KassX

Differentiating First Person POVs??!!

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*runs sobbing hysterically to the forum*

So I finally got comfortable enough to expand my project set to three, and of course, because I literally hate myself, I decided to do them all in first person, like my main project.  Now I’m constantly on edge because if I relax for one second, all three MCs start to sound exactly the same and THEY ARE VERY DIFFERENT PEOPLE. I really want them to sound different in their own heads. Does anyone have any advice on differentiating first person POVs? Have you had to do that before? I feel shackled by my active vocabulary and natural narrative structure!

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Yeah, I know that first-person is a very specific stylistic choice, but I’ve really grown to like it. I’ve been doing FP for four odd years now but it used to be just two characters who weren’t that different from each other, lol.

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Okay so I don’t ‘like’ to write 1st POV, but that’s only because it limits what scenes I can do and what I can show. I felt that limitation most when I wrote Blackbird because fuuuuck so much was going on, and if he wasn’t in the scene, the readers couldn’t be privy! That being said, some stories demand 1st POV. So for quite a few years, all my main projects ended up 1st POV whether I liked it or not.

So believe me, I know your pain. 

I had a few ways to differentiate between MCs. Though I’m not sure if you’re talking about multiple MCs in a single story or the three MCs across your three stories. I guess either way the solutions would be the same. I just get real nervous for writers who attempt to do multiple 1st povs in one story lol. 

  1. The characters really had to have STRONG personalities. This is the biggest one for me. Before I started a story, I would consider the last couple MCs and figure out ways to set them apart, which for me usually involved big differences in Masculine/feminine traits. Some were campier than others. I never really go hyper masculine for a MC, but someone super effeminate will naturally have different internal dialogue. A quiet and subdued character can be a strong personality we don’t see all that often. Some chars are outgoing and playful while others are more jaded or confrontational. All these things can be reflected in the internal dialogue to set them apart. 
  2. Origins. This is a little harder to utilize unless you’re really comfortable with the culture they come from. Trying to do a southern accent in dialogue if you’ve only heard it like once or twice and did a quick google search might end up feeling a little contrived unless you keep it really subtle. And it can get real annoying to keep doing a couple choice slang all through your narrative without the actual speech patterns lol. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be from the south and have an accent enough that it helps set them apart from other characters. Also consider social class. Someone raised in the trailer park in Kansas will probably talk and think differently than someone raised in a multi million dollar gated community. Their vocabulary will be different based on a lot of factors: culture, education level, hobbies, hometown. Where I come from, everyone calls ‘hoodies’ ‘bunny hugs’. I never even heard the term ‘hoodie’ until I moved away when I was 16 lol. 
  3. Priorities. Grammar matters more to some people than others. Are they misanthropic? Do they act differently around strangers than they do family or lovers? 

Of course these are things to consider ANYWAY that most of us already know, but when you’re doing 1st POV they’re doubly useful. And it helps to take them a step farther. Stress parts of them that make them unique from your competing MCs. 

Hope that helps a little! 

Edited by CloverReef
Making grammar consistent.

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@CloverReef YOU ARE A LIFESAVER

Love what you said about accents, I hadn’t even thought about that but of course, there’s always a certain risk associated with that.

Of course I’m not trying to do multiple first person perspectives in one story, lol, I don’t hate myself THAT much  :D One of my favorite authors (and the one who turned me on to FP in my own writing style) handled the whole limitation thing by switching to third person close perspectives of two other MCs to supplement the FP POV. I don’t know that I’m comfortable with doing that (although I thought he did it well for the most part) but so far I think my stories haven’t felt a need to ‘jump out’ of the MC’s head. 

I think the issue that I’m running into is that two of the three have somewhat subdued personalities (that shouldn’t mean boring though…) while the other has a loud one that I’m really used to writing in because he was the first. 

Okay, I’m actually going to copy+paste everything you just said into a doc and workshop my MCs tonight. THANK YOU!!! :yahoo:

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Oh two subdued ones! No wonder you were in a pickle. Let me know how you decide to differentiate between them!

Edited by CloverReef
Randomly deleted one exclamation mark.

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Okay, I’m gonna summarize some of my brainstorming – I actually did characteristic groupings based on the categories you gave me. You actually made me realize I’m writing my first character sub-optimally too :cry:

Rayce
1. Sarcastic, egotistic, confrontational, thinks he's hilarious and sometimes isn't, easily distracted, kind of just an all-around party hardy frat boy, but he's really just fronting very hard because he thinks he can't live up to the expectations placed on him.
2. He spent a lot of time in prison and was like, a D student before that, so maybe his voice shouldn't be as flowery as I sometimes make it (because I like my pretty ass prose, dammit...). He probably doesn't care about grammar and talks in slang a lot. (Prison slang??? I've never tried that)
3. Probably only focused on what's directly in front of him at any given time, ignoring problems until they come back to bite him in the ass. He wouldn't notice a lot of details in a room, for example (so I shouldn’t over-describe them...). Pushy. Veeeerry pushy with his lovers but seems to want a deeper relationship while doing nothing to deserve it. Tries to 'dominate' strangers in a conversation and establish himself as an 'alpha male' – he should come on stronger in dialogue.

