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Your Opinion - First Person or Third for this Short Story

  1. Billie Kelpin profile image88
    Billie Kelpinposted 22 months ago

    I've been going back and forth, up and down, and sideways trying to get a short, short story that I wrote the way I want it.  I went to critiquecircle (which I highly reccommend for it's excellent set up), but now I have 7 critiques discussing various aspects of my story.  That led me to believe that all of the problems with the story might be fixed from switching from 3rd person to 1st person.  Below are two paragraphs. I understand that reading the whole story might make a difference, but I want to submit it to a magazine and if I publish the whole thing on hubpages, I won't be able to submit.  So what do you think just judging from these two paragraphs?

    The dresser was moved to “the nursery” when Julie was pregnant.  “Nursery” was their euphemistic term for the tiny room that was probably once a closet.  Tim laughed when Julie asked if he could paint green and white strips on the wall, graduated with the thinnest converging at the corner to make the 6 x 6 ft. room appear larger. But when he knew she was serious, he kissed her forehead and told her that he could make it happen.

    The dresser was moved to “the nursery” when I was pregnant.  “Nursery” was our euphemistic term for the tiny room that was probably once a closet.  Tim laughed when I asked if we could paint green and white strips on the wall, graduated with the thinnest converging at the corner to make the 6 x 6 ft. room appear larger. But when he knew I was serious, he kissed my forehead and told me he could make it happen.

    1. cam8510 profile image94
      cam8510posted 22 months ago in reply to this

      This seems like a first person story to me.  It's more intimate than third which may communicate emotion better.

      1. Billie Kelpin profile image88
        Billie Kelpinposted 22 months ago in reply to this

        cam8510 - Thanks so much - The third person felt more like an essay to me.

    2. sallybea profile image96
      sallybeaposted 22 months ago in reply to this

      I prefer the first person.  It makes one feel more connected to the story.

      1. Billie Kelpin profile image88
        Billie Kelpinposted 22 months ago in reply to this

        Sallybea,
        Thanks so much for taking the time.  This seems to be the concensus!

  2. Michael-Milec profile image61
    Michael-Milecposted 22 months ago

    Definitely, the second sounds more befitting to me.

    1. Billie Kelpin profile image88
      Billie Kelpinposted 22 months ago in reply to this

      Thanks Michael,
      After all of these opinions, I think I'll be going with first person smile !

  3. wordswithlove profile image79
    wordswithloveposted 22 months ago

    First person definitely makes a difference. It brings the reader into the emotions going through Julie's mind rather than just a description of Julie's mind.

    1. Billie Kelpin profile image88
      Billie Kelpinposted 22 months ago in reply to this

      Wordswithlove,  Thank you.  I love that you referred to the character by name since it gave me the sense that she is real in your mind smile

  4. Carol Reed profile image79
    Carol Reedposted 22 months ago

    First person is more personal which helps the reader seem closer to the main character. When the reader is introduced to the main character the writer can still let us know her name. Most of my characters are written in first person, which seems easier for me but I have heard most writers feel that first person is harder to write. Now that you have written this as second person, your switch to first person in your rewrite should be a breeze and you can bring the reader a little closer and in the scene by writing in the present tense and using; smell, sight, hearing and taste. Good–luck.

    1. Billie Kelpin profile image88
      Billie Kelpinposted 22 months ago in reply to this

      Thanks Carol,  Changing to first should be easy and will have some advantages.  Since I'm not a very good figurative language writer, I'm hoping I can go to the senses better here than I usually do.

  5. Carol Reed profile image79
    Carol Reedposted 22 months ago

    You're welcome and I noticed on my reread I need a correction: I said second person when I meant to say third person.

  6. Marisa Wright profile image94
    Marisa Wrightposted 21 months ago

    I'm sorry I missed this thread!   

    I disagree with Carol about first person being more "intimate".  It's possible to be just as intimate in third person, if you do it correctly.  It has much more to do with how deeply you immerse yourself in your narrator's mind than with whether you use third or first.

    The big disadvantage of first person is that you can describe ONLY what your narrator sees, and nothing else.  That's why it's more difficult to write - if there's something happening and your narrator isn't present, you can't describe that event. The best you can do is to create a dialogue scene where another character tells the narrator what happened.   

    Your narrator also can't read minds - so you can't describe how other characters are feeling, beyond what you can see on their faces or hear in their voices.  That's why in some ways, third person can be more intimate rather than less - because you can switch points of view from chapter to chapter and get deep inside the thoughts and feelings of two or even three characters in the story, instead of just one. 

    The big problem with that paragraph in both versions is that you're telling me not showing me.  If you rewrote it to include the actual dialogue between Tim and Julie, it would come to life.

