did Der Cowboy, also a war story, set in 1944.

I've read an awful lot of great stories told in first person: Catcher in the Rye, almost anything by Kurt Vonnegut, some by Saul Bellow, Anne Tyler, Anne Rice (she also did an interview type story though the interviewer seemed evident only at the first and last). Confessions of a Crap Artist, by Philip K Dick, is a fabulous novel told in first person by a complete geek outcast type, which allows us in his head and to evaluate what happens by OUR standards, even as we read his own hopeless-geek reactions. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is first person, I think, as are others of Twain's. In Huckleberry Finn, we can think OUR thoughts while we read the reactions and words of the scruffy outcast Huck as he meets people up and down the Mississippi.

These are awesome stories, told from the first person perspective of people we might not actually like to meet, but we somehow still enjoy their stories as they tell them, to which we add our own ideas and reactions. This is an advantage of first person, far and above third and maybe it's a better way to present unlikable characters. Does Nabokov use first person for Humbert Humbert or does someone else tell that one? It's sometimes hard to remember what person a story is written in when all you have in your head is a clear and shining image of the character. Either that or I have a bad memory!

So I don't think first person alienates readers and I don't think it limits the storytelling, it just makes it different. If you feel a story in the first person, write it that way! I'm a big fan of writing what you HEAR in your head without changing it around because of what others tell you is right, or what you THINK is the correct way to tell a story. As long as the story gets told, whatever way you hear it, and then write it, can work and be...correct. What's correct when we're talking about an artform anyhow??

Kisses...

TR

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That's what I actually like about first person, the way you can tell things to the reader without the speaker even knowing them, which seems to contradict what some are saying about first person storytelling. I like for the reader to know things that the characters do not, and first person is a great way to do that.

I'm confused. In re-reading this statement, I get the feeling that we have different opinions about what 1st person POV and 3rd person POV are.

In 1st person POV fiction, a story is being told completely by one character, totally through his or her eyes. Everything that happens, every event, is filtered through that person's brain. Just one person, like an autobiographical tale: "This is what happened to me." The only thoughts the reader can hear are those of this one character. Everything that happens in the story has to be seen or heard by this one character; otherwise, they have to find out about it second-hand.

In 3rd person omniscient POV, an unseen narrator is telling the story, and we can hear the thoughts or spoken words of any character in any scene. This way, the reader can know, for example, who the murderer is -- we can go inside the murderer's head and find out why and whom he killed, and then move over to a scene with a detective where he picks up clues that will ultimately lead him to the killer. The reader can know many things that the lead character(s) don't know. We can also know when a character is lying. The author can also exclude this information, and deliberately not show the thoughts of other characters except when necessary -- something I had to learn through painful lessons with the 1st draft of Jagged Angel.

Each technique has its own pros and cons, but for most stories, I think 3rd person is probably more appropriate for mainstream fiction. Orson Scott Card, in the book I cited above, makes a very good case that any story originally told in 1st person can be rewritten to 3rd with some effort.

There's no question, though, that some of the greatest books in literature have been done completely in 1st person. I was just talking to a friend about To Kill a Mockingbird, a book I've probably read 50 times, and it's told solely from the point of a 10 year-old girl. (There's also a prominant gay character in the book, based on the author's friendship with Truman Capote, but it's a subtlety you have to look for.)

I think there are stories where one point of view is more appropriate than the other. But I think there's always pros and cons you have to weigh, and it's not always a straightforward choice. Read the Orson Scott Card book I recommended, and tell me what you think.

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Are you sure you want to say this?

Oh yeah, definitely. If there's any master storytellers out there, raise up your hands.

<after a short pause>

Yeah, I thought so. At best, we're just a group of somewhat-talented amateurs. I made a pretty good living for about 20 years writing over a thousand published article as a professional writer, for a dozen different newsstand magazines, but I still put myself solely in the "amateur" class in fiction. But just because I'm an amateur writer now doesn't mean I can't try to do my work in a professional manner.

Multiple 1st-person POV is a very difficult, cluttered approach at best, and I've rarely seen it done. Again, Card warns against it at great length in his book, and it's clear he knows what he's talking about.

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maybe it is first-person present-tense stories that writers are finding limiting?

At present I am writing my first story. It started as an idea for a short story and I quickly discovered that it wasn't going to be that easy. It also wasn't going to be short either.