Jurei
1. Collected most of the time but has a temper when pushed. A complete narcissist who thinks he's the prettiest/smartest/most enlightened in any given room. When reality contradicts that self-image, it usually results in a meltdown – WRITE THE MELTDOWNS
2. He was raised in a rich home and is highly educated, so he might be able to adopt the flowery prose that I'm going to have to cut from Rayce's narrative. He's Japanese, so he could be polite (at least on the surface); I hope that doesn't seem stereotypical though. He does talk down to people in lower social classes, however.
3. He prides himself on having all the information all the time, so he should be more attentive to detail (more description of scenery/people/things). Misanthropic towards people that aren't as privileged as him but very respectful to higher ranking people. He melts for his lovers because it's a nice break from being on his A game all the time, romantic with his doms, but pushy with subs especially lower ranking ones (he should probably deprecate them in his internal dialogue to rationalize his behavior). He'll take what he wants by force if he has to.

Flaere 
1. Timid, he doesn't have enough self-worth to have a temper. Tries to do the right thing. Fundamentally a hopeful person. Complies/gives in to abuse easily because of a lack of self esteem. Actually quite bright and learns new things easily when given a chance and treated with kindness (should give him a more curious/questioning voice). 
2. This one's hard, he was a runaway from the circus and raised as an orphan so I'm not really sure what his origins say about his voice. It probably doesn't veer too far in Rayce's direction or Jurei's. 
3. Places himself at the bottom of the food chain, so tends to overstate the abilities/appearance of everyone else. Crumbles under abusive lovers, borderline worships the ones who are nice to him. Loves being complimented and hangs onto kind words.

-> Flaere is the hardest for me because so far the way I've written him, his only defining trait is very 'oh woe is me'self-deprecation and I frankly don't think that's a great or interesting trait by itself. Gonna have to work on him. 
 

Sorry for wall of text  :blush: But this is why I love talking shop with you guys; I always feel like I learn so much. I just have to make that stuff come out in the narratives ^

3 hours ago, CloverReef said:

Where I come from, everyone calls ‘hoodies’ ‘bunny hugs’. I never even heard the term ‘hoodie’ until I moved away when I was 16 lol. 

 
  1. M. G. I want to start calling them bunny hugs now, that is a-freaking-dorable :D

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6 minutes ago, KassX said:

He probably doesn't care about grammar and talks in slang a lot. (Prison slang??? I've never tried that)

lol I watch like a billion prison shows, reality and drama, and all I can think of is… punk and chomo. They usually have slang for stuff they’re not allowed to have (like drugs and stuff) but that probably wouldn’t follow them out into the free world huh? But I totally do that too. Especially when I collab with friends. Like chars that are hardened criminals who didn’t spend a day in school, much less went to the trouble to learn on their own, using big, pretentious words. Like wtf? No Chad, his hair isn’t iridescent, it’s purple and blue! 

 

18 minutes ago, KassX said:

Veeeerry pushy with his lovers but seems to want a deeper relationship while doing nothing to deserve it

LOL I love characters like that. Lovable douchebags. 

 

26 minutes ago, KassX said:

WRITE THE MELTDOWNS

Yaaas! Preach! 

27 minutes ago, KassX said:

; I hope that doesn't seem stereotypical though.

Nothing wrong with using stereotypes. They only become a problem, in my not so humble opinion, when they’re not balanced by non-stereotypical traits and feel like caricatures. Or, you know, when they’re blatantly racist too. That’s usually a bad idea lol.

 

32 minutes ago, KassX said:

This one's hard, he was a runaway from the circus and raised as an orphan so I'm not really sure what his origins say about his voice. It probably doesn't veer too far in Rayce's direction or Jurei's. 

This is an interesting one. Did he pass from house to house (foster homes) or spend his formative years in the circus or an orphanage? I know some kids who feel they’ve been lacking role models or parents tend to pick their own. Sometimes its older kids in the neighbourhood. In poverty stricken areas, this might be gangs or cops or community volunteers who had an impact on them. For some kids, they pick a celebrity or an ideal. Like cowboys or samurai or… Lady Gaga? And model themselves, their language and behaviour after their chosen idols, like way more obsessively than typical kids. 