    I'm on Critiquecircle.com as well, as MarisaW.    I'd love to take a look at your story.

    1. Cardisa profile image91
      Cardisaposted 21 months ago in reply to this

      I agree with Marisa. Third person gives better character development because you can switch characters in a scene to state how they are feeling, or what they are thinking. In first person you can only tell what you've heard or seen and most of what is written is from one perspective only, and that is the first person.

      1. Billie Kelpin profile image88
        Billie Kelpinposted 21 months ago in reply to this

        Thank you Cardisa.  As I mentioned to Marissa, I think this is more of an essay, but as I write it in both "persons" I understand what you mean.  I'm trying to wrap my head around the omniscient aspect.  It seems as if 3rd person has that omniscent quality.  Thank you so much for your input.  I want to get this story right because it has a deep resonance for me.

        1. Marisa Wright profile image94
          Marisa Wrightposted 21 months ago in reply to this

          There are two kinds of third person:  Third Person Subjective, and Third Person Omniscient. 

          Third Person Subjective is when you are "inside the head" of one of your characters, telling the story from their point of view.

          Third Person Omniscient is when you are not inside the head of ANY character:  you tell the story from outside, as if you were a movie camera.  Virtually all stories were written like this once upon a time - now almost none are, because modern readers expect to experience the story, not just look on dispassionately.

          It's considered bad practice to mix the two. 

          I've got a Hub about Third Person Subjective.

          1. Billie Kelpin profile image88
            Billie Kelpinposted 21 months ago in reply to this

            I had forgotten which was which and which did what smile I didn't mean I was going to mix the two.  I just am writing one in first person and one in second person as two different stories so I can compare which I like best.  But now I'm ready to scrap the whole darn thing for publication if modern readers don't like it because I'm definitely a tell not show person.  I don't like reading a lot of "showing".  So I'm outdated, but I have the story for myself at least.  I like it smile

            1. Cardisa profile image91
              Cardisaposted 21 months ago in reply to this

              Don't scrap your story. You say it's an essay, tell it. I am sure there is an audience for it. Give your narrative voice a chance.

              1. Billie Kelpin profile image88
                Billie Kelpinposted 21 months ago in reply to this

                Cardisa,  Thank you for the encouragement.  I'm really not sure what this little work  is, but I do know it's more "tell" than "show". It would be a whole new make-over if I went the "show" direction.  I was submitting it to the Writer's Digest annual short, short story contest (limit 1500 words)  and unfortunately started writing it the day before the due date.     
                I might be realizing that after all is said and done, I'm more of an essay writer.  I have written short stories, but "showing" has been difficult for me from the start.  It's interesting that in our writers' group here in our area,  there is a screenwriter who comes to the critique sessions just practice imagery because his bent is totally dialog. In screenwriting apparently,  the imagery is on the screen and in the actors' portrayal. It's all a journey.  Thank you again smile

                1. Cardisa profile image91
                  Cardisaposted 21 months ago in reply to this

                  When I started writing in high school, I always wrote in first person. My librarian at the time saw potential in me and encouraged me to try third person. I started "telling" stories, rather than showing and recently I started practicing "showing".

                  It's a process and it takes practice. Writers are evolving creatures and I know if you put pen to paper you can write whatever you want.

                  I wrote a short blog on my social network for writers (Think Write Talk), about how 1000 words seemed daunting to me years ago. Then I reached that goal and 10,000 was even more frightening. Now, I can write a 100,000 novel.

                  You can do the showing if you want to, just feel what you write.

            2. LongTimeMother profile image96
              LongTimeMotherposted 21 months ago in reply to this

              Billie, let me gently remind you that you started a conversation asking for feedback ... and you're getting it. That's a good thing.

              By saying you're 'ready to scrap the whole darn thing', you're discouraging further discussion - and missing a chance to learn and develop your skills.

              I encourage you to remember that professional writers give and receive feedback without any suggestion of personal attack. Your work is not you - irrespective of how personal the topic may be. Sure, it can help to inject yourself into characters when writing ... but you need to distance yourself from your work when discussing it.

              You have obviously worked very hard to try and get your story 'right', so don't give up now ... and don't lose confidence if you're feeling overwhelmed by the feedback you've been given. Lots of successful writers just write 'for themselves' with little or no regard for the rules. (Of course, most of them end up with editors making some changes, but that's something you'll get used to if the time comes when publishing.)

              Continue with your story, because you'll probably regret putting it aside. Perhaps the best advice we can give you at this time is to not get too caught up in asking for advice. smile

              Good luck with it.

