Revision: 1st and 3rd Person Point of View

writing-1209121_1920Hey all! I’m doing well in terms of writing. My tracking sheet is saying I’m a little ‘low’ for the week, but I was hit with stress and really not feeling well, so I’m okay with having a ‘slow’ week. That and I don’t know how to track the words for my visual novel project, not accurately at least. Remember to check out my Redbubble shop for cool writing shirts, stickers, and more!

Anyway, today’s post might seem redundant since I recently revisited point of view in narrative. But I’m not talking in the terminology sense, but in how different they are in terms of actual writing. I’ve run into people who seem to think that switching from 3rd to 1st or vice versa is just a matter of changing pronouns – and it really isn’t. There’s a lot more that goes into it.

There’s a reason that point of view is one of the first things I decide when I’m going to start writing. Because if I get past the planning stages and into the writing, changing to a different point of view is, well, annoying.

but how is it annoying?

The way 1st and 3rd person point of views function in a story is completely different. With a 1st person narrative, you are writing as the character. You have to think about what they can see, what they would specifically be reacting to, what they wouldn’t be noticing. And you have to be especially certain to not let your own personal voice enter the narrative.

With a 3rd person narrative, you have a little more wiggle room. You can show more of what’s going on because you aren’t directly in a character’s head. Granted, there are still varying levels of ‘psychic distance’ – think of that being the distance between the character and the camera in a movie. In a wide shot, you can see so much going on, but in an over the shoulder shot, you can only see what’s in front of the character.

So now think of changing between those two point of views on a whim. It’s a whole lot more than switching the pronouns, right?

let’s break it down now…

I’ve always learned best with visual examples. I’ll use some of my writing from over the years. Prepare yourselves, you get to see some of my college writing. The piece is untitled, apparently.

The guy who had said it first was one of those giant football players whose trapeziuses were getting so huge that he no longer had a neck; he was our star linebacker, to be exact.  He was the kind of guy who could break me in half.  Just because I was in sports didn’t mean I was strong, I do the whole running thing, not the whole plowing people over thing.

So here’s a small snippet from a story I wrote in ENG306. This was one of the last time I wrote in the 1st person for story purposes. Anyway…if I just changed the pronouns…

The guy who had said it first was one of those giant football players whose trapeziuses were getting so huge that he no longer had a neck; he was the star linebacker, to be exact.  He was the kind of guy who could break him in half.  Just because David was in sports didn’t mean he was strong, he do the whole running thing, not the whole plowing people over thing.

In this case, it works okay. But it could be better, right? So here’s how I’d actually revise it…

The guy who had said it first was one of those giant football players whose trapeziuses were getting so huge that he no longer had a neck; to be exact, he was the school’s star linebacker.  He was the kind of guy who looked like he could break people in half.  Just because David was in sports didn’t mean he was strong, he’d told people time and time again that he was a runner, he didn’t do the plowing people over thing.

Part of the differences come from the fact that I write very differently than I did in 2008. The rest of it comes from me wanting to make it read more naturally. By merely changing the pronouns, it felt choppy and confusing. I think it reads a bit more smoothly in the second revision.

what about switching from 3rd person to 1st person?

Again, we’re going to use examples. I get to use more recent examples this time around, yay! (excerpts taken from Opus Crescendo).

I know you’ll keep me out of trouble.” Light finally responded as he double checked his gear. His protective gray goggles were hanging around his neck, ready to be used for when they got outside. “I think I’m all set, guys.”

So here’s the example in 3rd person. I’m going with a short one this time. And here’s if we just changed the pronouns.

I know you’ll keep me out of trouble.” I finally responded as I double checked my gear. My protective gray goggles were hanging around my neck, ready to be used for when we got outside. “I think I’m all set, guys.”

Again, it’s not all that bad. But in comparison to the 3rd person version, it feels choppy.

I know you’ll keep me out of trouble.” I finally responded to Allegro while checking over my protective gear. I shifted my grey goggles so they were around my neck – so they were ready to be used once we got outside. “I think I’m all set, guys.”

It reads a bit different, right? Again, I think the properly revised version reads better.

so…

Even those little revisions took a decent amount of time. I had to think through which parts I wanted to alter to make them sound correct for the point of view, I had to consider how Light’s voice would sound in a 1st person narrative versus how he sounds in the 3rd person.

Now imagine doing that for an entire short story, or worse, a novel. And this is why I decide my point of view early on in my writing process. Because the idea of going through an entire novel and changing the point of view makes me want to cry.

And how to avoid this sort of issue? Maybe experiment with little stories in different point of views before you start working on the project proper. Get a feel for how your characters sound in different point of views so you can decide which one you like the best. It’s good to use exercises to learn about yourself as a writer.

Anyone else have thoughts on the writing aspects of 1st and 3rd person?

happy writing!
~LL

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