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Old 10-17-2010, 08:20 PM   #1
Steven Lake
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Questions about mixed viewpoint stories

For some reason tonight I popped in the dvd of "How to Train your Dragon" and for the first time really paid attention to some of the way the story was told. I guess that's because I'm actually in the middle of some heavy writing right now so my brain's probably switched onto this stuff.

Anyhow, in the beginning of the movie you see the lead character providing both first and 3rd person perspective. The 1st person viewpoint comes in a narrative form which lives side by side with the primary 3rd person viewpoint which soon takes over for the remainder of the movie, save for the end where the main character again does his opening narrative, but in a slightly revised form.

So I guess my questions are this:

1. Is there an advantage to doing a mixed viewpoint story?
2. When are the best times to do something like that?
3. Is it actually better to do the first person stuff via a narrator instead?
4. Or Should 1st person be avoided as much as possible?

I say that because above said movie, combined with a recent dream I had, spawned an idea for a fun little story I want to do as a bit of an experiment (I like doing writing experiments, as they're fun and they help me get better as a writer) into fantasy writing (not a strong area for me yet), but I'm divided on the format I should do it in. The style seen in HTTYD is one I think would be good, and so would a mixed 1st and 3rd person perspective where the main hero narrates some of the events you see him involved in. Sorta like he's doing a slideshow of past memories, and then narrating parts for you to help you understand what's happening.

Anyhow, that's my thoughts. Your 2c welcome.
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Old 10-17-2010, 08:52 PM   #2
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I don't think any viewpoint should be avoided. The trick is to only use an unusual point of view, or mixed point of view if it is the best way to tell the story. In my opinion, a writer should never use first person, or multiple pov's just because they think it's cool. Only use it if it is the best way to tell your story.

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Old 10-17-2010, 09:51 PM   #3
Steven Lake
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Crap. lol. I was writing a reply to argue about how doing a mixed viewpoint story for this book would really work, and after listing the reasons for it, I realized that doing a 1st person narrative with a 3rd person storyline just wouldn't work. Well, it would, but nowhere near as well as the traditional 3rd person method of storytelling. haha. But heck, I may do it anyways just to see how it unfolds, as it *is* an experimental piece after all, so I'm free to break stuff all over the place just in order to see what works.

But as always, other opinions on this topic are still more than welcome. ^_^
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Old 10-18-2010, 08:13 AM   #4
bthrowsnaill
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I'm actually about to release a 1st person narrative short story. I think the form is useful when the story takes the form of an imaginary conversation between the character and the reader. The character can then comment on their experiences during the story, etc. I think it's an effective technique for horror/suspense writing.
I just completed another read of God Emporer of Dune. Each chapter leads off with a 1st person journal entry and then transitions to 3rd person for the remainder of the chapter. That technique is effective in my opinion.
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Old 10-18-2010, 10:41 AM   #5
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Oh, now there's an idea I hadn't thought of. Might have to try that sometime.
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Old 10-18-2010, 01:31 PM   #6
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I agree with Bob Avery that it depends on the story. Also depends on whether the author can carry it off in a way that doesn't confuse the reader. Do what the story demands, and don't do something just for attention. I've published many short stories, and 90% of them are in first person. They sound better in first person, but I doubt I'd want to write a full novel in first person. Many readers don't like first person.
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Old 10-18-2010, 01:52 PM   #7
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Sometimes the 1st person narrative is a great way to get across a character's unique perspective on a moment, so the reader will fully understand it. The storyteller's voice, style of speaking and use of idioms (that are usually not permitted in 3rdP omniscient) provide a color that no other medium can match.

That's not always good for the story, but when it is, it can transform a dry tale into a page-turner, and make your characters really come alive. It helped me with a character that was not really that likable, to present him from a more sympathetic point of view, and in that case, it helped the story along.
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Old 10-18-2010, 05:42 PM   #8
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The first thing I ever wrote was a First/Third story. In rereading it, I found it completely disjointed. there were too many head hops for me. Maybe if I go back and try it again, I'll have a different perspective. But for now, I think it's better off to stick to just one camera angle.

Maybe consider an extremely tight 3rd person POV that you can zoom out on when you need to switch
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Old 10-19-2010, 03:38 AM   #9
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You have to have a really remarkable character to pull off First Person in a complete novel. I love them though. Probably because I have a degree in psychology and like getting into the character's mind.

I think Lee Child's 'Persuader' is the best of all his novels because the whole thing is done in first person. There is a total 'in the moment feeling.' As opposed to his others, which are still terrific.

Third person novels give you a lot more opportunities to tell the story. It's much easier. All my novels are third person, but I'd like to try first person.

One romance writer I know had me cracking up because she said, "How can you do romantic scenes in the first person?"

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Old 10-19-2010, 08:33 AM   #10
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I think "Penthouse Forum" stories are typically told in first person. That's romance, right?
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Old 10-19-2010, 11:24 PM   #11
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bthrowsnaill, funny comment, thanks

Romance novels have what I'd call soft"romantic scenes"

Penthouse forum would be more "hard romantic scenes." More bragging than story telling? And geered strictly for men. It's been at least 20 years since I've seen that forum. Maybe the writing has improved.
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