Sunday, April 10, 2011

I Love You Too, 3rd Person Narrative

Did you know that third-person narration is the most common narrative mode in literature?
As someone who mostly reads MG & YA literature, I found that surprising. It's my observation that a lot (maybe not 'most,' but a lot) of YA books these days are written in first person. And we like that. First persons have "authentic" voices, they make the characters seem more real, and they're more interesting than third-person narratives. Supposedly.

Third-persons, on the other hand, can be limiting. I've seen a lot of reviews where the chief reason for not liking a book is because the story was told in a 3rd person narrative. And that's fine, if that's your prerogative. I guess I don't need a book to be told in 1st person only in order to relate to the characters, or in order for them to seem real to me. It's kind of a bummer when I see this narrative mode dismissed for not being as cool-sounding or authentic as first-person. And as someone whose MS is written in third-person format, I'd hate to think that my story may be passed aside because my "character's voice" isn't strong enough or authentic-sounding. But that's a writing point. As a reader, I have to say that I usually love third-person narratives and am a little "iffy" on 1st persons.
A first-person narrative can be amazing and add a whole new dimension to a story, if the reader likes the narrator's voice. My favorite narrative voice to this day is Percy Jackson of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. On the other hand, the deciding factor between loving a book and...not exactly loving, has often been the voice of narrators not quite so endearing, like my personal experience with Katniss from the Hunger Games series (especially Mockingjay), Lily from Forgive My Fins, Bella from the Twilight series, and (though I liked the book as a whole), Ari from Darkness Becomes Her. In all of these cases, I got a little *too much* character attitude that, perhaps, a third-person style would have quelled. This is all my opinion.

So what is the real purpose of this random, meandering post? To declare my love and admiration for this popular and classic storytelling mode, and to offer up some of my favorite/well-known examples of effective, non-limiting books (that still managed to have three-dimensional characters!)

The Artemis Fowl series - Eoin Colfer
The Books of Bayern
- Shannon Hale
The Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis*
The Chronicles of Prydain - Lloyd Alexander*
The Great Tree of Avalon series - T.A. Barron
The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
Holes - Louis Sachar
The Hollow Kingdom
- Clare Dunkle
The Keys to the Kingdom series - Garth Nix
The Looking Glass Wars trilogy - Frank Beddor
The Mortal Instruments series - Cassandra Clare
The Redwall series - Brian Jacques
Sabriel - Garth Nix
The Septimus Heap series - Angie Sage
The Theatre Iluminata trilogy - Lisa Mantchev
Uglies - Scott Westerfeld
Wondrous Strange trilogy - Lesley Livingston**
A very recent debut,
Nevermore - Kelly Creagh
And lest we forget,
The Harry Potter series - J.K. Rowling

I tend to think, light-heartedly of course, that if third-person narratives were a good enough storytelling mode for J.K. Rowling to use, they're good enough for any future writer! Or reader.
So live on, third-person, whether limited or omniscient. There's just something enticing about your style.
Your fan,
Amelia :D

6 shout-outs!:

Ashley @ Book Labyrinth said...

I find it strange that people would dismiss a book based on the style of narration. Of course there are main characters who are going to annoy you, or that you may not connect with, but I think that happens in both 1st and 3rd person. I've always preferred 3rd person, actually, though I've read some really good 1st person novels lately. I guess in the end it doesn't really matter to me... as long as there are strong characters and an interesting plotline, I don't really care how it's written.

tara said...

I find a lot of books now are not only written in first person narrative, but first person present. I love the narrative voice in percy jackson. If you love the narrative voice in that, you should read The Lost Hero and also the Kane Chornicles, all by Rick Riordan. his narrative first person voice is so distinctive for each character.

The best third person narrative I've read is Cassandra Clare and JK Rowling. I think they are similar in some ways. Both fantastic story tellers. Both create amazing worlds, and they both have very distinctive, third person narrative voices. :)

anyway, great post! Good subject, too. :)

Anonymous said...

I've been currently writing my own story in third person narrative I also think a lot of Steampunk novels are written in 3rd person

My personal favorite 3rd person narrative was Nevermore and a short story by the author of rampant but I Adored nevermore I guess because it was infact written in third person and you don't get that very much

great post

Dazzling Mage said...

I prefer 3rd person to 1st myself. I'm more interested in the narrative voice than the character's voice (because, as you mentioned, the attitude problem).

Great post!

Gabrielle said...

Dismissing a book because of its perspective is silly. I love books written from 1st person and 3rd person, including many of the novels you listed. It really bothers me when a book switches from one point of view to another with out a noticeable break, though.

~The Book Pixie said...

I tend to favor first person narrative, however I've read some books where I was so glad it was third-person because it was just done so impeccibly well. Oddly enough, the MG book I'm kinda sorta writing is in third-person, which I never would have thought I'd do but when I had the book going through my head, it was with a third person narrative. lol. Great post. :D


P.S. The Uglies series and Wondrous Strange trilogy are amongst my faves!

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