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Games, Questions, & Challenges > Weekly Question #8: Do You Have a Point-Of-View Preference When Reading?

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message 1: by Amy, Queen of Time (last edited Jul 29, 2014 12:32PM) (new)

Amy | 2210 comments Mod
Quite a while ago, one of our members objected to reading a book because it was written in 1st person, and he swore to have never liked a book written in 1st person. Someone else said that it was the mark of an unskilled writer to use 1st person for their book. Some people hate 2nd-person narration with a vengeance. I personally like getting deeply inside one of the characters' heads, so I've always gravitated toward 1st-person narratives. What's your preference? Is there one point of view you prefer? Is there one you despise? What's your reasoning? For those of you who write, does this opinion transfer over to your writing style?

P.S. For those of you who are rusty on your literary terms, here are some examples:

1st person: I enjoyed feeling the breeze blowing through my hair as I drove my bicycle down the path.

2nd person: You enjoyed feeling the breeze blowing through your hair as you drove your bicycle down the path.

3rd person: She enjoyed feeling the breeze blowing through her hair as she drove her bicycle down the path.


message 2: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Jensen (jennifer_jensen) | 4 comments Hi, Gang!

I can read either 1st or 3rd person, and as long as it's well done, I can get into the head of a character and enjoy myself immensely either way. Second person is disconcerting, and to me seems fit for "choose your own adventure" type stories but not much else.

You'd think that first person would let you get inside the character's head better, but as a writer, that's not necessarily true. If I write in 1st person, I'm limited to the thoughts my character would think. I can write in a very close 3rd person, though, and it's almost as if that character were narrating - his attitude and word choice in describing something, for instance. But I can also explain something in passing that he wouldn't necessarily be thinking at the time, perhaps an old experience that colors his view on what's currently happening. I know that seems counter-intuitive, but I finally began to see it in books I read.

Enjoyment also depends on whether it's past or present tense. First person present takes me right into the situation and makes it more urgent. I enjoy it when it fits (Hunger Games, etc.), but I have one son who can't read anything like that. And 1st person present also affects the narration - she can only narrate what she is thinking *in that crisis moment* instead of a week or a lifetime later.

Good discussion question! I'm new to the group and looking forward to reading other comments.


message 3: by Amy, Queen of Time (new)

Amy | 2210 comments Mod
Jennifer wrote: "Hi, Gang!

I can read either 1st or 3rd person, and as long as it's well done, I can get into the head of a character and enjoy myself immensely either way. Second person is disconcerting, and to ..."


In some ways, I see a 1st person narrative as being closer to reality. I only ever know what's happening inside my own little bubble around me and never what someone else is thinking. So reading a 1st-person narrative, for me, is like slipping into someone else's skin and becoming them. It's the chance to get to live someone else's life. Like you mentioned, a 3rd-person narration can do that as well, but it never seems quite as intimate.

I have to say that I do find the 1st-person present tense YA novels to be annoying at times. I would think it would be tedious to write in the present tense like that. It's not a natural way of talking unless you're on the phone with someone: "Okay, I'm getting in the elevator now, so I might lose you." Now I'm chuckling thinking about how annoying it would be to walk around talking in 1st person present in everyday life: "I'm eating a peach right now. I'm about to cut it with a knife. Here I go. Oh, look how juicy it is inside. I hope it tastes good. Here it goes to my mouth ..." Oh the horror!

Thanks for joining the discussion, Jennifer. :-)


message 4: by Amy, Queen of Time (new)

Amy | 2210 comments Mod
A.K. wrote: "I generally prefer third person POV as a reader. I find that first person provides some logical limitations that I can't always ignore. For example, I know on at least some level that the first per..."

Ah, the can't-die limitation ... well ... unless the author is breaking the rules. Interesting observation.

What do you mean by "unreliable narrator"? I don't think I'm familiar with that term. Example?


message 5: by Amy, Queen of Time (new)

Amy | 2210 comments Mod
A.K. wrote: "An unreliable narrator is a first person story where what you're being told is what may not necessarily be actually happening. He or she may be crazy or a liar or just somebody who sees the world v..."

Ah. Right. Gotcha. And, in that case, the story needs to be told in 1st person for the trick of the story to really work.


message 6: by Lincoln, Temporal Jester (new)

Lincoln | 1290 comments Mod
I think it depends on the scope of a story. For first person perspective I am thinking about Hunger Games...the world is big and there are districts and political intrigue and by the end of the book you are hoping Katniss has done enough to inspire a revolution in the capital...but its her perspective and its merely a 16 year old girl fight for survival, she is not worried about the bigger scope of things and what she represents to the people.

