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Three chapters into the first draft of Abraham Lincoln Stole My Homework, I find myself wondering if I ought to be writing this one in first person, as opposed to third.

Provided it's done well, a good first person narrative can make for a much more intimate read, as if you're sitting down with the author, listening to him/her spin a good yarn. In this case, it would also fit better with the title, though I already have a way around that for a third person narrative.

On the negative side, first person makes it hard to show another character's pov. Slightly more offputting is the narrative voice required. Personally, I think first person works best when it's written in the same 'voice' as that of the main character, in this case, a 12-yr-old boy. Aside from the obvious vocabulary limitations I'd have to place on myself (and Lord knows my vocabulary's limited enough already), there's some science stuff involved, which might prove hard to explain without slipping into the old 'As you know, Bob' trap.

I'll have to give it some thought.

How about you?

Do you prefer your stories in first person narrative or third?

First is my first choice.
I like third person best.
I'm not proud, I'll take either.
Something else, which I'll mention in the comments

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( 56 comments — Leave a comment )
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May. 14th, 2012 03:22 pm (UTC)
I'm fine with either. The real reason I prefer 3rd is that 1st is really, really hard to do well. For every book I see where 1st is done flawlessly, there's another 5 where it's just...off. (Plus, it's hard to be that intimately connected to another character unless I *really* like them, which is a minority of characters.)
May. 14th, 2012 03:38 pm (UTC)
'1st is really, really hard to do well'

Amen to that :)
(no subject) - msstacy13 - May. 14th, 2012 03:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 14th, 2012 03:25 pm (UTC)
Very rarely do I like first person. Done right, it can be great. But it seems to be the voice of choice by default with a lot of writers lately & I hate it.
May. 14th, 2012 03:42 pm (UTC)
I think it's one of those things you have to have a really good reason for, and when you do use it, you can't just substitute 'I' for 'He' :)
(no subject) - ladysaotome - May. 14th, 2012 03:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mutive - May. 14th, 2012 04:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 14th, 2012 03:27 pm (UTC)
I voted for either. I'm not fussy and never really understood why some people are adverse to first-person, whether as a writer or reader.
May. 14th, 2012 03:43 pm (UTC)
I'm not averse to it, but I do think it's a lot harder to pull off.
May. 14th, 2012 03:46 pm (UTC)
I'm not super picky about what POV I read a story in but I find it far, far easier to write in 1st person, so that's how most of my first drafts are done these days. I occasionally re-write them in another POV LoL

ETA: By re-write I don't use mean swap all the 'I saids' for 'he saids'. I mean actually re-write. I struggle with getting first drafts done so whatever makes it easier is what I do. First draft is where I learn what the story is, revision is the time I make it work.

I wanted to clarify after I read the other comments on this post ;)

Edited at 2012-05-14 03:49 pm (UTC)
May. 14th, 2012 04:08 pm (UTC)
Lol :)
May. 14th, 2012 03:48 pm (UTC)
As you know, Bob--ummm, Jon--
I usually write in first person,
because it allows asides as revealing character,
rather than an author simply droning.
Also, it's what my characters usually insist on.
I'll use third person if the story requires the main character
to be ignorant of something important.

With the War Correspondant novel,
much of it is in third person, because she's a reporter...

When using first person,
the biggest caveat is that readers will assume
the narrator is speaking for the author,
when it's actually the other way around.
So readers will believe that any attitude or prejudice
of the narrator is the author's as well;
therefore, an author must be careful to somehow draw a distinction.
May. 14th, 2012 04:09 pm (UTC)
'So readers will believe that any attitude or prejudice of the narrator is the author's as well'

Good point, Stacy :)
May. 14th, 2012 03:49 pm (UTC)
Oh - I read a book recently that was written, not just in first-person, but in present tense. Now that was wierd!
May. 14th, 2012 04:11 pm (UTC)
I'd have a really hard time reading a book in present tense.
(no subject) - starry_diadem - May. 14th, 2012 05:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - May. 14th, 2012 06:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 14th, 2012 04:05 pm (UTC)
I find I like reading YA or MG in first person, but little else. I prefer third/multiple, otherwise. There are always exceptions.