              1. Billie Kelpin profile image88
                Billie Kelpinposted 21 months ago in reply to this

                I hear you smile  I once had a handwriting analysis that said that I'd rather be ruined by positives than helped by criticism.  I understand that I need to be open-minded and not shut down feedback.  It's all good smile

              2. Carol Reed profile image79
                Carol Reedposted 21 months ago in reply to this

                Great advice, LongTimeMother.  smile

                1. Billie Kelpin profile image88
                  Billie Kelpinposted 21 months ago in reply to this

                  Thanks for weighing, Carol.  LTM added some important advice!

            3. Marisa Wright profile image94
              Marisa Wrightposted 21 months ago in reply to this

              I just looked at the essay on Critiquecircle.com and it's lovely. With just a couple of tweaks (which I mentioned in my critique), it IS in Third Person Subjective even though you are doing more telling than showing.   In this context, I thought the "telling" was perfectly OK, because it's a short story not a novel and the style is such that telling makes sense (you couldn't possibly condense a whole  life into one page if you tried to 'show' everything). 

              Be cautious about critiques on CC - I've had some great ones and I'm finding it a huge help, but it's a bit like HubPages - there are people who've read the "rules" of writing, got hold of the wrong end of the stick and dish out advice that's way over the top!   For instance, I've had three people tell me I must go through my manuscript and remove every single word ending in "-ly" and "-ing" because "publishers don't like them" (which is a complete misunderstanding of advice about over-using adverbs and passive voice).

              1. Billie Kelpin profile image88
                Billie Kelpinposted 21 months ago in reply to this

                Marissa,
                Thank you so much.  I smiled when you mentioned the "ly" thing.  A person in our "off-line" writing group just told someone to go through her story and check for "ly" endings!  I eagerly wrote that note down in my trusty notebook thinking, "Wow, I never heard that before. Maybe I should watch out forTHAT now!" :}
                I will use critiquecorner cautiously.  Thanks for your "read" and comments - very helpful!

                1. Marisa Wright profile image94
                  Marisa Wrightposted 21 months ago in reply to this

                  The -ly thing is interesting.   They are considered "lazy writing" because people will use an adverb instead of thinking of a proper descriptive verb, (e.g. "she walked daintily" instead of "she tiptoed").   However that doesn't mean they should never be used - for instance sometimes an adverb can be more accurate.  Also, when you're writing dialogue or internal thoughts, it would be silly to censor -ly words if that's the way your character would naturally speak.

                  It gets funny when people get too fanatical about it - one person told me to get rid of "only" because it's a -ly word . . .

                  1. Billie Kelpin profile image88
                    Billie Kelpinposted 21 months ago in reply to this

                    LOL!

    2. Billie Kelpin profile image88
      Billie Kelpinposted 21 months ago in reply to this

      Marissa,
      Thank you for that insightful comment.  I read this story to my writers' group in my area, and they thought it was a meaningful story, almost ready for submission. (I wonder if this story "sounds" better than it "reads".) However, since critique corner, I've fixed up some of the problems that seemed to be a common concern except I corrected them in first person and I haven't posted it up there yet.  I'm trying to get some time together so I can get more credits by critiquing more on that website and then submitting the first person.  RE: tell vs show, I actually think this is NOT a short story with the tradition arc, etc., but rather an essay about the dresser.  (By the way, that's the title on critiquecircle, "The Dresser") and I'm Billiek on there.   It's not in the cue, and I'm new to critique corner, so I'm not sure how that works.  I'd send you the old version, but the errors in third person are corrected as a first person essay.    So in a few days, I'll have the essay in 1st and 3rd with errors corrected.  If you're able to read it on critique corner as I submitted it, just know that the bed has been eliminated and I expanded a bit on hints to the ending and a bit more about the husband.  I purposefully padded the front for the effect of the ending because that's the emotional impact I was going for.  When I read it to the group, that was the emotional response I got.
      Sorry if this is so convoluted.  Thank you so much for your interest.  I want to get this story right.

  7. thetruanttrain profile image80
    thetruanttrainposted 21 months ago

    I thought both versions were good - I can see why there is such a discussion about it. I actually preferred the third person version only because I felt there was more tension - I was wondering what was going to happen, in the first person I was caught up in her thoughts - if that makes sense. But I believe intimacy could be found in both voices - complicated stuff. The feedback you received is interesting because there is an argument for both sides and I can see where your dilemma lies, and for all writers.I think it is what you feel more comfortable with, and do you want to get inside the character/s head. I am sure I have read stories where there is both third and first person. You start with third and then you jump into the first so that the readers are getting closer in a way to the character - is that possible? For people who are more familiar with different voices - please tell me if I am wrong. It is a hard choice sometimes, to choose which voice. Please don't scrap your story!

 
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