First Person vs Third Person

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rabcor
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First Person vs Third Person

#1 Post by rabcor » Tue Nov 26, 2013 8:20 am

I'm rather seriously wondering whether i should write my current project in third person or first person.

Which kinds of stories do you think benefit from a third person writing style and which kinds would you think first person fits better?

I can see that first person writing adds a certain impact to the story, it feels more personal but at the same time i think it can be a risk, for example if you find it hard to relate to the protagonist, or some event happens that makes you think "Why would he/she do that? I would've done X instead." These kinds of scenarios are of course what we have the menu system for.

Then with third person, i can see it as a much "safer" choice, because no matter what your story will be delivered as intended, but it's going to be less personal than a first person story, and more importantly, it's going to feel much more like a book and less than a game. Then there's also the problem with the choices/menu system, how are you going to make choices for someone as a third party?

In a similar way to Third Person and First Person camera angle games, undeniably the games which have a first person perspective are much more immersive than the third person ones, take Elder Scrolls, Everquest, Old RPGs (Like lands of lore, wizardry, etc), First Person Shooters.

I'm not saying third person games can't be immersive, i'm saying it's easier to make them immersive if they're first person.

(My story's protagonist start's out as a child slave, on top of being a slave, you're a child. Inevitably the child is going to make slightly different decisions than an adult, and take a bit longer to realize what's going on. It's a matter of whether the player wants to play as a child slave, or read about a child slave. I think it'd be a lot easier on the player to read about the child slave, but my problem is that this slave grows up and escapes slavery, needless to say that's a "game changer".)

What are your thoughts on this matter?

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Re: First Person vs Third Person

#2 Post by Desu_Cake » Tue Nov 26, 2013 11:01 am

You should always, ALWAYS, default to third person perspective.

I usually hate first person, since it tends to be used the wrong way so much. Writing well in first person is really, really difficult, and it should only be used when it actually adds something - eg: to convey to the reader that they are feeling what the main character is feeling.

First person is WAY more limited than third person, since you're limited to only follow one character, you can only show what they see, you can't give the reader any information that the character doesn't already know, etc. It is NOT more immersive than third person, nor is third person more immersive than it. It's harder to make a first person perspective more immersive, because it's harder to write well, and good writing is far, FAR more important than the perspective used.

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Re: First Person vs Third Person

#3 Post by rabcor » Tue Nov 26, 2013 1:19 pm

Very good points, thank you. These things had crossed my mind. I still think it's more immersive though, exactly because you're playing as one character, not as an observer. That might just be me though.

Analogue: A Hate Story, pulled off a pretty weird trick where you played in first person as an observer (for the most part, the interactive parts of the game where your character actually did something did in fact not really add to the game in my opinion, so i think i can see what you mean). The problem with writing my story in third person would however be that there are going to be (a decent amount of) choices in it, and unless you're playing as an actual character i don't see how you as a player can make those choices. I will not write a kinetic novel, my aim is to make games, and games aren't games unless they have interaction.

I also notice that most books and novels i've ever read are in third person, and in fact movies and most other media too (they follow a character, but usually not through their eyes).

I'm going to stick with first person for my current project (since it partially relies on the first person perspective to deliver the narrative), but i am definitely going to aim for a third person perspective for my next one. It'll be a nice experiment, and cool to see which writing style i prefer writing in. I'm guessing it's fairly personal whether a person prefers first or third person, but yes, writing in first person probably requires a specific mindset. (Just because i've decided how to see for myself doesn't mean the discussion should die! please do keep comments coming!)

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Re: First Person vs Third Person

#4 Post by Sharm » Tue Nov 26, 2013 1:31 pm

I think you should choose your perspective based on what kind of story you're telling. Both have different advantages and disadvantages.

First person is best for stories where you need to limit the information given to the audience, or if you want to get really deep into only one character. It can be great for stories where you want to show a very alien culture or character, great for stories that are about the main character's mental state and less about what's actually happening, and great for horror. It is prone to things like info dumping and over dramatic angst, so you'll want to be aware of it and avoid it.

Third person is a really flexible perspective, and there are subsections like "third person limited" and "third person omniscient" (not recommended). Most stories are in "third person subjective" where you are in the head of whoever you need to be for the scene but the text is in "he, she, it" format. Third person's strength is in the plot driven stories and stories that follow more than one character. This one is more prone to viewpoint error like accidentally doing omniscient when you're in limited. It's also harder to hide things from the audience or do an unreliable narrator story. When done wrong the reader will feel distanced from the characters.

Most VN's are done in first person because they tend to be more about one person in a small scale plot where going deep into the thoughts and feelings are key to the story. But really, that doesn't mean that it's best. Just think about what sort of story you want to tell and it should help you figure out how to get there.
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Re: First Person vs Third Person

#5 Post by fleet » Tue Nov 26, 2013 2:03 pm

What Sharm said.
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Re: First Person vs Third Person

#6 Post by rabcor » Tue Nov 26, 2013 2:25 pm

Sharm wrote:...
Thank you for your post, yes indeed when i was starting to write the story the main goal of it is to introduce both a world to the player and the protagonist. I wanted to make sure the player gets to feel what the protagonist feels throughout the VN. I also want the player to experience this world from the perspective of someone who doesn't really know anything about the world, it's both an excuse to explain certain elements and cultures to them, but if the player already knows the world the game happens inside of, the story could provide the player with a slightly different perspective. (It looks like i thought about this a lot but i really i didn't, i just subconsciously started writing in first person because all my favorite VNs are written in first person)

Still, like Desu_Cake said it is most definitely hard, just writing a story is hard, but writing what i am in first person is intense, especially the dark setting and slightly depressing theme. Definitely not the best place to start for a newbie like me. I suspect i have some talent for this though (at least i have a certain feel for it, i'm very careful with my choice of words, etc, and i know what "feels" right and what doesn't. I'll just have to continue patiently and then see what kind of feedback i'll get.) I'm thinking the biggest challenge in writing in first person that i'm facing so far, is delivering complicated, and perhaps morally questionable scenes like the one i'm currently writing, in the exact right atmosphere. Another problem i have now is that i currently have no background images nor character images to support it (suggesting a lot of the text i need to write now to provide the atmosphere might be removed or cut short later on when i do have these things, so it could end up as wasted effort.)

