Tuesday, March 20, 2007

First or Third?

I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read and all the friends I want to see. ~ John Burroughs

No, the quote has nothing to do about what I'm blogging about today. I just really liked it!

Now, moving on...

I received a request from one of the editors at The Wild Rose Press regarding a submission I'd made. She asked me if I'd be willing to change the POV from first to third to see what it sounded like. She thinks (and I don't disagree) that the story sounds very much like a "true confession" story in first person.

I don't usually write in first person, but have found that when I write more humorous stories they're usually in first. I wonder why that is?

In any case, I'm seldom wedded to the POV, and told her I'd go ahead and do it. I sent her a Christmas story last week (yup, Christmas) that I'd originally written in first person (yes, it's meant to be funnier than my others), but didn't like it that way and changed to third. I think third ended up being much stronger. I hope that's true with the one I'm working on now, as well.

It's been a grueling task. For those beginning writers who think that the difference between first and third is simply "I" or "she", think again.

My heroine talks in her head constantly, with comments that just don't translate well to third person. Then there's the whole "her" problem. Before, I could write something like:

I went to her apartment and brought her the whoopie pies I'd bought at the corner store, the ones she'd asked for."

No question there: "I" is the heroine/narrator, and "she/her" is the friend. But in third person, it's just not that easy.

She went to her apartment....

Nope, now the "her" refers back to the "she" and that's not whose apartment it is. Okay, let's try again.

Patrice went to her...

Still wrong.

Patrice went to Cathy's apartment and brought her the whoopie pies she'd...

Well, crap. That won't work. Now the last "she" refers to "Cathy" and it should mean "Patrice". At this point, I realize that I have to restructure the entire sentence and hunker down, ready to shift it all around.

The worst part is that this happened A LOT.

I've been working on the story for two days and am still only halfway through -- it's a 4300 word story, I didn't think it would take this long.

I'm telling you, it's been quite an eye opening experience.

What about you? Do you prefer first person or third when you write? Do you notice a difference to your voice when you use one over the other? What about when you read? Do you have a preference?


Allie Boniface said...

Wow, interesting request. And I can imagine it would take a while to change... POV really alters the entire feel of the story. Many times the intention and reader involvement too.

I write mostly in 3rd, though when I began, my first novel was in 1st person. 3rd is a little easier to move from character to character, obviously, though I like 1st for the deep POV you can create.

Tori Lennox said...

I used to only write in 3rd person, but now I prefer 1st. It's easier to get into the character's head that way for me. :)

Gay said...

My NIP uses BOTH first POV and third POV because it goes back and forth between past and present. When we're in the past, it's first POV and in the present it's third--one of the clues to the reader. I don't do it as an artificial device, though--it naturally came about because the past sequences are the mother's memories of her experiences as a teenager.

It was challenging for me at first, but now I go back and forth (in this work, anyway) without thinking about it.

Ceri said...

Wow! The same thing happens to me! I usually write in 3rd person, but when I write in 1st the story is always slightly humorous (not knee-slapping funny, but with a definite humorous tone). I don't write that way in the 3rd. Its a strange thing.

Good luck with it!

Now I have to push up my sleeves and get to editing my WCP manuscript. *sigh*

vajvfyn-very addicting joyous vanilla fans yak nonstop.

Sara Freeze said...

Wow- a challenging task to convert the entire POV. I never used to enjoy reading or writing first person works of literature, but now that I'm doing more work with YA, I'm finding a whole new appreciation for that particular POV. It's taken some time to get used to, though; I'm fairly wedded to the 3rd person.