Grace's Mosaic Moments

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Third Person vs First - 2

My daughter found this paper from last fall in Cassidy's second grade school folder. Priceless!

Note to non-U.S. readers: that's a seven after the equal sign. We don't use a line through a seven, nor do we write a "one" with an initial serif. So the problem is correctly solved, and the explanation literally correct as well, even though Cassidy had no idea what the book really meant by "explain in your own words how you solved this problem." (She's an independent little minx, and I can almost hear her saying, "Duh!" when she read the instructions.)


Over the years a number of variations have developed on the use of first person. Some because the author felt the need to express another person's Point of View even though he/she was writing in First Person. And also, I suspect, because authors who preferred to write in first person were trying to "get around" the prejudice against showing only one point of view. Below are a couple of ways authors have varied the First-person approach.

James Lee Burke, in his long-running Dave Robicheaux Cajun mystery series has such a neat way of slipping into Third Person that some people don't even notice he's done it. He does some variation on the theme of "And this is what he/she told me . . .," and he plunges into that person recounting their version of an event. In Third Person. Doing it seamlessly without so much as a ripple of disturbance in the narrative. 

So, yes, it's possible to have one main character tell their story in First Person and still allow a second character to speak in Third Person. If I were an unpublished author, however, I would be cautious about trying this approach. It's more an innovation an experienced and successful author might try, rather than an appropriate approach for a newbie. As I recall, Burke wrote a number of straight First-Person stories before he began to sneak in other Points of View.

Double First Person. It is also possible to write a First Person story with two equal - or nearly equal - Points of View. For example, the Heroine tells her side of the story, then the Hero tells his. The trick here is that each scene must have an ID tag, an identification line, so readers will know which "I" is which. Otherwise, you have nothing but confusion. I judged a contest entry written in that style once and had absolutely NO idea which character was narrating at any given time.

If using Double First Person, it is also important to make sure you keep the story moving and are not bogging the story down by having the Heroine describe a scene and then the Hero give his viewpoint of the same scene. Yes, there are times when this might be cute or clever, but if used more than once or twice, it becomes infinitely boring—besides giving the reader the impression that the author is lazy, providing only ten chapters of plot when twenty were expected.

Actually, one of the first and only Category romances I ever read (or didn't read) did the same thing in Third Person. First the Heroine's view of a scene, then the Hero's view of the same scene. I was so bored I never made it past Chapter 4.

I imagine there are as many variations on First Person as there are authors, but hopefully my blogs the past two weeks will shed a bit of light on the possibilities of writing in First Person. Even if you choose not to try it, I hope it will help you look on First Person stories more kindly. I truly believe they offer an intimacy, a flexibility of thought that Third Person can never quite match.

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 Thanks for stopping by.


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