39 minutes ago, KassX said:

Flaere is the hardest for me because so far the way I've written him, his only defining trait is very 'oh woe is me'self-deprecation and I frankly don't think that's a great or interesting trait by itself. Gonna have to work on him

Woe is me could always manifest in a multitude of defining ways. Cutters, emo music, emotional breakdowns, crippling depression, addictions, pushing people away who are good for him. There’s a lot of ways you could go with that that I’d personally find quite interesting, because it can be so toxic and emotional and yet relatable. 

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25 minutes ago, CloverReef said:

Like chars that are hardened criminals who didn’t spend a day in school, much less went to the trouble to learn on their own, using big, pretentious words. Like wtf? No Chad, his hair isn’t iridescent, it’s purple and blue! 

 

Omg, I don’t want to oversimplify the prose, because it’s fantasy/sci-fi and I need my freaking vocabulary just to convey what’s happening, lol. Well, he was from a privileged home and his father and brother are super smart, so maybe he picked up some stuff? 

27 minutes ago, CloverReef said:

LOL I love characters like that. Lovable douchebags. 

1

That’s why he was my first character :D

28 minutes ago, CloverReef said:

Nothing wrong with using stereotypes. They only become a problem, in my not so humble opinion, when they’re not balanced by non-stereotypical traits and feel like caricatures. Or, you know, when they’re blatantly racist too. That’s usually a bad idea lol.

 

Good point, lol. He reads like a westerner in a lot of ways so I think I’m in the green. 

29 minutes ago, CloverReef said:

This is an interesting one. Did he pass from house to house (foster homes) or spend his formative years in the circus or an orphanage?

 

So his schtick is basically, the ringmaster was going to sell him to a traveling freak show, so naturally, he did what any sane person would do and burned down the entire freaking big top and most of the people inside so he could run away. That was when he was 11-12. He winds up in this crime-ridden noir city in an orphanage that just kind of exists because it has to and gets bounced around foster homes through his teenage years because he’s schizophrenic and acts out violently.

35 minutes ago, CloverReef said:

I know some kids who feel they’ve been lacking role models or parents tend to pick their own. Sometimes its older kids in the neighbourhood. In poverty stricken areas, this might be gangs or cops or community volunteers who had an impact on them. For some kids, they pick a celebrity or an ideal. Like cowboys or samurai or… Lady Gaga? And model themselves, their language and behaviour after their chosen idols, like way more obsessively than typical kids. 

3

 That is actually REALLY INTERESTING; I am going to have to sit down and think seriously about that. I definitely think he gravitated towards a boxer/MMA fighter type because he chose to get into the ring as an adult. Didn’t really pick or create a specific one though.

38 minutes ago, CloverReef said:

Woe is me could always manifest in a multitude of defining ways. Cutters, emo music, emotional breakdowns, crippling depression, addictions, pushing people away who are good for him. There’s a lot of ways you could go with that that I’d personally find quite interesting, because it can be so toxic and emotional and yet relatable. 

1

Very, very solid analysis: I’d def go the depression/emotional breakdown route with him because he reads kinda sensitive. His other personality has the self-harm aspect covered because he wants to go on a killing spree and then kill themselves lol. Flaere is a double whammy because I chose to write a mentally ill character without a lot of background info on mental illness and that honestly wasn’t very smart but maybe I can make up for it now. 

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5 minutes ago, KassX said:

Very, very solid analysis: I’d def go the depression/emotional breakdown route with him because he reads kinda sensitive. His other personality has the self-harm aspect covered because he wants to go on a killing spree and then kill themselves lol. Flaere is a double whammy because I chose to write a mentally ill character without a lot of background info on mental illness and that honestly wasn’t very smart but maybe I can make up for it now. 

Mental illness is a very personal experience. It might actually be good that you don’t come into it with a complete education on it because it can be easy to write their symptoms too textbook. I’d just suggest watching a couple documentaries maybe if you feel too lacking. Otherwise, I grew up around paranoid schizophrenic and bipolar family members and have done a ton of research on my own, so feel free to PM me if you have any questions. 

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2 minutes ago, CloverReef said:

Mental illness is a very personal experience. It might actually be good that you don’t come into it with a complete education on it because it can be easy to write their symptoms too textbook. I’d just suggest watching a couple documentaries maybe if you feel too lacking. Otherwise, I grew up around paranoid schizophrenic and bipolar family members and have done a ton of research on my own, so feel free to PM me if you have any questions. 

Good idea, and I’m hoping not to offend you but I was majorly inspired to write this story by the movie ‘Split’,  if you’ve seen it, which also influenced the way I wrote Flaere’s disorder. I used a kind of ‘spotlight’ mechanic as well. I know it’s not an accurate representation but damn, was it entertaining. 