However, when writing, I really HATE doing so in first person. I do find myself doing it in micro-fiction, and the rare occasion I write YA.
May. 14th, 2012 04:14 pm (UTC)
Come to think of it, my very first sale (a micro fiction) was first person :)
May. 14th, 2012 04:58 pm (UTC)
I prefer third person. Always have. I write that way too. IMO, the only difference between third and first are pronouns.
May. 14th, 2012 06:14 pm (UTC)
in some caes, I'm sure, but I think with first person, you have a lot more license to talk 'to' the reader, should you so wish.
May. 14th, 2012 05:17 pm (UTC)
I usually use third and have experimented with first person (and first person, present tense, too). I've also written two or three short ones using second person. I found those quite interesting - it allows for ambiguity at times (comments on that story were split about which of two brothers was the 'you' character) and for a curious amount of intimacy, as it pulls the reader into the story quite strongly.
May. 14th, 2012 06:16 pm (UTC)
I don't know why, and I certainly wouldn't suggest other folks shouldn't do it themselves, but present tense just doesn't feel right to me.
(no subject) - ideealisme - May. 14th, 2012 08:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - karen_w_newton - May. 15th, 2012 07:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 14th, 2012 06:37 pm (UTC)
I enjoy a well-written first person story because it makes me feel closer to the character than third person.

It feels like the character is personally telling me a story, so to speak.
May. 15th, 2012 09:16 am (UTC)
'It feels like the character is personally telling me a story'

I know exactly what you mean :)
May. 14th, 2012 07:22 pm (UTC)
I'm more used to third person, but it really depends on the story.
May. 15th, 2012 09:28 am (UTC)
I'm not sure it's the story that matters so much as the character through whom the story gets told. Mind you, Like you, I'm much more used to third person, which may be why it's my default expectation :)
(Deleted comment)
May. 15th, 2012 09:31 am (UTC)
Dean Koontz does a great job writing in first person with his Odd Thomas books. I don't tend to think about first or third person when I'm reading, but those definitely stood out, in a good way :)
May. 15th, 2012 12:30 am (UTC)
I re-wrote an entire novel from 3rd person to first, because it didn't feel right in third.

I think the fact that you can't skip to other characters is actually a strength of first person. It makes you think really hard about which character is the best vehicle for the story. It also makes the narrative much more involved for the reader. I vastly prefer to stay with one POV character when I read.

A lot of first person narratives have the tendency to go lecture-y and voice-y because as author you can do this. I think when you're writing first person, your aim should be on the story, not on showing how clever and witty the main character is. As long as you don't get bogged in witticisms, the main character's observations can add a lot.

And I really hate this 'as long as it's done well' thing that usually goes with writers questioning first person writing. 'As long as it's done well' goes with every POV choice. It is just as easy to bog down a third person narrative with too much observational crap.
May. 15th, 2012 09:40 am (UTC)
'It is just as easy to bog down a third person narrative...'

Sure, but (I believe) with first person,the narrative style should take on the personality of the main character, which is harder to do. Of course, when it's done well deftly written, the pay-off is huge, because, as you say, it makes the reader more involved.
May. 15th, 2012 03:03 am (UTC)
I like first person, but it's not the right choice for all stories.
May. 15th, 2012 09:43 am (UTC)
I can't remember the title (I think it was The Hippopotamus, but Stephen Fry writes first person really well - though his main character was a bit a potty(mus) mouth :)
May. 15th, 2012 04:31 am (UTC)
When I started writing, I wrote in 1st person because I had read mostly books written in 1st person, but as I got better, I caught on that my stories work better in 3rd person, but limited to just my main character.
I still work on switching pov, but haven't quite got it yet.
May. 15th, 2012 09:48 am (UTC)
I guess limited PoV is the price for a bigger connection with the reader :)
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