I began in third person past tense.

It wasn't working.

The structure demanded present tense first person. So I changed it.

This brought to light that the whole difficulty of first person was indeed how to allow the reader access to the other characters as entities in their own right.

Part of my answer was to afford them an interactive dialogue in real time (present tense) that revealed more than the first person would initially see, but which the readers might recognise as a perception in either their own minds or that of the character.

Either way I hoped that this would enhance the readers assimilation of the lead characters persona to place the reader in the reality of the moment as the story is read. This is quite necessary if my plot line is to succeed.

This reads a lot more complicated than it is but the stumbling block was the present tense, until I adopted descriptive memory recall exposition.

(Now there's a mouthful).

Overdone this could prove fatal to the writing. So it must be kept relevent and above all entertaining.

As one of the commentators has so accurately said, this is a lot of work and effort.

I think tense is so very important. Past tense can lead to a dull "Dear Diary" narative whilst present tense can lead to recipes of the day. On the otherhand past tense fills in the background of characters that allow the author to build either a future or a present that excites the reader with possibilities that he would not otherwise have experienced, let alone conclusions that are hidden until revealed.

Present tense then, can offer a number of challenges that disciplines the writer in ways that multiple POVs cannot. Indeed the lack of success of multiple POVs may well be because they offer an easy out for both author and reader. This does not make them wrong or any less interesting. (I have read and been entertained by some quite good multiple POV stories.)

But they do avoid the above challenges even if they present knew ones of their own making.

Third person past tense commands the postion of knowing that the author has something in mind to share with us.

First person present tense however, can offer an experience of seeming discovery for both author and reader at the same time.

Which of these is best depends entirely on the choice and preferred style of the author. But then we can all learn from trying something different.

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First, welcome DesDownunder. It's good to see another Australian here :D

I'll keep this short because I know that tenses are a weak point in my writing. It's one of the biggest things that my editors go through and fix for me.

I've read a couple of pieces recently that were done in present tense. The first one felt very odd to me, but the second was exactly right. The later is Solitary Night that is hosted here AwesomeDude. As I said to Ryan in an email, it was unusual, but it suited the subject.

My New Brother story is first person, past tense, but if you look it at, it's narrated as if the events are in the immediate past. This means that there are numerous places where future tense is used, as the main character contemplates what's going to happen in the future. In most Western writings, past tense is used -- either immediate past tense, or a more distant past tense (like a recitation of what happened a long time ago). It's just a matter of deciding from what point the narrator is talking about these events.

I read a book once that complained that, to that author, there had to be a logical reason for a first person POV story. For example, if the story has a "must keep this secret" rationale, then why is there a first person account written? Writing it down is obviously not keeping it a secret. When you look at first person, present tense, it becomes even more complex. HOW is the first person narration occuring in present tense? The only way is if the reader is sitting inside the head of the narrator as things occur. This worked really well in Solitary Night, but as soon as you try to bring in dialogue, it becomes very difficult.

I said I'd keep this short :lol: so I'd better stop now :roll:

Graeme :D

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First' date=' welcome DesDownunder. It's good to see another Australian here :D

HOW is the first person narration occuring in present tense? The only way is if the reader is sitting inside the head of the narrator as things occur. This worked really well in [i']Solitary Night[/i], but as soon as you try to bring in dialogue, it becomes very difficult.

Thank you for the welcome Graeme. I didn't realise you were Aussie too, but that's good isn't it? lol :D

As to "How is the first person narration....etc." possible, I believe we can examine the reader - written word relationship in a similar way to audience - film relationship.

We can either be a voyeur looking at the work or we can be immersed in it. That "immersion" or diegesis replaces the words we are reading with the experience the words conjur for the reader in an illusion of the present.

In other words the reader enters into the world of the narrator through the written word and hopefully it is sufficiently well written to allow reality to be suspended and replaced by the world of the book or film etc.

In this (present tense) case the written word is not an "account" to be considered objectively as written , but a device, to allow the reader to enter the world of the story as a participant or at least permit the reader that choice.

It is somewhat amusing, even intriguing to realise that the character can also be observed by the reader, and author.

From this stand point the first person present tense allows real-time dialogue to be read by the reader as if he were hearing it. The trick hear is for the author to lead the reader in a logical progression of thought, through the dialogue to whatever experience the author desires for the reader.

