New Poll - Narrative mode

Thursday, August 23, 2012

First, let's return to the last poll.  I asked you my fellow readers: "Is there too much graphic violence in Fantasy?" and the result was almost unilateral, as 88% of the answers were negative.  I asked in a previous poll if you liked your Fantasy gritty and the results were almost the same with 87% of yeses.  It seems that the new trend where grittiness and violence are more present than ever is really what readers are craving for.


On to the next subject!  A less gruesome one at that... and more technical.

I have presented some time ago the list of my favorite first person perspective reads.  My top three was Croaker from the Black Company novels by Glen Cook, Kvothe from the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss and Eddie LaCrosse from the LaCrosse novels by Alex Bledsoe (with special mentions to Drothe from Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick and Takeshi Kovacs from Richard Morgan books). I would add Arki form Jeff Salyard's Scourge of the Betrayer to the list!  I can't really do the same thing with the third person perspective since it would include too much novels and the second person narrative mode is even trickier since it involves you as the character.

When you look at the narrative modes definitions, there can be even more specific perspective (like omniscient vs limited) but I think that Wikipedia nicely summarize the topic:
Narrative point of view in the creative writing of fiction describes the narrator's position in relation to the story being told. Point of view differs from similar terms and concepts such as perspective, viewpoint, or the point-of-view of a camera. Perspective refers to a particular attitude toward or a way of regarding something; when discussed in fiction writing, perspective means the subjective perception of a character. 
There is a distinction between first-person and third-person narrative, to which Gérard Genette refers respectively as homodiegetic and heterodiegetic. A homodiegetic narrator describes own personal experiences as a character in the story. Such a narrator cannot know more about other characters than what their actions reveal. A heterodiegetic narrator, in contrast, describes the experiences of the characters that appear in the story. A narrative wherein events are seen through the eyes of a third-person internal focaliser is said to be figural. In some stories, the author may be omniscient and employ multiple points of view as well and comment on events as they occur.
Third person perspective is usually considered as more versatile. However, I think that a well-written first person perspective novel can be more powerful, deeper in emotional response.  On the other hand, there's more limitation to what can be experienced by the protagonist and he ought to be a particularly great character.

I didn't find any statistics on the number of first vs third person narrative epic Fantasy novels but as with most genres, the latter is clearly more present. The choice of narrative point of view is a crucial one for the authors. I imagine that some books would be considerably different if they were written in another perspective.  The Malazan book of the Fallen seen through the eyes of only Ganoes Paran would have been a far cry from what it is now.

In the end, when I think about my favorite books, they are almost all set with the third person perspective.  So I think I will have to answer that narrative mode... even if I like a first person novel from time to time...

Which narrative mode do you prefer?
  • First person
  • Third person
  • Both


Prateek said...

3rd person. As it offers a more complete view of the story, the first person view is always biased and depends on how the character describing the events viewed them.

Ghost said...

Third person is better in my view. First person can work also but it is harder to get right. It depend a lot on the skill of the writer.

Dave said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave said...

I like 1st person. It just feels like the book moves faster and I never get stuck leaving one character on a cliffhanger then going to read about someone more boring.

Unknown said...

For audiobooks my preference is first person but first person is the most difficult to do well. It is not for the faint of heart and in the wrong hands can be disastrous.

Its in the bag.

Yagiz said...

It depends on the story and probably the type and genre of the book. In general I'd say 3rd person but 1st person gets the reader closer to the protagonist, which works very well for horror for instance. I'm currently reviewing The Forbidden by F. R. Tallis. I think it is a good example about captivating 1st person narrative.

B.T. said...

I love first person for its ability to make me feel like someone's telling me story directly, rather than sitting above all the action and knowing every character's thoughts and emotions like some kind of god complex.

However, for some stories, as Phil mentions, it just won't work. Sometimes I think Zelazny's Amber, for as much as I enjoyed Corwin's smart-ass narrative, would have been magnificent from a third person narrative of several of the fascinating characters (such as Gerard, Fiona, and Dworkin), with each of the 5 books being at least 3 times its current size.

I would nominate FitzChivalry from Robin Hobb's Assassin series as another first person narrative that is excellent.

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