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Is This a New Trend?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Guy, Jun 5, 2016.

  1. Guy

    Guy Inkling

    Because if it is, I'm scared (warning - slight rant ahead).

    I'm reading and reviewing books for bookvetter in hopes of getting feedback from them on my writing. The book I'm reading now uses multiple first person POV. This is the fourth book I'm reading for them and it's the second book in a row that has that POV, and I freaking hate it. After all the griping I've heard about head hopping with third person omniscient, how can anybody think multiple first person is a good idea? With every chapter opening I have no idea whose head I'm in and it drives me absolutely crazy. It's hard to imagine a better way to jerk your reader out of the story then to put them in a character's head but give them no idea which character it is. I can figure it out after a few lines, but for those opening lines instead of enjoying the story I'm going, "Who the hell is this?" The one I'm reading now opens with a female character's first person POV. Okay, fine. Then the next chapter opens with first person POV and I naturally think it's the same character, but then someone addresses this character as Henry. And I'm thinking, "Henry? Wasn't this a girl?" I flip back a few pages and, yep, no question, it's a girl. A girl named Henry? Henrietta? No, further on it's made clear this is a new character and he's a guy. Okay... I give a sigh and forge on. Next chapter and we're back to female first person POV... but then it's a different female from the first one, thus evoking a high decibel, Gene Wilder-like cry of frustration. And I'm already frustrated because the book is averaging about one grammatical error per page, which is low grade torture for a grammar nazi.

    The fact that it's happened with two consecutive books worries me. So is this some horrible trend I was unaware of, or was it just a horrible coincidence?
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2016
  2. Is it cinematic or epistolary.
  3. troynos

    troynos Minstrel

    Multiple first person POV? No thanks.

    I've noticed in a couple books that are first person, when they switch to a new POV it becomes third person.
  4. Reilith

    Reilith Sage

    I still haven't found my way to one of those... Thankfully. If that is the new trend, I am very old-fashioned. :D
  5. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    ^^ This, yes.

    Multi 1st person POV? No thanks.
  6. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    Seconded. I tried to beta read a novel that was written in multi 1st person, and it was just jarring and weird to read. I never did make it all the way through. The one way I could see that being salvageable is if the chapters are titled after the POV character to make things easier on the reader, but not everyone does that.
  7. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    I'm not so sure it's a trend. To my recollection, I've only ever read one book with multi-first person POVs, and that only had two, and they alternated chapters. It was easy to tell who's head I was in.

    In my opinion, which is worth what you pay, this is something that newer authors do without realizing the consequences, which is exactly what you experienced.

    There are many ways to mitigate confusion, from simply putting character names as chapter headings to making sure to ID the character within the first paragraph of the chapter.

    Multi-first person, isn't something I'd recommend, but aside from the confusion, how was the writing/story itself?
    Trick likes this.
  8. Dracula is a multi first person, but it is in epistolary format so that makes it easier to know who's head we are on.
  9. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    I've come across only one multiple first person POV series, and that is Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles.

    The first five novels in the series are exclusively from Atticus O'Sullivan's POV (first person past tense). Then, in the 6th novel, he shifts to a 2nd First Person POV (present tense). The reason within the context of the story makes sense. In the 7th and 8th he employs 3 first person POV characters (two present, the original past tense). It works okay, but I (and my family) are not enamored with one of the new POVs, and that grates on us. My guess is that if he started off the series that way, I would've been less likely to continue. The third added POV does seem to have more added value, and isn't as detracting from the story.

    With the novels, he puts the emblem (picture) of one of their animals the druids can bind to (transform into), so the reader right off knows the POV. With the audiobook, it's easy because the narrator has different voices and cadence and such for the different characters.
  10. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    I avoid 1st POV in general, let alone multi-1st. With the trendiness of 1st it's inevitable a bunch of young writers would throw out a wave of multi. Hopefully that never catches on, although it's easy enough to avoid, heh heh.
  11. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    And this is why it's one of the most horrible books I've read in my entire life. I hated that novel.

    But moving on...yes OP, I'm not sure if it's a trend but I've noticed a lot of books lately with present tense and 1st person. UGH. I can't do either. They'll immediately make me put a story down. And multiple 1st person POV? Nope.

