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Brandon Sanderson Lecture 3: First person viewpoints (2/5)

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Brandon discusses the strengths and pitfalls of writing in a first person viewpoint. Next up: Third person viewpoints at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssEIn9dKVpg. See the entire class in one place with notes at http://www.writeaboutdragons.com/home/brandon_w2012/ Help us caption & translate this video! http://amara.org/v/CVf7/
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Text Comments (63)
Sabelor (7 months ago)
https://www.tor.com/2011/08/31/wikihistory/
Adrik (8 months ago)
Brandon rocks the shit out of that hat
Frida (1 year ago)
What do you (anyone in here) think of writing a story that starts, and occasionally in the beginning of chapters, in first person, an old person telling their story, then it goes into that story (the past) and it's in third? Have I been watching movies too much?
Brandon van Dam (1 year ago)
Quite a few, I'd read kristoff's nevernight as example
Rustyhound (1 year ago)
Frida Nyberg it works, however at that point I'd wonder why not just keep it all in 3rd person? Any particular reason for it?
MoonshineSazerac (1 year ago)
For the record, anywone watching this now, a great second-person book to read is The Fifth Season by the same author who wrote Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K Jemisin. Useful if you want to see how second-person can work in fantasy.
Adam Russell (2 years ago)
...Lionsgate has won a bidding war to adapt Patrick Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicle series! And not just into a movie, or a television series—but both, and a video game, to boot! This deal sets up the studio to develop the multiple stories from The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man’s Fear, and various novellas (including The Slow Regard of Silent Things) simultaneously and across multiple platforms.... http://www.tor.com/2015/10/01/patrick-rothfuss-name-of-the-wind-movie-tv-video-game-rights/ And let's not forget that Mr. Sanderson's, Steelheart, is soon to be a screenplay. Pretty nice work.
Adam Russell (2 years ago)
Brilliant man - I wonder how he has time to read with his Stormlight Archive due every other year for 10 total 1,000 page novels. Guessing he's not planning on kids (oh wait, he has three children...o.0 HOW???)
Bish Fish (2 years ago)
i really hate the name of the wind tbh
Errtuabyss (2 years ago)
If you don't want to bother then don't right anything in the first place. :P To your points: 1+2) I personaly agree. I also don't like that kind of character. I actually don't like Kvothe all that much overall. Not a all out Mary Sue char, but close enough. But here is the twist: You shouldn't like him as you like the main chars in other stories! Kvothe doesn't like himself. He thinks of himself as a failure. He hates himself. Look at the overall plot with the chronicler and how he has to force him to talk about his story. That is one of the very clever and interesting things Rothfuss did in his book that was so new and fresh. 3) I disagree here. What you are basically saying is that you have to write a book with a full story, an conclusion and a straight line plot. And maybe a questor destiny that the hero has to fullfil OR a character study. I don't belife that to be true. Think more about Tolkin and how he wrote LotR. Each book focuses on a subplot (after beeing forced to split his book that is ;) ) but it is a very tight trilogy where one book goes right into the next. The other thing you might missed is that most of the story acctually isn't about Kvothe but about basically everything else. It is all this smaller stories within, with much more likeble chars. Did you noticed like positively Kvothe describes his friends? How much detail he puts in everything he is describing that isn't focused on himself? He is even skipping important parts of his story because there is nobody else besides him that he can talk about. 4) Again: What do you mean by it? Denna (or whatever her real name is... spoiler!..?) is a very important char. And a very, very.. well, singular ;) Auri is one of the most beloved char in all the books. She even got her own book! Which I still didn't read.. damn it! And think about an other thing: most of the time he is alone. Even after he got friends they couldn't help him with most of his struggles he is telling about. How do you want more women put in there? The more.. brief encounters are in the secound book after he learns all about.... women :P 5) Again I don't get your point. What exactly is it you are missing? What kind of originality are you speaking of? Isn't the university original? or the way he portrays magic? The Ademre? Chandrian and the other lore? Are you looking just for different from generic fantasy? Overall I don't think the books or the world are perfect. There are plenty of things I didn't like about it. Like in most other books or worlds. But overall I really like his style and the very different tone he brings to fantasy. There are only a few other subgenres or authors that I liked that much. In my experience if people hate something that is very highly regardet otherwise it is because they had very high but wrong expectations (somebody talked very highly of it and said things about it you then expectet but didn't find in it) or because they just don't like the genre/style. In most cases the people did like some things about it and got invested and didn't get what they hoped for. Maybe it is just something like that for you?
Bish Fish (2 years ago)
I do have a reasonable critique. I didn't say it in this comment because I didn't really think anyone would see it and I didn't want to bother. And yes, I know that "it's not stuff I like" is insensible. Please don't assume that I'm stupid. There were a lot of things I disliked about the book, but in short: 1) I thought Kvothe was way overpowered without sufficient explanation. All they said was "he's a genius." Generally, if a person's a genius, they're super smart in one way, not amazing at battle strategy AND knows exactly what to say to people to get their way AND is really adept at magic AND can theorize really well AND- well, you get the point. Kvothe's "intelligence" made him ultra-proficient at basically everything he needed to be amazing at, and I didn't find it that interesting. If he's gonna be that good at everything, I want more explanation of why. 2) Besides all that, I didn't really like Kvothe as a character. His snarkiness and ability to get out of any situation made him fun to read about at times, yes, but I didn't think he had that much complexity and development, and wasn't a full enough character. In a lot of books, this wouldn't really be a problem. If enough focus is on the plot, you can get away with not much character development besides what is needed for the plot to work. However- 3) TNOTW didn't really have a concise plot. Things happened, but there was no arc or unified goal that we were always heading towards. It was simply a chronicle of Kvothe's child and teenager hood. Now, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. However, if you're going to do this, you have to develop your character much, much more than Rothfuss did and make them more complex. 4) Women. Where are the women. 5) The world was very well developed and rich, sure, but I didn't find it all that interesting. This is partly personal preference, but, besides the complexity, there wasn't much that made it unique, and had a similar atmosphere to worlds in many other high fantasy books. It wasn't like the world in, say, a Sanderson book, where it's both well developed and original. There are more, but these are just the main ones that I can think of right now. 
