1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

First or Third person

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Foah, Oct 31, 2013.

  1. Foah

    Foah Troubadour

    125
    46
    28
    I'm close to done with my worldbuilding and outlining parts in preparation for actually writing the story and the scenes, but I'm still left with one big question; one that I haven't been able to answer by myself yet:

    Should I write the story as a 1st person perspective, or as a 3rd person perspective?

    The story, which will be roughly the length of a long novella, completely centers around the main character and the main character alone. Everything you read will be something that the main character experiences too. This is a GREAT argument for having the story in 1st person.

    However, I'm not comfortable with it. It's not the perspective in and of itself, but I feel that a 1st person perspective would make my subplots and twists a lot harder to veil. The main story arc is accompanied by 3 important subplots and 2 main plot changing twists - I want these concealed as best as possible, without being "out of the blue". Instead of your ordinary 2 or 3 hints of upcoming plot changes, I'll have 1 or 2 very subliminal, VERY subliminal hints that these subplots and main plot twists will happen. I'm afraid I can't hide these well enough if I write from a 1st person perspective, for example:

    "MC closes the door on Mila, who's left standing in the cold rain" perfectly manages to hold hints and information that progresses 2 of the aforementioned subplots, while:
    "I close the door on Mila, leaving her in the cold rain" simply doesn't cut it. If you'd know the ending and twists you would most certainly agree that the 3rd person perspective conveys hints, while the 1st person perspective just doesn't.


    So, in conclusion. There are greater arguments for writing from a 1st person perspective. It's way harder to write from a 1st person perspective and keep all hints and details important to the subplots of the story. If I could write it equally well from either perspective, I'd choose 1st person. The problem is I'm not confident I'll get an equally good, or better, result based on my own capabilities at this time.

    Any and all advice is most welcome :)
     
  2. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    11,095
    1,562
    313
    From your example, I'm not sure what the difference is between the first and third person sentences. Neither of them seems to carry any sort of hint or foreshadowing that the other doesn't. It might be because I'm ignorant of your story's plot and ending, though.
     
  3. teacup

    teacup Auror

    1,120
    171
    63
    You could write 3rd person as closely as you could 1st, so really there's no question to this other than what you would prefer.
    If you're uncomfortable with 1st person, write a very close 3rd person pov of the character, really get into the MC's head.
    Or, you could just try both out and see how you feel.
     
  4. Foah

    Foah Troubadour

    125
    46
    28
    @Ireth: I don't expect anyone to be able to see any difference. It's pretty much that once you learn the twist towards the end, you'll definitely understand the hint given in the 3rd person perspective here, but you won't find it in the 1st person one. I'll come up with a better example in a while and present it, to give you a better idea of what I mean :)

    @teacup: That's definitely an option, one that I didn't think of too much. Been stuck here comparing the 2 major perspectives, all the while ignoring the gray zones and variations. I'll put my thoughts to work on that ^^
     
  5. Malik

    Malik Auror

    1,090
    1,316
    163
    My question would be, why present tense instead of past? Your examples are in present tense.

    Present tense is really tricky to pull off. It's even trickier in first person.
     
  6. Foah

    Foah Troubadour

    125
    46
    28
    Ok, a better example of what I touched on earlier:

    John and Emma are best friends, but Emma left town some 5 years ago. John has trouble coping with this, but the reader doesn't know that Emma's left. As far as the reader's concerned, he/she only knows that John and Emma are friends. So, with this as a subplot/twist that ends up showing John's active imagination has left him less sane, as he keeps imagining conversations with Emma, I want to put it in neatly so that it'll make sense for the reader in the end, even if the reader didn't pick up on it in the beginning. So from a 3rd person perspective I could end one scene like this:

    John stopped talking for a while and just looked at Emma. Her face still as young as it was 5 years ago, her eyes still full of life, hope and lust for adventure.
    "How are you, really?" he asked, letting his eyes wander a bit. He always did have trouble looking her in the eyes when they talked.
    "Don't you worry about me. You have other tasks at hand, responsibilities you cannot postpone any longer."
    John looked up only to find Emma's eyes still steady and piercing into his as. John left.


