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BrainPick POV (again), which would you go for?

Discussion in 'Café Life' started by Rich., Dec 5, 2017.

  1. Rich.

    Rich. Guardian Staff Member

    So, you've got a story, character led, one POV, so maybe first person is the obvious choice, but what if you don't like first person? What if you find it cramped and self indulgent? Do you go straight for close third? What can you do with close third that you can't do in first if you've only got one POV?

    Or do you go for something else, a drifting blend of limited omniscient and close third, in which case how do you deal with voice in the omniscient bits?

    Or something else entirely?

    I'm deliberately being vague here because what interests me is how you all react to the choices. I guess I'm hoping the thread will fill up with at least one strong case for each of the options, along with cases for options I'm ignorant of.

    Cheers all!
  2. MaryA

    MaryA Well-Known Member

    I'd go for close third myself. A steady consistent POV works well to build character and connection with the reader.
  3. Rich.

    Rich. Guardian Staff Member

    @MaryA, out of interest, why close third and not first?
  4. Kitty

    Kitty Distinguished Member

    I think you should go with whatever feels the most comfortable to write for that particular character’s voice and the story you are telling. If you’re unsure try out a few rewriting the opening or a particular scene. If you start in one POV and find yourself slipping into another then that is probably the one you want to go with.

    Personally I like first but some stories are better suited to third or even to second. The only way to find out which works best for you and your story is to experiment.

    And have fun :)
    • Like Like x 2
    • Agree Agree x 1
  5. MaryA

    MaryA Well-Known Member

    Rich, if I use 1st person POV, I have to stay with it throughout (well, I could switch POV but not always recommended). And that sets me up as the omniscient narrator talking directly to you the reader. If I want an unreliable narrator, that doesn't work. It is also quite monotonous using I, I, I, and not being able to manage a varying distance from the character as I can do in close 3rd. That dialogic of I/me talking to you or them isn't easy to sustain.
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  6. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

    No, but varying the tenses helps. Use of flashback etc.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  7. Rich.

    Rich. Guardian Staff Member

  8. Barbara

    Barbara Member

    Could you make first POV sound non self-indulgent and more removed? Not sure.

    Hmmm. Have to think about that one.

    Here's a silly long shot, but could Bob Hoskins tell the story? I'm just wondering if you could give first POV a very unique sound ....
  9. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

    @Rich Help break risk of monotony of first person POV.

    I wrote a novel in 3rd person past tense, a publisher complained it lacked immediacy
    Then I rewrote it in 1st person present tense, it didn't feel quite 'rounded' enough to me
    Then I rewrote it in 1st person past tense

    Versions 1 and 3 both gave me the sense of space I needed. But my MC has his own take on things, he's acutely psychic, and by making him the narrator, I can try to intensify the immediacy while leaving it to you how far to believe him when he sees ghosts etc. Might work, might not.

    1st vs. 3rd Person: Which Is Best? | Novel Writing Help
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2017
    • Informative Informative x 1
  10. Carol Rose

    Carol Rose Guardian Founding Member

    I agree with what @Kitty said.

    And, I agree with @Katie-Ellen Hazeldine in that first person doesn't have to be limiting or monotonous. It's all in the skill of the writer. First person can sound just as varied as any other POV if the writer writes it that way. Read some books written in 1st person to get a feel for how authors vary the sentence structure, pacing, etc. to make that POV work well. It takes patience and skill to write this way, IMHO, because it's way too easy to slip into monotonous "I" statements if you're not careful.

    Then again, it's just as easy to slip into monotonous "She did" "He said" statements, or using the character's name at the beginning of every sentence while writing in third person POV. Varying pacing and how you begin sentences and paragraphs is what keeps any POV from becoming drone-like.

    Hope this helps. :)
    • Like Like x 1
  11. Robinne Weiss

    Robinne Weiss Venerated Member

    I think it depends on what you want to achieve. I think about all the YA novels that are written in first person--it puts the teen reader inside another teen's head, and gives them that intense, emotion-driven experience of being in their own teenaged head. For me, as a 47 year old, I find it tedious most of the time, but I imagine for teens, it's exactly right.

    My first two Dragon Slayer novels are in first person, and I found the exercise interesting (though I think book 3 will be in third person). I found it challenging to walk the line between giving too much and too little in the way of the character's thoughts--I think it's easy to tell, not show when we're in someone's head. I also had logistical issues with first person--how to reveal what's happened somewhere that the protagonist hasn't been. There's no pulling away and showing the big picture in first person.