This approach becomes similar to that used in writing a play, where the dramatic action may be in a fictional time frame with an audience participating with the staged action as if it were occurring in the here and now.

And yes it is not easy. lol.

I have indeed found it necessary to use both dialogue and thought to aid this deception or illusion.

The trick here is realise that the written word can be used as an account or record of past events. This is easy for us to understand because it has happened and we as readers relate to that with an easy logic.

However words can also be used to place the reader in another dimension as if it is only just occurring as we read. The written word in this case is not an "account" as such but a "device" to transport the reader to that dimension/experience so the reader is able to feel he has a degree of active participation.

First person present tense is ONE way to allow this to happen.

My least favourite approach is where the author "tells" the reader what to do.

For example,

"You stand and walk to the edge of the cliff and just before you jump you realise this is not right."

This is too alienating for my taste in general writing.

Tense of course is always open for change and many stories can and do mix tenses in a variety of ways.

'The Good Doctor" by taarob (on Nifty) is an example of a story that began in past tense and has developed (over 49 episodes) into present tense with a few dalliances in change of POV.

Tense-wise it is all over the place, but it really does work as an entertaining story sharing both participation and voyeurism.

I better stop this waffling now. :roll:

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"You stand and walk to the edge of the cliff and just before you jump you realise this is not right."

I probably should let one of the editors or more technically knowledgeable authors talk about this, but the example given is what I believe to be second-person point of view, not first or third.

I'm going to try write the same passage a few different ways, and I suspect I'm about to make a fool of myself with my understanding of the different terms :D

Third person, past tense:

He stood up and walked to the edge of the cliff. He was about to jump when he realised that it wouldn't be right.

First person, past tense:

I stood up and walked to the edge of the cliff. I was getting ready to jump that I realised that it just wouldn't be right.

*about to start struggling*

First person, present tense:

I stand up and walk to the edge of the cliff. I get ready to jump, and then I realise this isn't right.

Third person, present tense:

Graeme needs a beer.

I have to admit that I find reading and writing in past tense a lot more natural, but I know someone from a strong non-English speaking background that said they find present tense writing a lot more natural to them. I therefore suspect my preference is partially cultural.

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I was actually referencing POV not tense in my "cliff" example, even though it was in present tense.

I think you are right about it being second person.

It was the form of telling the reader what to do that I don't particularly like.

Anyway I was just trying to show that tense is somewhat dependant on how the author wanted the reader to be involved with his words and that a story can be relayed as an account of past events or that the story can be given the illusion of occurring as it is being read.

One method is not better than the other. But overall the second is not always acknowledged or appreciated, perhaps because it is not easy.

Have a beer for me Graeme, I am stuck with the coffee, even if it makes me a bit tense. :)

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Third person past tense commands the postion of knowing that the author has something in mind to share with us. First person present tense however, can offer an experience of seeming discovery for both author and reader at the same time.

Yeah, that pretty much sums up the benefits of both. But each also has some major limitations.

The 3rd-person POV (point of view) has the drawback of making it harder for the author to get his readers to empathize with the main hero(or heroes), because you're experience the story and the drama from a distance, like watching a movie. In a nutshell, the third-person experience is somewhat more "detached" emotionally.

But the 1st-person POV has the drawback that the plot details have to be revealed to your lead character before the reader will know it. If something happens "offscreen," neither your lead character nor your audience can know about it in advance. (And it's generally considered poor form to try to alter back and forth between 1st person and 3rd. I say, stick with one and find a way to make it work.)

I think there are pros and cons to each POV, and the choice is more appropriate for some situations than others. I also think that 3rd person is more difficult for beginners. Going with 1st person is simpler, since the writer is essentially assuming the role of the lead character and telling his or her own story, like a diary.

The best examples of the need for 1st person POV would be, first, the detective story, where every clue is discovered by the narrator as they happen. Another good one is the "fish out of water" story, where your lead character is plunged into a very foreign situation, like another country or place, and the reader shares the new experiences the character encounters.

And Graeme elsewhere is correct: the (seldom-used) 2nd person POV is one in which the reader himself becomes the lead character. "You walk over and open the door. Much to your surprise, it's your long-lost lover, who sweeps you up in his arms..."

