"I am born." "I had a farm in Africa" "I have never begun a novel with more misgiving." Back in the day, novels written in the first person got some respect. When did that change?

I don't know if it's a mystery thing or a "literary" thing, but it seems that writing in third person (or some other variation or combination) gets all the reviews while first person novels are somehow written off as lightweight, anyone-can-bang-them-out yarns. When I started Pushing up Daisies, I wrote in the third person - then when it seemed I'd be writing a series I switched to first to put my protagonist right in the action. I had fun writing lines like "I whacked him in the head with the weed whacker", or "my foot connected with his nose..."

What do you guys think?

BTW Anyone know the titles of the books those three first lines are from? First right answer gets a kewpie doll..


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Comment by Rosemary Harris on May 29, 2007 at 9:24pm
ST, it may be an epigraph but GE is an NO....
Comment by Pepper Smith on May 29, 2007 at 3:58pm
1st person is actually more difficult to write well than people in general think. That may really be part of the problem with the down-trend (or at least the perception of one, I don't know one way or the other) in first person narratives. Too many people write first person thinking it will be easy and don't do it well.

which is a shame, because when it IS done well, it's like living the story with the character.
Comment by Steven Torres on May 29, 2007 at 3:52pm
Actually, I think the "I am Born" is an epigraph, not a line. Could be wrong. My copy of GE is on a shelf ten feet away, but that's too far at this hour.
Comment by Steven Torres on May 29, 2007 at 3:44pm
Great Expectations Life on an African Farm and some other book?

Henry James didn't appreciate 1st person noveling. Thought it was a bit of a cheat.

The difficulty in 1st person is, of course, coming up with a person the reader wants to be with for 300 pages.

The difficulty with 3rd person is limiting the omniscience. Where to draw the boundaries (and they must be drawn, not just in mysteries where revealing everything from the get go doesn't work, but in other novels as well and for the same reasons) and how to draw them in such a way so as not to bring attention on the narrator are the problems, I think. This means chosing a POV (or several POVs). One POV (or any limited number) may not be convenient at all times.

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