Super Hero Characters Manufactured By The Writing Process

Robert Zwilling

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Is there a practical number for first person voices in a single section of a story?

Multiple first person voices can get the the story moving over wider fronts via parallel processing but can sacrifice readability. One first person voice uses serial processing which can result in the lead character being assigned multiple functions resulting from the need for certain jobs to be done in the story, but instead of creating multiple characters, one character is created to do all the work. This creates a super hero type character where none existed. Keeping the number of first person voices down in a section increases the capacity of the audience to successfully follow the story. Too many first person voices all at once and it is possible for people to start assigning the actions done by the characters to the wrong character. Two first person voices works okay when the two characters are lovers, so the audience treats that character combination as a single entity. You can slip in another first person voice and still have only two character type entities being tracked, instead of three by the audience.

Another way of keeping first person accounts down is to limit only one first person voice to a chapter, switching from chapter to chapter to get the plot assembled. This stretches out the plot actions over multiple people but also seems to isolate the plot line from the other characters and the unfolding story. It seems like you need a whole lot of short chapters to keep everything in focus.
 
Do you have any examples of the use of two (or more) first-person voices in a single section? I can't think of ever having seen that, and don't see how it would work.
 
I think the element of the "multiple man" or hive mind you're talking about could be handled all different ways, including a single narrator referring to her multiple POVs, but those aren't narrative POVs. That's a single POV with multiple eyes and bodies to refer to.

Alternating POVs between characters by chapter isn't so weird.
 
The story I was thinking of was a mystery, murder investigation, can't recall the author or title at the moment. I had the distinct impression that the internal thoughts of different characters who were speaking in the same section of the story were being described while the scene unfolded. It seemed more like a camera was following the different characters around, recording their talking and internal thoughts as subtitles.
 
The story I was thinking of was a mystery, murder investigation, can't recall the author or title at the moment. I had the distinct impression that the internal thoughts of different characters who were speaking in the same section of the story were being described while the scene unfolded. It seemed more like a camera was following the different characters around, recording their talking and internal thoughts as subtitles.
That sounds like omniscient third person narration, not multiple first person.
 
I'll have to find the book again. The reading of the words didn't resemble any feeling of narration. What would be the difference between omniscient third person narration and multiple first person accounts.
 
If it's first person, it's going to be written as "I" throughout eg "As I opened the door I thought about Fred again" and if Fred appears he is seen only through the POV character's eyes and we never hear his thoughts in that POV. Although it's possible to have two first person accounts in one novel, I've only seen this with alternating chapters and each headed with the POV character's name so there's no confusion.

If it's omniscient third person then it will be names or "He/She" throughout eg "As Beverley opened the door she thought about Fred again" but in omniscient you might have Fred appear in that scene and then hear his thoughts "Fred looked at Beverley and wondered how she had put on so much weight" -- this is usually known as head-hopping if it isn't done well. An alternative is to ensure only one POV per scene, which is less jarring for readers sensitive to head-hopping (ie fellow writers -- non-writers couldn't give a toss!).


EDIT: it occurs to me that what you're seeing as first person accounts is omniscient with quoted thoughts eg "Beverley opened the door. Oh, if only Fred were here!" and "Fred looked at Beverley. How's she got so fat?" Although we're hearing their thoughts directly instead of eg "Beverley wished Fred were there" or "'Oh, if only Fred were here,' Beverley thought", it's still third person narration because there's no "I" in the narrative itself.
 
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Omniscient third-person narration means you're privy to what's going on in the heads of all the characters, and things they don't know about, but it's all "he" and "she" and "they".

***
Robert asked about multiple first-person POV, as he had been wondering about it for a while.
TDZ tried to remember if she'd ever seen anything of the sort.
Onyx thought he was probably talking about omniscient third person stories.
***

Multiple first-person narrative would have every character telling what they know, using "I".

***
I had been wondering about using multiple first-person narrators, and asked the good folk of Chrons about it.
I don't remember ever having seen anything like that, and asked Robert what he meant.
I think it's about omniscient third-person narration, not multiple, and joined the discussion.
***

Oops, TJ beat me to it!
Err... I mean, "I jumped in with the answer, beating TDZ to the punch."
 
I'm going through the books. I just can't remember if it was all he or she said, or if it was I. It will be simple to check. The writing definitely left me thinking it was all said as I. I have trouble with imagined perspective, which seems to appear in the most unlikely places.
 
The only way that I could see multiple first person in the same chapter and scenes would be if there were actual divisions that identified each person.
Such as a heading
SARAH
I
I
I

BRAD
I
I
I

DAVE
I
I
I
out side of that there would have to be a cheat

I Sarah ....

I Brad...

I Dave...

So that identity would be established.
And that seems tiring.

However what you describe sounds like what is used in Dune.
Where throughout each section we hear several character thoughts and that's part of omniscient third.
The thoughts have that first person sort of flavor to them but the narrative is definitely not in first person.
 
The story uses he and she for identifying speakers, interchanged with names and job titles to identity the characters.
 

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