First Person Tweets vs. Third Person Stories

It amazes me that we are all on Twitter and Facebook. By “we” I mean adults. We’re adults, right? But emotionally we’re a culture of seven-year-olds. Have you ever had that moment when are you updating your status and you realize that every status update is just a variation on a single request: “Would someone please acknowledge me?”

― Marc Maron, Attempting Normal

Have you ever picked up a book you were super excited to crack open, only to discover you can’t quite connect with it? The cover, blurb and title- they all caught your eye. But as you turn to the next page, you realize there’s something different and you just can’t put your finger on what it could be.

Have you ever felt guilty because you couldn’t finish something after investing in the author’s hard work? Don’t. Everyone, even your favorite authors, has their own “DNF” pile (did not finish). I’ll admit I’m one of those “newbies” whose eyes glaze over once anyone drops grammar terminology in my lap. When other writers discuss what tense or POV (point of view) they like to write in, I sometimes have to read those threads two or three times for all the “technical” elements to click.

My mother has the same reaction when I try to explain modern day technology, so it all works out!

Those “technical” discussions, whether you like it or not, are still the basic building blocks to writing a concise paper for school, or indulging in an imaginary world you built from scratch for your characters to live in. If you want to be a writer, you absolutely have to understand how all those elements work together. Speaking of elements, let’s dive into the bread and butter of this post. We’re going to first take a look at the three main points of view characters can tell their stories through, and then take a look at some real life applications.

First Person – The story is told one person at a time using words like “I” or “we.”

TAPESTRY by Cady Elizabeth Arnold reminded me of one of the arcs from the CW television show, Reign. And that’s not a bad thing at all. I adored the cast, the history, and the fact that Megan Follows makes a fantastic queen.

You typically Tweet as yourself – unless you’re running a satirical or other type of artistic account. For the most part, you always use words and phrases like, “Today I-,” “I think that,” “We went down to the river to,” “I made this meal for dinner!”

TAPESTRY is written in first person and told using two points of views. The short chapters are meant to hasten the reader along at a quick pace, but I’m still reading it at a snail’s pace. Even with its arc and well thought out characters, first person narration throws me through a loop. But I’m carrying on with chapter twenty-nine tonight before bed, because I want to know what happens with Tristam and Grace.

Books written in the first person: HUCKLEBERRY FINN by Mark Twain, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee, JANE EYRE by Charlotte Brontë, THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Second Person – The narrator tells the story to another character using the word ‘you.’

In theatre and film, this is akin to breaking the “fourth wall,” when a character turns to the screen or audience and speaks directly to them. Home Alone (picture that famous “slap-the-cheeks-and-scream” scene) and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off come to mind. While not perfect examples of second person POV, it can be a very useful tool to bring you, the reader, directly into the story.

I’m staring at my books and I don’t think any of them are written in second person. At first I thought my favorite Frank Peretti series from childhood was, THE COOPER KIDS, but their adventures are told through either Jay or Lila. THE CITY OF EMBER series by Jeanne DuPrau? No- those are third person.

Since I got curious, I Googled “second person books” and this list from Goodreads popped up. Nothing on the list looks familiar. Do you know of any books written in the second person? Leave them in the comments below!

Third Person – In third person limited, the narrator shows us the thoughts and feelings of one character. In third person omniscient, the narrator is all-knowing and shows us the inner world of every character that appears.

During the first third of this year’s reading adventures, I’ve discovered I much prefer books written in third person limited. If the character already knows everything, well, I just don’t see how a character can change and grow with that kind of perspective.

Perhaps I just haven’t found any third person omniscient books with which to connect. Yet.

One could argue that Tweets are sometimes written in third person omniscient, as the poster assumes they know everything there is to know about their subject matter.

Source

However, for the most part, they’re written in first person. It makes sense, as your social media feeds are narrated by you and not a character. When Facebook first began, users could only make a post if it started with “is.” Example: “Leigh Hartman is _________________________________.”

Social media’s come a long way from that. Is the change is for the better? That’s still to be determined. Do we really need the ability to write such long posts on social media? “Insta fame” isn’t always a good thing. “Less is more,” they say. I, for one, am perfectly content with my website and TweetDeck. The world doesn’t really need any more “Leigh” in it then it already gets.

When we write our stories, little pieces of ourselves are strewn all throughout the prose. The dialogue. The characters. The plots. Our own truths, plus truths taught by life experiences and our surroundings, are in there as well.

Who’s to say which point of view is best?

What matters most is your voice and how you choose to use it.


That Pesky Point of View

I feel like I’m doing a lot more blogging than writing lately, but it is, I suppose, my therapy during this process. That’s what writing essentially is – a process. Writing is also considered an art form but in the long run it is also a process. Why do you think there are so many tip websites, self-help books, outlining, and plot line diagrams to help move the stories along? Whether you like it or not many authors/writers like myself need to have a bit of a helping hand.

I feel like this blog is only about the problems I’m encountering as a writer.

I’ll never forget the first time I tried to write a story. I don’t remember what it was about but I do remember that when I went back through it later on I realized I had a problem. A point of view problem. I feel like this blog is only about the problems I’m encountering as a writer. I don’t mean to be so negative but how else am I to seek assistance from those more matured in the craft than I?

In that first story I kept swinging back and forth between the pronouns. I’ve heard others say to not worry about the technical aspects of your first draft – just write it. I know that’s what first drafts are all about; hashing out what you want and adjusting, adding and amending later in your second or third draft. But I’m afraid of slipping back into that old school habit of switching between the POVs from one chapter to the next and losing that continuity. What’s funny is one of the authors I follow on Twitter mentioned the same thing several months back – that she had to go back and edit because of a POV issue. I don’t remember if it was Nichelle Rae, Melanie Dickerson or someone else, but it’s nice to know that even already-published authors experience the same things.

I recently came across a sub-page called Grammar Girl who writes articles about, well, writing (imagine that!) that covers this very topic, and covers it much more eloquently than I ever could. While the article is from 2011 and it is now 2018, some thing never change in the writing world and I am grateful for that. I just know that from here on out I’ll most likely have a post-it somewhere that will constantly remind me of what form I’m using for my point of view. What’s also making it easier on myself is that I’m only doing one character’s point of view per book.

That was the other problem I had months ago – how many characters do I want to give voices to throughout the journey? How many times does that POV change within a chapter? Or does it stay the same in a single chapter? Keep it simple. Keep it real. Keep it within one mindset.

Maybe my next series can be a bit more complicated, unless I never actually finish the Firedamp series. I certainly hope that won’t be the case! I’m just hoping that, as someone who has never taken on a task like this before, I am at least on the right track. The main goal was to not bite off more than I can chew (which was entirely the case during my initial planning phase of this book!). Now if only I can get all the logistics under control…