Getting the emotional flow right isn't exactly easy either, i'd call it an art by itself. It's equally important to describe it well as it is to keep the emotional descriptions as short as you possibly can, it needs to "add" to the story, not just lengthen it. Another trap that one can easily fall into overusing past tenses in a first person game it seems, finding the right balance between past and present tense takes some thinking.

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Re: First Person vs Third Person

#7 Post by Greeny » Fri Nov 29, 2013 2:30 pm

I'd say First Person definitely has an edge when it comes to building atmosphere.
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Re: First Person vs Third Person

#8 Post by pineapplepocky » Sun Dec 01, 2013 7:53 pm

I personally like first person more, just because it feels like you're walking in their shoes. The limit of that is what makes it feel exciting for me. However, there are moments where it's best to describe in third person, but mostly keeping it consistent is the best way. I would think mystery series would work best with first person because of the limited view on the story. But you know, in the end, you should choose what you're most confident in. I'm a comic artist, and I rely more on visuals and body motion to describe what I want instead of words, and if I were to choose what kind of perspective I would write in, it would almost always be in first person. But I am not saying third person is bad either.

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Re: First Person vs Third Person

#9 Post by SusanTheCat » Mon Dec 02, 2013 5:18 pm

What about some Second Person viewpoint love? Poor Second Person feels so left out.

I like Second Person viewpoint in simulation type games. (e.g. You are running a TV station, a Cruise Line.)

Second Person goes and hides back in the corner.

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Re: First Person vs Third Person

#10 Post by Sharm » Mon Dec 02, 2013 6:43 pm

Talk about hard to pull off! But yes, Second Person is pretty awesome in games like these. In fact, it's one of the few places where it really fits. It would be interesting to see it done a little more, but only if it was done well.
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Re: First Person vs Third Person

#11 Post by Sanae » Tue Dec 10, 2013 2:10 pm

There's advantages to both of them, as said before. First person views allow an easier way to read the psychology of a single character, as well as get a sense of the world through the emotions and thoughts of the protagonist. First person view is more difficult to switch POVs with than third person, however. First person also allows biases (which is good for suspenseful plots), whereas least the third person view is more reliable and less restricted.

Tbqh I'm not really a fan of first person for a minor reason, specifically when it comes to description. If we supposed to believe we are in a character's mind, then it sort of breaks suspension of belief because no common person thinks hard about what color something is, how someone moves, or makes a metaphor about something; they just think A and B. ^^;

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Re: First Person vs Third Person

#12 Post by Starshine » Tue Dec 10, 2013 2:28 pm

I like First Person it's great for dating type games....to be honest with you in the end it all comes down to the story and how it's told. I never knew how much detail had to be added in storys... so basically its like you are writing a book if you go fully to the Third Person Perspective. I think first person perspective is something like this "You decided to eat" or "You fell down the stairs". (Hope i'm not wrong) :lol:
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Re: First Person vs Third Person

#13 Post by SusanTheCat » Tue Dec 10, 2013 3:26 pm

Starshine wrote: I think first person perspective is something like this "You decided to eat" or "You fell down the stairs". (Hope i'm not wrong) :lol:
Using "You" in that way is Second Person.

First person would be like the main character is telling you a story: "I decided to eat." or "I fell down the stairs"

Third person uses "He" and "She": "He decided to eat." or "She fell down the stairs."

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Re: First Person vs Third Person

#14 Post by SundownKid » Tue Dec 10, 2013 4:17 pm

Sanae wrote: Tbqh I'm not really a fan of first person for a minor reason, specifically when it comes to description. If we supposed to believe we are in a character's mind, then it sort of breaks suspension of belief because no common person thinks hard about what color something is, how someone moves, or makes a metaphor about something; they just think A and B. ^^;
They might not think about it consciously, but people consider some things subconsciously that are worth mentioning. "That car is yellow, it must be a taxi." "That insect is flying towards me, I should run away." If we tried to use stream of thought writing, it would probably come out like "Yellow car! Taxi!" but that wouldn't be as enjoyable to read.

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Re: First Person vs Third Person

#15 Post by Sanae » Tue Dec 10, 2013 11:36 pm

SundownKid wrote:
Sanae wrote: Tbqh I'm not really a fan of first person for a minor reason, specifically when it comes to description. If we supposed to believe we are in a character's mind, then it sort of breaks suspension of belief because no common person thinks hard about what color something is, how someone moves, or makes a metaphor about something; they just think A and B. ^^;
They might not think about it consciously, but people consider some things subconsciously that are worth mentioning. "That car is yellow, it must be a taxi." "That insect is flying towards me, I should run away." If we tried to use stream of thought writing, it would probably come out like "Yellow car! Taxi!" but that wouldn't be as enjoyable to read.
That's a good point; I guess it just feels awkward for me slipping in subconscious thought with the more conscious thoughts, but that's just me.

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