Monday, May 13, 2013

Point of View Choices

The other day I had a fantastic conversation with my students about point of view. Specifically we were comparing first person and third person pov.

I'm currently reading aloud The Hobbit and one of the students commented on the story-telling voice. Another compared it to the voice in The Giver (which was our previous read aloud). One student is reading The Hunger Games and commented that it's all told directly from Katniss' pov.

Soon everyone was checking the novels they're reading and one commented that she was reading an older book (Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume) & she wondered if when the book was written had an impact on pov. Cue the checking of copyright dates and a discussion about why and how styles have changed.

After we'd delved into it for a bit, I asked them which pov they prefer to read. Very few students had a distinct favourite - the almost universal answer was "It depends on the story."

I LOVE MY JOB!!!

We proceeded to list the advantages of both povs. Here's a synopsis of their thoughts. Remember I'm dealing with 10 - 12 year olds.

Advantages for 1st:
  • you get to really feel what the character is feeling
  • you get to see everything that affects the main character
  • you get to feel like the story is happening to you at the moment you're reading it
  • the pace usually seems faster & it's harder to put down
Advantages for 3rd:
  • you get to see & know more than the main character sees and knows
  • you can get to know more characters really well (they like stories told from 2 alternating povs)
  • it's cool to see the same events from different perspectives 
  • you can get that cool story teller voice that works for some stories
  • it's easier to have different styles of stories and voice
Once again, I think they hit the highlights!

So, how about you? Do you prefer 1st or 3rd, or do you think it depends on the story as well?

59 comments:

  1. That's cool the students got so involved!
    I prefer third person, both writing and reading. I like multiple points of view as I am reading and as a writer, I don't want to be in my main character's head THAT much.

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  2. I prefer 3rd, especially in romances. I understand why mysteries would be in 1st, but I just never could figure out why almost all YA is in 1st (or why it needs to be).

    If I'm unsure of whether or not I want to read a particular book, I'll check the POV. If it's 1st, I'll usually pass. That's how much I prefer 3rd.

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  3. I love your job too! I like reading both 1st and 3rd but I prefer to write in 3rd person limited. Thanks for sharing this. It was awesome!

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  4. Alex - my preferences are very similar to yours. I've learned to enjoy reading 1st, but it sounds so stilted when I write it! :)

    Stacy - I'm learning to like 1st, but only if it's done well. Suzanne Collins helped sway me :)

    Natalie - isn't it great? :) I like 3rd for writing too! So much more natural :)

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  5. I used to prefer third but I've gotten to like first and I've even written it a few times! There are indeed advantages and disadvantages to each POV. Choosing which to use definitely depends on the story.

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  6. Ms H - I agree! I've always preferred 3rd, but I'm becoming much more comfortable with 1st. Maybe one day I'll be able to write it without sounding cheesy :)

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  7. What an AWESOME post!! I love hearing what kids have to say! And all of those are great points. I whole-heartedly agree. It depends on the story. :D

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  8. Lisa - I love my students! They make me smile each and every day!! :)

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  9. It's great to have days like that, isn't it? I will agree with the 'it depends on the story' crowd. There are some things that just feel right in a particular point of view.

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  10. "It depends on the story." Bingo! That's so heartening to hear, because that's exactly what I think too!

    I suspect kids could teach us a lot ... if only we were to listen :)

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  11. I like reading both. I prefer writing in first, but I'm doing third now and loving it.

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  12. I like to write in close third person, and I enjoy reading third person as well. The new "in vogue" YA voice of first person, present tense really bugs me. I don't care for it at all.

    Right now, I'm just finishing TUNNELS by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams. Although I like the story, the POV really bugs me. They are writing third person and while you might call it "omniscient" third person,what it really does is hop heads. You get perspectives from multiple characters within a scene -- even within the same paragraph! So a paragraph might start in the head of the protagonist Will and be in his friend Chester's head by the end. Too much switching is very confusing!

