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Old 7th February 2008, 08:07 AM   #1 (permalink)
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If I write in the "first person", do I condamn myself?

Diligently browsing around in the Forum, I remember seeing a discussion on this topic somewhere, but I couldn't find it again. Sorry if I rehash other threads.

A published author (and editor) met at a reading has advised me against sending out a novel written in the first person (150,000 words).
He kindly accepted to see samples, and he said that the execution is good, and he liked my voice very much; so it isn't a matter of difficulty, says he.

This professional thinks that novels written in the first person "do not match the current market".


Problem: I don't wish to change this, unless it's REALLY vital. I'll change anything else but not the POV . No stubborness, here. I just feel in my guts that it's "right" for the story.

But I'd like to know more about the topic.

Two questions:

1) Is it true that the first person is not "fashionable"? Would this diminish my chances of being published?

2) Who are the authors who have published novels written in the first person in, say, the last five years?

Thank you in anticipation (I'm very worried).

Last edited by Anarchon; 7th February 2008 at 08:17 AM.
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Old 7th February 2008, 09:17 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: If I write in the "first person", do I condamn myself?

Sorry, Anarchon, I can't speak from a professional point of view, but on a personal level I rarely enjoy reading first-person material. I've read some short stories (most recently by George R R Martin) which are sf and work well in first-person but for me it's usually a turn off. I'd think that if your story is sf, it might be more likely to work than if it's fantasy.

Of course, that's just a matter of my personal taste, so please take it with a grain of salt!
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Old 7th February 2008, 09:33 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: If I write in the "first person", do I condamn myself?

Charles Stross, Glasshouse. Written in the first person.
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Old 7th February 2008, 09:35 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: If I write in the "first person", do I condamn myself?

Authors: Steph Swainston, Justina Robson and I think Richard Morgan. Those are just off the top of my head.

Writing in first person doesn't condemn you, its just harder to pull off well. If the story is strong, well told, grabs the reader, and has that special something that makes an agent/publisher think it will sell, then I feel the POV does not matter. Doing the first bit of of the last sentence is the hardest part.

Also remember an agent's opinion in many ways is subjective. What one rejects another accepts.
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Old 7th February 2008, 10:35 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: If I write in the "first person", do I condamn myself?

I have to admit, I like first-person narrative, both reading and writing, because it's so in-your-face. Third gives a more flexible viewpoint and is more forgiving, though. I wonder if your agent will come up with another excuse if you change the POV. He might be hoping you'll go away.
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Old 7th February 2008, 10:57 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: If I write in the "first person", do I condamn myself?

Again, this simply isn't a hard and fast rule. No way. If you're wrtiing epic fantasy it's hellishly diffcult to pull off - Robin Hobb is the one author who comes to mind - but each book has its own voice, first- or third-person...I don't know any UK agent who would turn something down simply because it is written in the first person.
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Old 7th February 2008, 01:38 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: If I write in the "first person", do I condamn myself?

Thank you, JDP, Iansales and SJAB

I have to fight back!

Other examples of recent novels written in the first person?


The Ace: the guy to whom I asked is not my agent. He's an author (a successful one) and also the editor of anthologies.

John Jarrold: this guy is American. Perhaps that is why he said that the first person doesn't match the current market.

But, as you say, one person, one opinion.
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Old 7th February 2008, 02:50 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: If I write in the "first person", do I condamn myself?

Maybe his agent or publisher has said they'd prefer him to write in the third person, and/or that just suits his style. Chacun a son gout...
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Old 7th February 2008, 04:41 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: If I write in the "first person", do I condamn myself?

Sorry to say it, Anarchon, but if I pick a book up in the bookshop or library, and it's written in the first person, back onto the shelf it goes. I just can't read anything written in this voice.
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Old 7th February 2008, 04:52 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: If I write in the "first person", do I condamn myself?

Blimey, really, Pyan? You could be missing out on some good books...

I don't particularly mind about point of view. I used to prefer first person, but now it's probably split equally between first and third. But as long as the book's well written, it doesn't matter to me, and they both have their merits. I definitely prefer writing in first person and I seem to do it automatically really; whenever I start a story, it's almost always in first person unless I consciously decide otherwise.

And recent books...well, Stephen King's latest book, Duma Key is written in first person. As is Bag of Bones, also by him. Those are just a couple that come instantly to mind, anyway.
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Old 7th February 2008, 04:57 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: If I write in the "first person", do I condamn myself?

Quote:
Originally Posted by HoopyFrood View Post
Blimey, really, Pyan? You could be missing out on some good books...
Oh, yes, I know, Hoops, but there's just something about it.
It's the same with books in the present tense...*shudders*
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Old 7th February 2008, 04:59 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Re: If I write in the "first person", do I condamn myself?

Is it the thought of 120000+ words in the first person, Pyan, or don't you even like the occasional chapter in it?
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Old 7th February 2008, 05:03 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Re: If I write in the "first person", do I condamn myself?

Quote:
Originally Posted by pyan View Post
Sorry to say it, Anarchon, but if I pick a book up in the bookshop or library, and it's written in the first person, back onto the shelf it goes. I just can't read anything written in this voice.
Gosh, I'd have missed out on Raymond Chandler, my favourite Roger Zelazny novels and many, many more...
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Old 7th February 2008, 09:25 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Re: If I write in the "first person", do I condamn myself?

As a novice writer I have just recently got my head around POV characters (I think!!! ), could someone explain the difference in writing in that style and in the first person.

Many thanks
Gary
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Old 7th February 2008, 09:36 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Re: If I write in the "first person", do I condamn myself?

First person = I rode on the train and thought about how to kill my aunt.
Third person = John rode on the train and thought about how to kill his aunt.
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