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Discussion on Point-of-View

View Poll Results
Which POV do you prefer to read?
First-Person Present-Tense 0 0%
First-Person Past-Tense 2 14.29%
Third-Person Present Tense 3 21.43%
Third-Person Past Tense 4 28.57%
Third-Person Past Tense Omniscient 5 35.71%

Discussion on Point-of-View

Hello, Myth-Writers.

As usual I've begun my annual reading of The Lord of The Rings, and with it I've had some questions pop up in my head. Seeing as though you all have great insight into these things, I've decided to bring the question(s) to you! As I'm rereading the LoTR I can't help but get caught up in the charm of the book, which made me wonder, "why?" Is it the POV, the "classical" writing style, the familiar setting and cast of characters? Do people really like the third-person omniscient POV anymore? Are there any modern-day authors that can pull this off?

After reading the ASoIaF series I was left feeling great, craving more of the story--but I realized as time went by that I did not cherish the series as I did LoTR. The Third-Person POV is nice for getting into the heads of the characters, but is it enough? This series seemed more like a TV series where I cared more about the characters than any type of plot. LoTR is just the opposite, although the characters are vital to the story. I want to get lost in the world of Middle-Earth, but Westeros doesn't really interest me as much.

Which Point-of-View do you prefer to read the most and why?

Which Point-of-View do you prefer to write in and why?

I began my novel-in-progress in third-person past-tense POV because it seemed the most comfortable to write in and the most popular currently. But it doesn't quite have that "charm". Is it just because the work as a whole is not completed? Is it just a lack of skill?

What are your thoughts?

I do not have a strong opinion on this. Different stories ask for different writing styles. I chose third person omniscient because most of the books I read recently seem to have had that POV. I find this the easiest writing style, but perhaps also the easiest to screw up?

I once wrote a short story in second-person past tense because I thought the story asked for it (or more correctly: I wanted to write a story in second-person as a challenge and made the storyline fit the style). It got me a nomination for a student writing contest, so I guess it worked.

I concur: different stories call for different POVs.

Some need to take an external view, to absorb the world or sprawl over multiple perspectives. LotR is a good example there. Some, like mystery novels, obviously don't want to be completely omniscient but don't need to attach themselves too deeply to one character's mind (though choosing to do so can be a great enhancement, depending on what the story does). And others – like, say, any story at all whose focus is on thoughts and emotions – benefit from being very intimate. My thoughts go to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a story I read not too long ago which couldn't have been anything but first person.

Unreliable narrators throws in another dimension, letting you go all the way to first person yet still keeping a distance from that person's true thoughts, let alone from true events.

I regularly use third person present omniscient or third person past omniscient when roleplaying, because roleplaying requires clarity and because my character's innermost thoughts aren't something my fellow players can usefully respond to. (Obviously "omniscient" here is limited to information actually in play; I could and would say, "Retay strolls along, completely ignorant of the wraith sneaking up on him," but only if I as a player knew about the wraith.) When writing short stories I most often go for third person past limited (so that's what I voted for), because it gives me a lot of freedom with displaying character: I can paint pictures of how the main character is acting, but I can also let a lot of the main character's own feelings and voice into the narration – some things I've written in this manner have been first person in all but pronoun. And, of course, I've also written genuine first-person stories. Although, I don't believe I've written anything second-person before. Hmm.

And, likewise, as a reader I don't have consistent preferences. I don't make a big deal of it; I'm very accommodating to story premises, so perspective alone will never make or break a story for me. If it's part of a concerted net of flaws, though...

What? No second person?

Not that I would support it. Second makes me cringe. But it still exists as a writing style.

Personally, I prefer writing in third omniscient. Followed by unreliable narrator/first person past.

As far as READING goes, depends greatly on the style of the story. Mystery/suspense is almost always best done present tense. First person works better in my opinion, but either is good.

Action or adventure tends to be better third person, present or past, but third.

And scifi or other world-building stories are almost always best third person omniscient. You just need to view too many headspaces for any other setup to really work. I mean, it CAN, if it's a very narrow approach, but when you need to step back and let the reader know something that the characters would know, but they do not, it's necessary to have a narrator.

As a butcher of the english language, I'll randomly switch between third person past and third person present based on excitement level. So an action/skill/attack/etc. will be in present. While most descriptions will be in the past tense.

I didn't vote since, like Valiyn, my writing style and reading preference switches tenses on the fly as I or the author require. Unlike Valiyn, I do not consider this butchery at all, rather, the only full and proper use of the language.

I have never even really considered that tense-switching was an issue except where it happens in the same sentence and where it seems not to be what the author really meant to say, which, if it happens often enough, is indeed unreadable butchery to me.

Just a note: there is considerable precedent for languages that switch tense based upon the '
Yeah, this is a really bad neologism. However, I didn't want to launch into a detailed--and tl;dr--and probably inaccurate--or at least inexpert--discussion of tenses in certain non-English languages.
focusedness' of the action, not on its temporal position relative to the utterance. So Valiyn and series0 aren't so much ignoring the rules of grammar as they are representing a different archetype. =)

Thanks for the feedback, everyone! It's been helpful to read through these, even if just to know that it doesn't matter much to people either way. What I've gleaned from the posts is: it depends on the story. Which is good to know. I must be the only "tense" snob. Haha.

I prefer to read in 3rd person omniscient, because I like to get to know the protagonist and to see the world through his/her eyes.

I lost prefer to write in the same tense, because I like to let readers know how my character is feeling about a certain decision that he made, a decision someone else made, ect.

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