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
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