Monday, April 26, 2010

Guest Blog – Point of View – First Person Versus Third Person by M.T. Murphy

Any author you ask will have his or her own thoughts about writing in a certain point of view. Third-person may be the most popular viewpoint because it allows a writer to switch easily between characters. First person is sometimes considered a beginner’s point of view because many new authors write in this perspective.

Back in the innocent days when I was a reader and not a writer, I never considered the voice of a novel. Some stories were told by a disembodied third-person. Others were told as the first-hand account of a player in the story itself. I didn’t care about the voice back then. I was only interested in an engaging read that would pass the time quickly.

One of my favorite books is The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice. The novel is narrated solely by the title character and it works brilliantly. Lestat is his own biggest fan. The bravado with which he relates his exploits keeps the story from becoming somber or dragging in the least. This type of structure works here because, as the title suggests, it is all about the vampire narrator. Any side stories are told from Lestat’s point of view with his own personal slant. Rice establishes the connection on the first page, having him boldly address the reader directly. Once the connection is made, Lestat pulls the reader along for the ride.

This is the most important achievement of any narrative voice.

Another of my favorites is the Icewind Dale Trilogy by R.A. Salvatore. When an ancient artifact changes a fledgling magic user into a powerful and evil wizard, a dark elf, dwarf, barbarian, and hafling thief venture out to set things right and save their land. This is a story of high fantasy with larger than life characters. They all have a specific role to play and their paths take them in different directions. Salvatore chose to narrate in deep third person omniscient point of view. He gives readers a peek into the thoughts of each character, but maintains a sense of detachment. This works well because it allows him to keep story moving and maintain the broad scope of multiple events occurring simultaneously. It also lends to the high fantasy tone by giving the whole novel the feeling of being told by a traveling bard one evening at an inn by the fireplace.

The wide cast of characters also gives readers many heroes to root for. As long as they can form a connection with at least one, the action will pull them in as they read on to see what happens to their favorite from the group.

Now that I write, I have penned many stories in both first and third person. For me, first person fits my style the best. The characters in a story are all parts of the author. First person point of view gives the reader a full dose of the narrator: their thoughts, hopes, fears, prejudices, and experiences. It forces the reader to connect with them in a very intimate way.

In my writing, I like to use first person narrative with an unsavory character. The trick is to hold on to the connection once you have established it. I want the reader to follow along with one eye closed, waiting for the next scene in a mixture of dread and excitement.

If the first-person narrator describes the sensation of a gun barrel on the back of his or her head, the reader is right there in the scene with them. If they describe the touch of their lover’s flesh, the reader hears it firsthand. If they wax philosophical or grumble about their lot in life, they tell the reader like they are sitting across the table from them.

The next time you read or write a story, think about the point of view. What if the story were told in a completely different way? Would it be the same? More importantly, would you still want to read it?

M.T. Murphy is the author of Lucifera’s Pet, a violent and sexy dark fiction tale of werewolves and vampires. Connect with him below:

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1 comment:

  1. Love this topic and it is so widespread between writers. I personally, switch back and forth. With my stories about Devrynne, it's 1st person, even though it wasn't always that way. But through the years I relate better to her in 1st person. Thanks for the insight!