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First or Third Person

Discussion in 'Tea Room (Book Chat)' started by penumbra, June 8, 2018.

  1. penumbra

    penumbra Member

    Do you prefer reading books written in first or third person? Personally, I think it's easier to write in the third person and that makes for less room for error. I enjoy reading first person more because it's more intimate. However, I think that it's not always done well and isn't always appropriate. For instance, in historical fiction novels where a lot of attention is paid to how the character looks and is dressed, I think that it's too easy for the character to come across as narcissistic. Of course, there are some lovely historical fiction novels written in first person that are wonderful; I'm just speaking generally. What are your thoughts?
  2. Honeybee42

    Honeybee42 Member

    I far prefer reading third person. For me (and perhaps I'm just odd this way), I find that first person actually keeps me from entering the story fully, as I keep getting jarred out of it whenever another character addresses the narrator directly. Third person just seems to flow easier in my mind.
  3. Kindler

    Kindler Active Member

    For me it depends a lot on what type of story you are trying to tell. In general I prefer third person, because you can get a lot more out of it without it sounding like a lot of exposition and you don't find yourself having to deal with someone you cannot relate to which is always a problem when you are in first person

    However, in any story which involves a lot of discovery or mystery and thriller, then I love first person novels and finding out what is going on with them.
  4. Zelda

    Zelda Member

    @Honeybee42, I find that first person can be jarring sometimes too. I find it very distracting when the narrator addresses the reader, unless it's in a journal/diary type format. It can be really annoying when it's done in past tense and the author frequently foreshadows things. Then there's also the problem that @Kindler mentioned, first person can easily lend itself to an unnecessary amount of exposition. Like you said, @penumbra, it can be done well in all genres and it really comes down to how the author writes.
  5. PageTurner

    PageTurner Member

    Oh my gosh, yes, I completely agree. That's actually what's going on in the book I'm reading right now, Le Temps Viendra. I think this is primarily an issue when it comes to historical fiction about real-life people and you know how their story ends. The foreshadowing just feels redundant and takes you out of the story.
  6. penumbra

    penumbra Member

    While I don't usually have that problem, @Honeybee42, I've read some books where first person kept me from fully immersing myself in the story. Third person does flow really nicely. Like I said, I think it's easier to mess up with first person over third person.

    One of the reasons I think it's easier in third person is because of something @Kindler said: You don't always relate to the viewpoint character and that can really make it tiresome. I also agree with you all that thrillers and mysteries are better in first person.

    I don't particularly enjoy it when the fourth wall is broken either. It's fitting in some situations but usually, there's just no reason for it.
  7. Kindler

    Kindler Active Member

    Fourth wall breaking is an art form in its own right. My favourite was the old Lovejoy TV series, where a little bit of camera aside from Ian McShane just set up the entire episode so well.

    I'll be honest I don't think I have seen it work well in print. Comics for certain character most definitely, but in a novel, I hate in when it becomes the exposition dump for the reader instead of just giving hints as to what is going on.

    I also find the same thing when a character starts talking to their pet, unless said pet distracts them half way through and ruins the moment. ::lol::
  8. Jackie

    Jackie Member

    The breaking of the fourth wall is great in other kinds of works like movies, comics, etc. I think it's usually only done in novels for those information dumps. Information dumps are always trying to get through, whether they're breaking of the fourth wall or not.

    That's what any normal pet would do! That's especially annoying when it's the only reason the pet seems to be around at all. The pet is always there when they need to unload but never around otherwise.

    I think the worst I've seen recently has been in dialogue, but not to a pet. Just characters talking in paragraphs about things that both of them should already know about; it should only be new information to me, not them. So them talking about it ad nauseam just doesn't make any sense. Besides, who talks in paragraphs in casual conversation?

    They can be problematic in first or third person but I find them a lot worse in first person. That's why I usually prefer third.
  9. jessica

    jessica Active Member

    I'll take first or third done well fine, but second person drives me up the wall:mad:. It's like "You walk into a bar..." No I didn't, I'm sitting in my front room:rolleyes:!

    So you think Lovejoy was the best fourth wall breaker? Really? You might think that, I couldn't possibly comment.
  10. Gemini

    Gemini Member

    I completely agree with you! First or third person both have their place but I have yet to read a second person point of view that I enjoyed, outside of choose your own adventure books.
  11. Jackie

    Jackie Member

    You know, I've never read a choose your own adventure book. I really need to get around to doing that. Are they all second person? I can see how that would make the most sense. I've only read a couple of short stories in second person but that's been more than enough for me. I don't care for that point of view either.
  12. Reader

    Reader Vile Critic

    I have seen one that was in third person. It was a detective story, where you could follow only parts of the plot as the detectives investigated. Read about X investigating Y or D visiting F etc. It did not work because it took the reader out of the book. While in real life you may expect not to have the whole picture, in a book it is frustrating. It finished without me ever feeling as if I had got into the story, as the events of the narrative carried on without my choices influencing anything at all. I think for CYOA, second person works better because the reader has agency in the story, therefore it is actually 'you' making the decisions. It creates greater investment.

    This may be why second person fails in non-interactive stories. As with the third person in CYOA, the second person in flat narratives removes the reader's agency and highlights that lack.
  13. Tregaron

    Tregaron Member

    It is odd you should say that because second person is also more common in, shall we say, more explicit romance. It is usually from the woman's point of view. I suppose it is meant to create the feeling of being swept off their feet. I don't particularly like it as I find that, like you, I tend to think, "No, I call the waiter and demand a taxi."
  14. Zelda

    Zelda Member

    @Reader, I've never read one in third person, or even seen one, but I can imagine how that would take you out of the story. That seems like an ineffective setup. Perhaps it would be better if it was more "adventure", with alternate endings and whatnot.

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