Tuesday, March 24, 2015

First Person, Third Person, POV...and What in the Heck is Third Person Perfect?

Who will tell this story? What will be the point of view? (POV)

That is one of the first decisions a writer will make for his novel. Not only who, but how?

Last night on the WriteOn Joliet Facebook page, one of the members asked this question: "What are your thoughts on first person vs. third person writing?" 

So here's some thoughts on both, along with one many writers often don't consider: third person perfect.

First person: The story is told from the point of view of one character. Advantage: The writer and readers can get inside the mind and heart of that character and identify strongly with said character. Disadvantage: The writer cannot stray from this position. If the first person character does not experience something, it cannot be added to the point of view. For writers that desire a lean focus for the story, first person is the best choice.

Example: Just as I rounded the front of the old house, there was a crunching of tires and a bright beam of light. Had the girls called the police? As my eyes adjusted to the scene, I saw the vehicle was not a squad car. Snowbell

Third person: The story is told from multiple points of view and has an objective narrator that ties those views together. Human interest stories are told this way. Advantage: The reader gets an overview of all the experiences and can enjoy those experiences from multiple perspectives, while getting glimpses of how they form a cohesive entire story. Disadvantage: Although your reader may be emotionally invested in the story and become attached to certain characters, the identification may be weaker than in first person, the difference between living inside one own's head and that of a good friend. For writers that wish their readers to see many impressions through the guidance of a narrator, third person is a good choice.

Example: The clerk behind the drugstore counter questioned the authenticity of a $100 bill – and it was a counterfeit – but Bill Patrianakos had a ready answer.

His boss had paid cash, he told the clerk about the bill he had forged.

But as Patrianakos hurried through the parking lot to his car, he heard a voice calling after him, “I got you boy! I got you boy!” Terrified, Patrianakos sped home, chopped his printer into tiny bits and waited for the police to arrive. They didn’t, and Patrianakos continued using heroin.

“I thought I was the exception, not the rule,” Patrianakos said. “I was not the poor minority in the inner city. I was just a normal kid in the suburbs." Joliet local shares heroin recovery story, The Herald-News, Jan. 21, 2014

Third person perfect: One that is not used as often and, as an editor once told me, the hardest of all to pull off. So given my natural tendency to make everything complicated, I, of course, used third person perfect for the BryonySeries, as I wanted my readers to identify with Melissa, while not necessarily agreeing with everything she thought, felt and did. Third person perfect has elements of both first person and third person. Advantage: As in first person, the story is told through the eyes of one character, but from a slight distance. This gives the reader the opportunity move with the character's perceptions, while noticing things the character does not or having the ability to interpret circumstances in a different way than the character does, since the reader is not dependent upon only the character's viewpoint. Disadvantage: Can be tricky to pull off. When giving the reader a wider impression of the story, the writer must be careful not to reveal anything the character is not noticing or experiencing, while still showing the larger horizon the character might be missing.

ExampleShe never imagined a vampire attack could be so wonderful. Better yet, John Simons, the vampire, was beginning to look like the John Simons of her dreams, even when she wasn’t dreaming. Could that mean her blood was helping him?
Maybe Ed Calkins is right, Melissa thought. Maybe, John seems handsome, now, because I kissed him. Maybe, it’s because I made a deal with him that someone else, seeing only his vampire side, would not have made.
The carriage lurched, and Melissa’s eyes flew open, but John’s countenance remained frigid and impassive, causing her to shiver. She took one wistful look at John, hoping he might warm her under the folds of his cloak, since she dared not ask him. She much preferred a substantial bleeding than his continued contempt.
When John did not move, Melissa resignedly closed her eyes and contemplated Henry’s confrontation. He was mistaken about John and her, despite John’s present detachment. Like Colpa, she thought, I do see the potential in John, and once he is human again, he’ll come around. It will just take some time, that’s all. Bryony, Chapter 20: Confusion in the Closet

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