    What's interesting is that we're told to not use adverbs, was, it was, cliche phrases, omnisc, etc but 1st person multiple pov is okay? -_- Although I've come across many readers that prefer first person because it allows the to get inside the characters heads. So maybe this is why there's a rise in novels written this way.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 5, 2016
  12. I will have to disagree with you about Dracula. It's one of my favorites. But I do agree that multi first is difficult on the reader. Further, to your point about first being easier to get in a person's head, I think that's because most writers, my self included, underestimate the power of 3d person close.
  13. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Yes. Absolutely. I know one young writer (very young, we're talking still in her late teens here) who will only write in first person because it allows her to think properly. I've read some of her work and while it's creative, I can't get past the tense. There's just this...aroma of conceit that comes with first person if done wrong. But that's one measly person's opinion. :)

    Btw...Dracula the movie was fantastic. But I was also in high school when I read Dracula so maybe that's where the lack of appreciation came from.
  14. I think that aroma of conceit, and this is just me BTW, comes from the fact that for young authors it is easier to self-insert with first person. That isn't to say that it's not a problem with early 3d person works, but it's just much, much easier to do when it comes to 1st person. Kind of like when method actors get a bit too...method.
  15. Guy

    Guy Inkling

    The first book I read with this issue was (this issue aside) quite good and I actually enjoyed the story. My only real criticism of it was the multi-first person. The one I'm reading now is difficult. I'm about halfway through it and I think they may have introduced a fourth person's POV. There are grammar issues on every page, which I simply cannot abide. I can understand a few slipping through, but this is ridiculous. It's very shoddy craftsmanship. The author does things I consider redundant for first person, such as writing something like:
    The woman gave me a strange look. "Why did she do that," I asked myself.

    To me, writing in first person means being in the character's head with their thoughts, so it would make a lot more sense if they wrote something like:

    The woman gave me a strange look. Wonder what her problem is? Aw, hell, who cares? I've got plenty of other things to worry about.

    Author uses the occasional present tense mixed in with past tense, something I was taught you NEVER do. Pick a tense and stick with it, although I find the parts in present tense feel odd. It just seems to make the story a little... I don't know. Off kilter, maybe? I'm not really sure how to articulate it. The world building is a bit confusing. One of the characters goes to a blacksmith in a town to have some throwing knives forged to compliment the knives she already carries. Maps are primitive and everything appears to be your typical Medieval-esque world. But then the character hops on a train. Shejumps on a boxcar on a slow moving train and rides it to town, leaving me going, "Wait... what?" With that my understanding of the world was completely shot to hell. The plot and characters aren't bad, but the POV thing is such a glaring issue that I just can't get past it. It blots everything else out, and it's going to be difficult for me to find anything positive to say.

    I liked Dracula, but Stoker structured it in such a way that the whole POV thing was a total non-issue for me. I had no trouble knowing whose head I was in.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2016
  16. Guy

    Guy Inkling

    Yes, exactly! Ex-freakin'-actly! But don't get me started on one of my rants about common writer advice...
    I suspect it also might be a by-product of social media. Young writers likely got most of their writing experience from tweeting, FB posting, and texting where they're writing a real time conversation. I bet when some of them undertake creative writing they just naturally write in that particular style out of habit.
  17. Russ

    Russ Istar

    I have yet to read a book that is multiple 1st person POV. Hopefully this means that it is not a trend. I have recently read a great book that was 1st/multiple third, but the mere thought of multiple first makes me a little ill.

    If does does become a trend, lets hope it is a short one.
  18. Holoman

    Holoman Troubadour

    I dislike first person in general, I find it very hard to empathise with the MC or feel any reverence for them. Any hint of arrogance or even confidence and I quickly dislike the character. I am too critical of their thoughts and just cannot put myself in their position. I also feel it reads like a diary which means for me it isn't 'happening now' it feels more like it's being told in hindsight which loses tension.

    The closest thing to multi first person I've read was by Bernard Cornwell, the prologue was in first person POV by a guy who talked about his father. Then in Chapter one you become the father and it is his first person POV for the rest of the book. I remember thinking it worked very well because it avoided my usual objection to first person in that I formed an opinion of the MC before I was actually put in his head.

    I didn't even make it all the way through Dracula, started a year ago, but for me the whole diary format just totally lacked tension. It was intriguing but just didn't have that live action feel were you feel tense and as if something dangerous could happen any moment. I was about halfway through when I took a couple of days break from it. I have a rule when I read books, if I am past halfway and I don't actively want to keep reading it (i.e. I feel like I'm forcing myself to read) then it has failed and gets left unread.
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2016
  19. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    Robin Hobb's latest Farseer trilogy has two first-person narrators, although she only switches views between chapters. Sometimes multiple chapters for one before the other. It works fine, no confusion whatsoever about whose head we are in at the beginning of each new section for a character. Reference points, signals of the change in character are well handled and organic. The trilogy has other problems, mostly in pacing and in Fitz's unending whining, but the dual first-person POV approach is not one of them.
    Trick likes this.
  20. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    I would add that Robin Hobb's effort is helped in multiple ways.

    The two characters are wildly different in age — one old, one very young — and in personality, and most of the time (particularly as the trilogy progresses), they are geographically separated and are undergoing different trials, conflicts. These things allow all sorts of signposting, from references to the geography, to the different sets of other characters around them and to different situations, as well as obvious changes in tone/outlook due to personality differences. I can just imagine a less experienced writer trying to switch between two or more 1st person narrators of similar age, position, personality and intermixed in the same milieu/locality and similar ongoing events—and failing.

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