I am enjoying the adaptations of the Hunger Games books into movies because as a reader I imagined what else was going on in the world. The Revolution sparked, the control room...etc.

In contrast, I believe a truly epic story has to be told by many characters to appreciate different opinions, different reactions to the same events.

A.K. I like what you said about unreliable narrators you not only question the plot you question everything...can be fun can be frustrating.

I recommend reading The Hollow City The Hollow City by Dan Wells For some fun and frustrating unreliable narration.


message 7: by Amy, Queen of Time (new)

Amy | 2210 comments Mod
Lincoln wrote: "In contrast, I believe a truly epic story has to be told by many characters to appreciate different opinions, different reactions to the same events. ..."

I've seen books written by multiple narrators before. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I think perhaps it depends on how well the author does it whether or not it works or is confusing.

Schizophrenics I guess would be the ultimate in unreliable narrators. I've heard my share of such stories ... and they're believable because the schizophrenic tends to believe their own lies.


message 8: by Michele (new)

Michele | 144 comments The only one I really can't stand is second person. It just doesn't work for me, because the story says to me, "You do X, Y, Z" but quite clearly I am not doing X, Y, Z. I am sitting here reading the book. So it annoys me.


message 9: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl (cherylllr) | 870 comments I generally don't pay much attention to it, except when it's a child narrating, and they express themselves with insights, concepts, and vocabulary beyond their years. I don't care how street-wise the kid is, or how book-smart, there are limitations kids have in the way they are capable of understanding the world and then talking about it.

It's sort of like unreliable narrator, but in a bad way, not an intriguing way.

To clarify, I don't mind a child narrator, 1st-person child pov... so long as s/he is only as wise and sophisticated as s/he could be given his or her years.


message 10: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Smith (sarahesmith) | 7 comments Like most of the comments on here I have issues with second person. I like to be an observer, not break the fourth wall. When I write though I find it an awful lot easier to write in the first person, although there are times when I find this limits what the reader can find out.


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

At the moment I'm reading The Walled Orchard which is written with 1st-person pov, and it just wouldn't work any other way. It's the inside story of what life was like in ancient Athens, told by someone who lived there (actually a real person, the comic poet Eupolis). It's very entertaining, and proves that there's no reason why 1st person can't work for the right book.

As for 2nd person, I think I share the aversion of most people on this thread. After all, the 2nd person is the reader, and the reader isn't part of the story, so what are they doing there?


message 12: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Smith (sarahesmith) | 7 comments There were a few back when I started teaching. mystery type tales where you joined in solving the clues. Very popular with reluctant readers.


message 13: by Garrett (new)

Garrett Smith (garrettsmith) | 246 comments Second person can be spooky. Who remembers -
"You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead - your next stop, the Twilight Zone!"

I've also never read second person, only seen it in film.

Sarah, do you remember the names of any of the books you wrote about. I have a young reluctant reader in mind.

Cynthia (The Garrett half of Garrett Smith)


message 14: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Smith (sarahesmith) | 7 comments Cynthia, Choose Your Own Mysteries/Adventures. You had a scenario then had to choose what you would do. I had a quick check and there is one on amazon :choose your own mystery, about a robot http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/19333...
hope this helps.


message 15: by Lincoln, Temporal Jester (new)

Lincoln | 1290 comments Mod
Sarah wrote: "Cynthia, Choose Your Own Mysteries/Adventures. You had a scenario then had to choose what you would do. I had a quick check and there is one on amazon :choose your own mystery, about a robot ht..."

Wow I typed in "Choose Your Own Adventure" into the Amazon search and was happy to see how many of the books there are. I was a non-reader in grade school but I remember reading choose your own adventure books.


message 16: by Garrett (new)

Garrett Smith (garrettsmith) | 246 comments I also checked on Amazon.com and the site is rich with these books. I think they make wonderful gifts for children who haven't yet learned how much fun reading can be.

Sarah, thanks for mentioning these great books.

Lincoln, how and when did you discover you loved to read?


message 17: by Lincoln, Temporal Jester (new)

Lincoln | 1290 comments Mod
I suppose after high school I was forced to read for college, felt more comfortable with my reading speed in general, and wanted to read fiction as opposed to text books. I was also caught up in the Harry Potter craze.


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