    My default is third person, not too close. Some day I want to try a story with two different POVs...but I haven't found the right plot idea for that yet.
    • Like Like x 1
  12. MaryA

    MaryA Well-Known Member

    Great point about using tense shifts, @Katie-Ellen Hazeldine.

    I am always drawn to 1st person POV because of the immediacy and intimacy. Whether it works for the entire fiction is another question, and that has to do with the kind of fiction and the 'cast list' among other considerations. Skill is important in sustaining any POV: the preference for 3rd person POV was just a personal choice because that's what I understood @Rich. to be asking about.. I'd still argue that 2nd person POV is particularly difficult with that slippery 'you' but it has been done successfully.
    • Like Like x 1
  13. Rich.

    Rich. Guardian Staff Member

    Yeah, I'm sure you can, and many people above seem to feel the same way. My original comment was pretty flippant, and was probably more a comment on my own fear of writing 1st person skilfully enough to sustain it for an entire novel.

    This is, in fact, a genius suggestion. ;) Ain't nuffin' better than old Bob. I once wrote a short with his voice braying in my ears – here's a bit of it [not to be taken too seriously]:


    ‘You pricks would bet on anything,’ Stacy said, grinning widest of all.

    She was right, I would, though I hadn’t come here tonight to bet with Darren, and Stacy knew it. She’d made a bet of her own with me earlier, a bet I’d taken because I was spit-slingingly angry. I wasn’t angry now. I could have been. But there was always time for a bet.

    I held my arm steady, kept grinning at Darren, took comfort in the reduction of my problem to this binary waste of everyone’s time.

    The cigarette was a quarter gone, ashes standing proud.

    I hadn’t come here to bet with Darren. I’d come to have it out with him because he’d fucked Harriet. I’d only dumped her a week before. Our relationship had burned down, filter and all; we’d sucked and dragged at it until there was nothing left but ashes. Darren had stepped in, done his Don Juan as if my two years with Harriet had never happened. Harriet could do what she wanted. It made me feel sick, but she could. From Darren it felt like betrayal.

    Boxer, the landlord, grumbled past. I could never tell if he was following his beard or being towed by it.


    Useful link, Katie-Ellen, thanks for that. It leads me on to another question, if anyone still has the energy for this topic. I understand that close/limited third (or whatever name it goes by – the one where you stay behind the character's eyes the whole time) is little different from first except for the pronouns. Obviously close third will give you a little more distance form the character than straight first. But why would you want this? Why wouldn't you just write it in first? What can you gain – emotionally – from making this choice? I'm assuming one POV character for this question. I can see the argument for using it when you've got multiple POVs. But what's its use when there's only one?

    [EDIT: The answer's immediacy, isn't it? I've engaged my brain. Good things are happening.]
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2017 at 8:07 PM
  14. Barbara

    Barbara Member

    Rich, that's such a brilliant line: Boxer, the landlord, grumbled past. I could never tell if he was following his beard or being towed by it. Love it love it love it.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2017 at 9:33 PM
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  15. Patricia D

    Patricia D Venerated Member

    I don't much like first person either - get sick of I, I, I. But while writing my last book, I kept shifting into it, so I gave up and wrote in first person. Now it's done -ish and I'm considering editing it into close third.

    That said, you don't have to write a book in only one POV -
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  16. Robinne Weiss

    Robinne Weiss Venerated Member

    I read a terrific book once (sadly, can't remember the name or author or anything...I'm bad at remembering those things). The POV switched between three characters--one always written in close third, one always written in first, and one written in second (which they made work beautifully--the character was a bit of a pompous ass, and the "you" somehow accentuated it in the perfect way).
  17. Rich.

    Rich. Guardian Staff Member

    @Robinne Weiss, was it the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff Vandemeer? Brlliant books that switch POV just as you've described.
  18. Robinne Weiss

    Robinne Weiss Venerated Member

    Might have been, though I don't remember it being a trilogy, and that name doesn't ring a bell. I truly am terrible about remembering the titles and authors of books I've read.
  19. Rich.

    Rich. Guardian Staff Member

    Yeah, me too in fact. And to be honest, I'm terrible at remembering much specific detail from most of the books I read, though I do remember how they made me feel.

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