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Narrative choice by author or popularity?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Addison, Jul 22, 2015.

  1. Addison

    Addison Auror

    I recently took a long over due visit to Barnes and Noble (all hail!) and took a tour through both the junior reader section and the young adult version and noticed something interesting.

    While authors have their preference of writing a story in first or third person, the YA shelves have about 90% first person stories. The junior readers are flipped, 90% third.

    So on the drive home I started wondering, why? Readers gravitate and swarm to specific books based on popularity. Harry Potter, Hunger Games etc. So, do YA authors prefer to write in first person because that's how they see their story? Or is that choice swayed based on the popularity of a first-person narrated story?

    Just a question. Been bugging me as a concept story has the story told from both first and third person.
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    Market expectations probably do have a lot to do with it, but I can't help wondering if under it all there may be some deeply psychological phenomena going on with the difference in ages.
    Teenagers are hard wired [it is said by some] to challenge and explore so a story that is "I" brings them in... It is them in the adventure...
    A younger child feels the need for home and security more, but likes a little danger and excitement so "She" or "He" is more appealing... They get to go along with Katniss and Harry on their adventure but know that it safely separate from them...
    I don't know, just a thought.
  3. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I would only believe this was generally true about teens if it were true for books from the 1920s, the 1940s and pretty much any other era. Since I know that's not the case, I'm more inclined to regard this as just another phase the industry goes through from time to time.
  4. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

    Offhand I would say it is simple trend following behavior reinforcing itself. Authors who hope to write in a certain genre and for a certain market look to the big hits in that field and emulate some of the characteristics of those hits. Repeat for a couple iterations and you build up a lot of similarities. Even when authors consciously try to differentiate themselves, they'll first change things like the nature of the protagonist, shape of the story, style of the dialogue, etc, before thinking about point of view.

    Whether or not there are actual psychological elements to this (as in, whether the readers actually PREFER the different point of view than it simply being an accident of emulation) is outside my ability to guess. Though again, it might simply be a "everything I read is in 1st person, so reading 3rd person feels weird" thing, rather than anything more intrinsic.
  5. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner Scribe

    Potentially, both.

    Suzanne Collins wrote The Hunger Games in first person because she wanted an intense character experience - the book is a study in use of personal conflict.

    Although First Person was probably quite popular already within YA fiction, I would dare suggest that some writers began to specifically copy that use of POV solely because Collins had used it, rather than because it was their natural choice.

    There's still quite a lot of variety in POV use, though in epic fantasy, Third Person Limited tends to be the most common (from my reading experience) though Third Person Omniscient still appears. First Person fantasy novels are less common, but there are a few out there.
  6. kennyc

    kennyc Inkling

    and the publishers of course are chasing the all-might dollar.

    As Van Morrison says in Showbusiness,

    "...Where's the next one, where's the next one
    Where's the next one
    Oh baby, just like the last one
    Like the last one
    Van Morrison - Showbusiness Lyrics | MetroLyrics
  7. Starbright

    Starbright Acolyte

    I too think it's a fashion thing, and it's not at all surprising that the most fashionable section of the market will be one of the first areas to make the switch.
  8. Addison

    Addison Auror

    So what do you guys think would happen if a new, hit book came out and it was written in first and third person? Like it alternated every chapter, one character in first, the other in third? Or if a chapter started with a first person, snarky narrator who made all sorts of comments, guesses and such, then the rest of the chapter was written in third?

    Hypothetically of course, but how do you think a book like that would effect (affect?) the market and/or upcoming authors? Would they follow the trend or would they write in whichever narrator they personally felt had the bigger impact?
  9. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

    I actually read a book similar to that. The whole thing was technically first person I think. The narrator would tell some parts from his perspective in first person but would switch to third when telling the parts of the story he didn't witness firsthand.

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