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  13. Jeff - thankfully, most of my days are just like that! Love my job!! :)

    Wendy - totally agree! There are so many things kids could teach us!

    Medeia - that's awesome! I haven't got comfortable with 1st for writing yet!

    Dianne - yes! Very few people can pull off head hopping without it being jaring! I think JD Robb does it well but she rarely does more than 2 per scene.

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  14. I've always shied away from 1st person POV, but then tried writing a few pieces of flash fiction in 1st person, which I enjoyed. It wasn't so bad after all. Though I do prefer 3rd person POV.
    Sounds like you had fun with the kids.
    From the mouths of 10-12yr olds... they are amazing...

    Writer In Transit

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  15. oh, this is SO interesting! I love your job too! thanks for sharing this with us - complete gold!

    Once again, your class seems so astute and observant! Very very cool.

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  16. I think I prefer to read 3rd person for MG and 1st for YA. The only POV I have trouble reading is 1st person when the novel is also written in the present tense.

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  17. Michelle - they are amazing kids! I still sound so cheesy when I write in 1st - it's awful! :)

    Terry - they really are! It's always interesting to hear what the target audience really thinks!!

    Elaine - true - 1st person seems to lend itself to present tense although I think Tiger Eyes was in past & it didn't bother me at the time! :)

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  18. Jemi,
    You have a smart group of kids. I rarely write in first, but I guess that's because I've sort of trained myself to write books from several perspectives, which I find interesting.

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  19. Joy - I do! I like those multiple povs too - but I've learned to enjoy reading 1st. Writing 1st? Not yet! :)

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  20. I prefer 3rd, but only b/c most authors write 1st so mechanically.

    Its great that the students could discuss POV so in depth. You're a good teacher to get the class so engaged.

    .....dhole

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  21. Donna - when first is done well, it can be great, but it's not always done well! Thanks so much - we do have a lot of great discussions in class & a lot of fun!

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  22. I prefer third but first can be great when it is done right. I've also read a lot of novels with multiple points of view and I like that too. Your classroom sounds like a place I'd like to be:)

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  23. First is more immediate, which it's why it's so much more popular with 21st-century YA. First has its limitations, though. I was recently telling someone that alternating first-person POVs could help resolve that, but that it then became difficult to maintain distinct voices.

    Dilemmas, dilemmas.

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  24. Yvonne - thank you! We have a great time in my class - it's so great when the kids really dig down into topics!

    Ethan - it would be tough to alternate 1st person voices! I have a hard enough time having one first voice sound okay!! :P

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  25. There will be no writing first for me. I'm a third gal. But I have an idea for a story that I want to write in first. *gulp* I have done multiple. That is loads of fun to write.

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  26. Robyn - multiple is a blast! I'm with you on the 1st - leaning toward trying it out ... one day! :)

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  27. I loved hearing about this conversation and discussion. It sounds like you are really getting your students interested in their lessons. I liked the comment about POV and when the book was written. I read Tiger Eyes over 15 times growing up. Something about that story drew me in over and over again. :)
    ~Jess

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  28. Jess - thanks! 'My' kids are in grades 5/6 so it's usually easy to get them excited about learning! :) Tiger Eyes is a strong story!

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  29. Hi Jemi,

    Some stories are suited to first and some to third. Years ago, romance novels were just female POV. I'm not too comfortable now that POV hopping has come in.

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  30. POV is a great and wide topic. One type's not necessarily better than the other. But there is no doubt that it affects a story.

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  31. Maria - I actually love the double pov - but I generally prefer the hero & heroine to have separate scenes/chapters

    Eds - I agree - pov is so influential & it affects the reader so much! :)

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  32. Hi, Jemi,

    HOW WONDERFUL to have students who are TRULY interested in reading. AWESOME! I guess there may be a glimmer of hope for our world after all. So much of today's youth is more into video games, bullying, and violence of every kind.

    I live in Chicago and SEE A LOT.