To me, like writing in present tense, 2nd person POV is way too "showy" and obvious to me, like the writer is trying too hard to impress critics. I think it's one of those techniques that gets in the way of good storytelling, but there are always exceptions.

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That's what I actually like about first person, the way you can tell things to the reader without the speaker even knowing them, which seems to contradict what some are saying about first person storytelling. I like for the reader to know things that the characters do not, and first person is a great way to do that.

I'm confused. In re-reading this statement, I get the feeling that we have different opinions about what 1st person POV and 3rd person POV are.

In 1st person POV fiction, a story is being told completely by one character, totally through his or her eyes. Everything that happens, every event, is filtered through that person's brain. Just one person, like an autobiographical tale: "This is what happened to me." The only thoughts the reader can hear are those of this one character. Everything that happens in the story has to be seen or heard by this one character; otherwise, they have to find out about it second-hand.

Not when TR is writing the story! No, it could be more than one character, switching off perspectives, but also, and more what I think I meant back then, you can let readers see things by hearing the one guy's view because he doesn't fully understand what the reader does about the situation. I like to use that, actually, and have in a number of stories. What is evident to the reader is not necessarily the same as what's evident to the narrator/first person speaker. That's what I meant...I think.

Old thread...I'll read on, see what's up.

Kisses...

TR

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...because you're experience the story and the drama from a distance, like watching a movie.

Movies can be experienced in two ways.

1. As an an object to look at.

or

2. As a participant in the action.

Most movies have elements of both these ways.

In a cinema it is easier to become part of the action in comparison to watching a small TV on the otherside of the room.

Television requires us to work harder at suspending our suroundings and entering into the world of the movie.

The film-maker may also deliberately choose a format to assist or even force us into the picture. (Pun inteneded, sorry).

Examples would include CinemaScope and 70mm formats, but these need to be seen in a cinema to work or at least on a large home cinema screen.

Sometimes the fim-maker will choose to alienate the audience into being aware that they are watching a movie rather than being part of it.

This can be done in a variety of ways.

As I said above most films do have elements of both forms.

The point of interest for writers is that tense in this cinematic world is suspended and the POV becomes whatever the director wants for the audience to experience the movie.

Consider the flashback for a moment.

Whilst we watch the flashback as it is occurring we may feel to be part of the action as if it is in the present, even though we know it is in the character's past.

However if the character is simply telling another actor in the film about the action then we are looking at the character talking about the past event.

Courtroom dramas, for example, often utilise both of these tactics.

So as a member of the audience our experience is relative to the moment of the action and not necessarily the moment the characters are discussing. Of course that discussion then may become the action or something for the audience to simply observe.

Now POV in a written story can and does change within that story depending on the author's intentions.

Traditionally, it is usual to keep the perspective from a single character, but even this can be made to flip between the character and the reader's own awareness. Additionally, there is the author's POV which may become obvious at times.

Whether any of these things is important to a particular story probably depends on how deliberately they are used by the author.

I think the most interesting point about all this is not so much the POV but how the tense of that POV is utilised.

As a reader, when a work is in first person present tense, I can feel like I am the character. At other times I am aware that the author seems to be writing as I read and that makes me feel like I am privy to his thoughts as they being written. That too is an illusion, albeit an interesting one.

These can provide quite different experiences even if they are both first person present tense.

As with the movies the trick is to be able to suspend disbelief.

I think that movies have challenged the writer to seek new ways of telling stories from different POVs, but perhaps we should look at these alternatives with a degree of suspicion or at least with awareness of their origins.

Tense offers ways around the awkward stuations of first and third person for the author.

Tense in the second person nearly always seems to be the assertive tool of an authoritarian.

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Guest desert dude

Well, guys...

...what a can of worms.

I agree with my Internet friend, Graeme. First person is easier because third person requires more discipline. However, this doesn't mean that first person limits a good story being told. My first two series (Splash and Other Avenues) are in first person and, I think, very successful. They are, in a sense, my training wheels.

Now, I am finding a real comfort level in third person; specifically limited third person. One character takes the lead and becomes the ONLY character to express thoughts.

It becomes very confusing when the author uses third person and then bounces back and forth with different character's thoughts and internal emotions other than the lead character.

That's my two cents (or pence) worth. I'm enjoying this thread.

Jack :roll:

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