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Switching from 3rd to 1st person?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Tom, Oct 3, 2015.

  1. Tom

    Tom Istar

    Okay, my last few projects have been written in 3rd person. Recently, I started a new project and returned to an old one--both in 3rd person. And I had an epiphany.

    I hate writing in 3rd person.

    It doesn't work for me. The narration feels kind of distant. I want connection, close connection. I like to feel like I'm in the character's mind, not riding on their shoulder. I also realized that because I like 1st person so much, I should focus on honing my skill in it, refining my 1st person voice to the point where it's unique and unlike any other 1st person narration out there.

    My question is, should I switch my older projects to 1st person? Or should I leave them in third? Do you think switching the person would help me gain new insights and perspective on my old projects?
  2. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

    I believe it is better to be good at one of these two options and show that off as best as you can in your writing than to try and be adept at both. So i would continue writing in first person and try to master that.

    Concerning your previous work there is only one question to ask. " Is it worth it?" or more specific
    Do you believe your old work was good enough that you are willing to rewrite it or not? Because it will take quite a bit of time and unless you enjoyed those stories enough to spend more time on them i wouldn't do it.
    Tom likes this.
  3. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    From personal experience, first person tends to be easier to write when you're starting out. it's got the built in intimacy. Third person, requires a little more mental work and understanding to be able to write it in an intimate style.

    Now to your actual question. Switching POVs like you're considering, if indeed you're 3rd person is as distanced as you think, is going to require a lot of work. You'll have to go through every line and make sure it fits in with a 1st person POV. In addition, if it's a multi-pov story, switching to 1st could be a problem.

    If you have say 3 POV characters and all of them are told in 1st person, that tends to not be a good idea, because it tends to throw off readers in terms of remembering which POV charater's head they're in. I'm not saying don't do it in this specific case. I'm saying you'e going to have to overcome this issue if you have multiple POVs told from 1st person.

    As mentioned above. The question is if you think it's worth your effort? How much of a difference do you think it will make to the final product? If it's not much, it's probably better to move on to the next story. That is unless you think it would benefit you in other ways as in using it as a exercise to improve your skills in some way.
    Tom likes this.
  4. TESFan

    TESFan Acolyte

    If you haven't already, check out Name of the Wind for an example of changing PoV fairly often.
    Tom likes this.
  5. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    You can get a first POV-like intimacy in third POV, it's called Close, or Deep Third, and I do it all the time. The problem with POV, is that the reason First feels easier is because it is easier...to do certain things, and unfortunately, those things are often the bad habits that make writing look sloppy. "I saw..." -type sentences are what make people cringe, and it's the basic translation of "He saw" in third, that made its own writer cringe when they felt it wasn't working.

    Of course that's only one example, and the most obvious one available, but I really feel like the list is long. For that reason, I'd suggest you look up techniques of writing in deep third, and see whether any of it resonates with you. It might be the happy medium you're looking for.

    Btw, I write in first, close third, and third, and what I find limiting about first, is that you can never gain the distance you can in third. For example, if I'm in a romance scene or a street brawl, yes, I want to be all up in my character's head: Less, "her hand slid up his back, tantalizing him," and more, "her hand...holy shit. It slid down his back and didn't stop at his waistband." Or, less, "he struck again, this time impaling the swordsman's shoulder. Right, left, he continued to throw feints and lunges." (and that'll go on for a page or two, just choreography) More, "He feinted and probed to test his adversary. Perhaps it was a bit indulgent, the amount of flourish he put into his movements, but he felt ready to prove something–maybe only to himself."

    Yeah, those examples were quick, but the point is, that you can choose where to get more intimate with the character in third POV, like you can't in first. Plus, you can create some distance when it's appropriate (like when there's a mystery you aren't revealing, which I do a lot). I guess that's why I love third so much. But I do also love first. I just KNOW you can get the best of both worlds if you try some of the techniques. It's certainly worth a try, since rewriting several novels just to switch POV is a huge undertaking. At least give it a look and see whether it accomplishes what you feel you need.
    Tom likes this.
  6. pskelding

    pskelding Troubadour

    Unless those first projects are critical to the completion of your current and future projects why would you want to spend the time rewriting them unless you're being paid to do so?

    Close third is a skill and it takes time to master just as writing in first WELL does. As in Jim Butcher level of well.
    Tom likes this.
  7. Zara

    Zara Dreamer

    I prefer to read and write in third person. When I read first person I don't feel like I can 'become the character' because when i hear 'I' I feel like I'm reading someone else's story and reading about someone else. Whereas in third the 'he/she' stuff makes it feel less personal to the character and makes it feel like it could be anyone's story - even mine.

    Also, you can write just as closely in third as you do in first person.

    Here are some really good lectures from Brandon Sanderson:
    I would watch ALL of them because they are useful.
    But if you scroll down he does several lectures on third and first, the pros and cons. What is best for YOUR story because, although I think all writers have a preference you should be skilled enough to write in either and it should come down to what suits your story and not which you feel most comfortable in. And if you wish to head hop in your books, you can write just as closely to the character in third as in first. These lectures will explain it better.

    All the best
    Tom likes this.
  8. Tom

    Tom Istar

    Well, because I'm a horrible procrastinator, most of my older projects are still in various stages of incompletion. I want them all to be...the best they could be, you know? If my third-person skills are mediocre, I don't want to leave those projects with a mediocre narration.

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