    As a writer, I do love ALL points of view. But for more intense drama I prefer first person. For world building and fantasy, I prefer third.

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  33. Michael - so true - the genre influences the pov quite strongly. I think there is a TON of hope for our world! My kids love to read (I don't let them have a choice in that matter!:)) Kids are awesome!

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  34. It all depends on the stories and the writer who is telling it, Jemi. Some writers canm pull off 1st or 3rd person POV quite well.

    Nas

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  35. Nas - so true! The author does matter as well! I envy those who can do both well! :)

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  36. It does depend on the story, but generally I prefer 3rd person in reading and writing. In a way though I find it easier to write from first person, but in another sense it's more awkward because it seems so personal.

    Lee
    A Faraway View
    An A to Z Co-host blog

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  37. You have very smart students. And your students have a most awesome teacher.

    I prefer to read and write close third person, but I agree that it depends on the story.

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  38. Carol - awww - thanks! They're a fabulous group of kids - we have such great discussions! :) I'm with you in your preferences!

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  39. Lee - I'm not yet comfortable with writing 1st although I've gotten more comfortable reading it!

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  40. I prefer first person but have got myself into tight corners with it as nothing can happen without the main character knowing.

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  41. What a great exercise for them!

    Hmm...I honestly like both POVs. But in romance I do like both perspectives more.
    But I have some friends who will not touch a first person POV no matter what kind of book.

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  42. Rosalind - that's one of the big problems with 1st. I just can't write it without sounding silly. Not yet anyway :)

    Jennifer - it was awesome! I'm with you on seeing the romance from both povs :)

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  43. I tell you, going to the kids as a source is always eye-opening. I like reading and writing in both, because I agree with the kiddos - it all depends on the story. I"m reading Peter and the Starcatchers aloud right now and the kids love getting into so many noggins.

    BTW - my class's favorite part of The Hobbit is when Bilbo says "Confustication." They all use it now.

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  44. Leslie - I love that part too! Confustication is a great word! :) I haven't read Peter and the Starcatchers - I'll have to check it out!

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  45. Isn't it exciting when the students lead you into an indepth discussion.

    For me I love reading first person.

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  46. Sharon - it is amazing! I love helping them and learning from them :)

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  47. That is so cool that the kids were so invested!! I enjoy reading 1st person, but writing 3rd person. :)

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  48. I think it depends on the story, for both reading and writing. I used to prefer writing in 1st, but now I don't mind using either, depending on what works.

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  49. DL - it was awesome! My students are great - and they love investigating things! :)

    Beth - I wish I was better at first, but I haven't found my voice with 1st yet!

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  50. I think I prefer 3rd. It's more or less the same when I'm translating English books for the readers in my country. Bigger problem is present or past tense. It's difficult translating 1st voice in present tense.

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  51. Dezzy - I bet! Keeping the voice/style alive in a translation is tough - and I can see how 1st would be tougher!

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  52. I think I prefer 3rd person. To write and read. 1st person can be really irritating to read if the writer tries to get too much info in about other characters... It doesn't read natural... I am telling myself this as I work on my 1st person wip!
    Xx

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  53. Michelle - so do I at the moment. I'm going to keep on playing with 1st person before I decide to try it on a wip though! :)

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  54. I love how your students think about this. Of course, I'm sure your teaching has a lot to do with helping them ponder such topics.
    Right now, I'm rewriting a novel using first person present for the protagonist and third person past for the antagonist. Tricky and fun.

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  55. Tricia - they're awesome kids! That would be tricky!! I can't do 1st yet without sounding cheesy - but I'm working on it! :)

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  56. I love that "cool storyteller voice" when it works. Someday I'd like to try it in one of my own stories...

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  57. Deniz - I'd like to try it too - it's so tongue-in-cheek and droll - so much fun! :)

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  58. MAn, don't you love when you get those great moments in teaching. Sigh, I miss that.

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  59. Ava - I know!!! Those moments are amazing! :)

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