    Now, the hints aren't hidden that well here, but this 3rd person perspective makes it easy to let the reader read John, rather than experience the event as John. From a 1st person perspective I'd get something like:

    I stopped talking for a while and just looked at Emma. Her face still as young as it was 5 years ago, her eyes still full of life, hope and lust for adventure.
    "How are you, really?" I asked, letting my eyes wander away from hers. It always felt a bit off looking her in the eyes when we talked.
    "Don't you worry about me. You have other tasks at hand, responsibilities you cannot postpone any longer."
    I looked up from where my eyes had wandered, only to find her eyes still steady, once again piercing into mine. I left.


    This example probably isn't the best, but I think it'll do. From this 1st person perspective, I feel that it's harder to make Emma seem distanced and imagined, even if the goal is to hide it from the reader till it's time for the twist. I feel that from the 1st person perspective, Emma feels too real and too detailed to make the twist seem logical, compared to the feel I get from the 3rd person perspective.

    I hope this all made sense, or I'll have to write a better example ^^
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2013
  7. Foah

    Foah Troubadour

    125
    46
    28
    @Malik: When I write short stories I prefer present tense. I guess it's habit that makes me use present tense whenever I write short snippets ^^
     
  8. teacup

    teacup Auror

    1,120
    171
    63
    It seems pretty much identical to me, still.
    The only difference is that first person can seem like the character actually talking to the reader, like "I did this" etc, so he could seem a bit more crazy, as it would seem like he 100% believes she's there. But with third person, even if you're as close as can be, it's still read as "he did this" so how much he actually believes it can be vaguer.

    Other than that, I still don't see any difference between the two, really.
     
  9. Foah

    Foah Troubadour

    125
    46
    28
    Starting to wonder whether it's me or John who's crazy now.. ^^ But I'm still convinced my problem is real, so I'll spend some time writing another well thought out example, with clear distinctions in readers' perception. It's not all in my head, it's not all in my head, shh now little Foah, shh.
     
    teacup likes this.
  10. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    3,090
    1,857
    163
    It really doesn't matter I think. IMHO it's all in how you write it. In either POV, you have to deal with what's fair to hold back and what's unfair. One book you might look at is Fight Club. It was written in first person.
     
  11. Malik

    Malik Auror

    1,090
    1,316
    163
    First-person present tense can get gimmicky really fast. There's just not a lot you can do with it. Present-tense limits your constructions, especially your verb phrases. FP-PT tends to funnel all but the most exceptional wordsmiths down the hole of adverbs and superlatives just for lack of any other place to go.

    If you want to make it your thing, that's totally cool. It's just a really tough road.
     
  12. advait98

    advait98 Sage

    309
    80
    28
    I'd agree with Penpilot. It's all in how you write it.

    The John and Emma scene there, I feel, can be written with the same sentiment expressed, through both POVs. It's not enough changing a few words here and there when you're rewriting the same scene in a different POV.

    In the end though, it all comes down to what you'll be comfortable with. In that case, I think third person may be best.
     
  13. Stevenmlong

    Stevenmlong Dreamer

    17
    5
    3
    First person has the benefit of intimacy, and is more useful if you have a strong, complex central character that can engage and hold readers. Third person has more flexibility and breadth, that you can use both to create a world with multiple points of view and from a plotting perspective use to aggressively manipulate story.

    My suspicion, from the information you've provided, is that you should go with first person, but given what you've told us you'd be setting yourself a more complex task. To paraphrase what advait98 said, what are you comfortable with, how much are you looking to challenge yourself? The question of POV is dependent on what effect you're trying to create, and which POV is more likely to help you do it.
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2013
  14. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

    515
    174
    43
    As a writer I think it's really important to be able to write in either. As someone else pointed out you can write as closely in third as you can in first, plus third lends to over perspectives. However, in a short-story or novella it's important to keep the ball rolling and you have less time to really allow the reader to get to know the character. If you write in third be sure not to use to many characters as it is a short piece of work. I read one novella where there were so many characters POV you never got close enough to any of them to care.

    Which would suit your story best?
     
Loading...

Share This Page