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Oh no, I’m fascinated by stuff like that! Sure it’s problematic to always depict the mentally ill as psychopaths and killers, but horrors and thrillers are rife with problematic shit. Someone should definitely do something about that. In the meantime I’m gonna keep watching because horror movies are awesome. All that’s just to say no, I haven’t seen Split yet, but I intend to! 

Don’t worry about offending me. One of my favourite movies from my childhood is a transphobic piece of trash that in theory enrages me, but in practice, a total guilty pleasure. Yay Sleepaway Camp. 

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4 minutes ago, CloverReef said:

Oh no, I’m fascinated by stuff like that! Sure it’s problematic to always depict the mentally ill as psychopaths and killers, but horrors and thrillers are rife with problematic shit. Someone should definitely do something about that. In the meantime I’m gonna keep watching because horror movies are awesome. All that’s just to say no, I haven’t seen Split yet, but I intend to! 

Don’t worry about offending me. One of my favourite movies from my childhood is a transphobic piece of trash that in theory enrages me, but in practice, a total guilty pleasure. Yay Sleepaway Camp. 

I love trash horror movies :D Split is awesome, def check that out. And thanks for all the help! Might be hitting you up in PM a bit later… 

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Well (took me almost a day to see this, but it’s in my wheelhouse) for almost ten years I wrote almost exclusively rotating 1st person rotating POV. I liked it because I could control clues to both the reader and the characters.  That first cast had really strong personalities, I bet I could write a new scene with their unlabelled POVs and my long-suffering beta could still identify which character was speaking even after five years. A half million words.

And that strong personality is the most important thing. These characters had different moralities and ethics, people skills, slang/formal language usage, faith/lack thereof, careers/specialties- especially if illegal, goals. That’s before you even consider traumas and obsessions and backstories.

Pick a specific actor/part for their line delivery, think how different Robin Williams was for the genie and in Dead Poet Society. Make a familiar character/person to be the core basis and add setting based stuff.  Yes, this is all characterization, but that last bit that makes the character gel and become unique and memorable. It binds the fictional universes together, because without chars, the story is just a checklist of events. (stories like that are so painful)

This is why stories heavy in OCs are a challenge, the new characters haven’t differentiated enough to be interesting. I had mental baseball caps I put on the change gears to another character in that first series. I don’t know how I made them the first time, so newer ones are seconds. You need that strong personality and look at the scene/events from their bias and needs. They look out your eyes at the scene you made.  You could joke that I have multiple personalities: assassins, paladin, shadewalker, healer, Sith, and Jedi. It would not be that off, and waiting in line causes odd commentary...

Later series weren’t quite as strong. And I’m struggling in my current big story. Original flash stories and other shorts just don’t have as strong personalities they focus on revelation/plot.

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Wow, that’s the dream for a first person writer. I’ve been doing it for less time and only just started running into problems. Definitely seeing that strong characters are going to make the difference – underdeveloped characters kill 1st POV. For the benefit of your poor betas, I hope you finished that story, lol. 

29 minutes ago, Anesor said:

Pick a specific actor/part for their line delivery, think how different Robin Williams was for the genie and in Dead Poet Society. Make a familiar character/person to be the core basis and add setting based stuff.  Yes, this is all characterization, but that last bit that makes the character gel and become unique and memorable. It binds the fictional universes together, because without chars, the story is just a checklist of events. (stories like that are so painful)

3

I LOVE THIS. That’s really smart. I usually have a lot going on so it’s a real challenge to balance events with character voices but my reasoning is people come for the story and stay for the characters, hell, look at all those TV shows that should have been cancelled years ago but are still going strong, usually because no one wants to let go of the characters. 

Quote

This is why stories heavy in OCs are a challenge, the new characters haven’t differentiated enough to be interesting.

 

Loooool, I only write originals fml I have to do all the work all the time

Quote

I had mental baseball caps I put on the change gears to another character in that first series. I don’t know how I made them the first time, so newer ones are seconds. You need that strong personality and look at the scene/events from their bias and needs. They look out your eyes at the scene you made.  You could joke that I have multiple personalities: assassins, paladin, shadewalker, healer, Sith, and Jedi. It would not be that off, and waiting in line causes odd commentary...

1

I like this quote from your siggy:  “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” -- E. L. Doctorow I think 1st POV is the most obvious manifestation of this :D But damn, 1st person is so rewarding when you get in the groove and you feel like you’re nailing it, but it’s an utter misery if you feel even a little off with the voice. The anxiety is real, lol. Thanks so much for chiming in, I loved your analysis! 

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