Errtuabyss (2 years ago)
+diefacingourfoes Which you just through out there to sound edgy? Or do you have any sensible critique? Mind that "it's not like stuff I like" is not sensible or meaningful in any way.
Rat (3 years ago)
what about multiple third person? would that fall inbetween third limited and third omniscient?
Barbara (2 years ago)
Yes, I guess so but in the Third Limited. Don't confuse it with "Body Hopper Omniscient" that Sanderson talks about a little earlier in this lecture.
Rat (2 years ago)
+Barbara thanks. so its kinda like headhopping right?
Barbara (2 years ago)
I'd say it's "multiple view point, third limited". A lot of Fantasy is like this, where you have the story told from different characters' perspectives but only one character's perspective acts as the window into what's happening in each section.
Lydia Casaus (3 years ago)
What college is this? I love the way he explains things and he funny lol thanks for uploading
Lake Hill (3 years ago)
+Lydia Casaus BYU
a.m. ramblings (3 years ago)
I wonder if this is the "time traveller's always kill hitler their first time" story Brandon talk about? http://www.tor.com/2011/08/31/wikihistory/
Edward Manning (2 years ago)
+worldfullofbooks Yes - that's the one. It's referenced by name @10:21 in the video.
Erica Beardsley (3 years ago)
What if you're telling a story in multiple first person, and you have one of the narrators die? Could that theoretically work, or would it be too difficult and strange? Also, as ridiculous as it's going to sound, what if there was a comedy-fantasy type book written in future tense? My brother draws and writes a comic series about mages that's absolutely ridiculous, and he tried converting it to a novel and it was told from all the characters viewpoints (there are several characters, and they were on a mission and botched it so they were all explaining why it went wrong from their pov. Each person had their own chapter to explain, so there wasn't any body hopping). Each character, naturally, had their own specific style, and one of them kept switching between all the tenses. My brother did it on purpose, because the character is sort of dim-witted, and would definitely do that sort of thing. But would that work, or is it too difficult to follow?
Paul Williams (3 years ago)
+Erica Beardsley Well, the problem with multiple first person view points is that first person is a very close reader to character relationship, and it usually works with one main character, which could make it hard for readers to follow more than two 1st person narrators at one time. 3rd person would make more sense. Future tense I imagine would be very strange, and difficult to do, and when writing a novel I have always seen it encouraged to be past tense, but for a book so strange, and funny it might be fine to shake things up, even if it will be very difficult. If the characters are writing their own stories, then the switching tenses would make sense, but this also could be a breaking the 4th wall novel. There are many possibilities, and making something entirely new, and your own is the main thing that creates popular fiction, so I would tell your brother that he's on the right track, but he might want to research exceptions to the normal writing rules that most authors follow. Good luck, I hope I can read the book someday!
OverNightGaming (3 years ago)
I wonder what his comments would be on the Witcher books. Which has multiple perspective and the most interesting thing is that a lot of the story is told by a bard who is looking back at the events but he himself was involved with these characters and in fact the closest friend of the protagonist.
Fenriz the Jester (8 months ago)
The Witcher follows a Polish tradition of writing in 3rd p. omniscient when it comes to epic novels.
Mattofcolumbia1783 (11 months ago)
I wondered the same thing. Dandelion is great.
Mionysus (4 years ago)
In regards to the "Wikihistory" Time Traveler story, everybody kills Hitler, but nobody drops Stalin or Mao (who actually slaughtered a lot more people than Hitler.) It seems Jewish propaganda and Hollywood-history have done their jobs very well.
Louis Williamson (9 months ago)
Killing Hitler would stop world war 2. maximum 50 million died under Stalin; 50-80 million died in ww2. I know which one I would kill.
ReyesdeMadrid (1 year ago)
The time travel to kill Hitler is played out everyone has an answer. I do think killing Mao or Stalin would save more lives, but if you want to be conterversial ask yourself, If you had the opportunity to go back in time and kill the Prophet Muhammed, and only him, no one else, would you?
Soda? (3 years ago)
+Mionysus Yea of course i totally agree. Still those things don't make him any less horrible is all i meant. He is one of many horrible people to choose from but still a good choice. (imo)
Mionysus (3 years ago)
+Jake Cremer I'm just saying that the Hitler as the arch-devil for ever and all time is a tired hat, when obviously other evil men killed a lot more and the evil men today who are ruling us are still killing while making a killing in business. And obviously a starving artist bum ascended to that tremendous level of power with a lot more help than just his oratory skills. Yes, the pumped out history textbooks tell us the neat events that lead to his rise but they just fail to mention that American capitalism and corporations contributed greatly to the rise of Nazism and German war preparations. J.P. Morgan, the Rockefeller interests, General Electric, Standard Oil, Ford Motor Company, IBM, Manhattan Banks and scores of others assisted in Hitler's rise; as WWII was extremely profitable for a select group of financial insiders. So all that blood isn't just on boogeyman Hitler's hands.
Soda? (3 years ago)
+Mionysus Lol so your basically saying its not "original" to want to go back and kill Hitler instead of Stalin or someone else...Also i don't know what you mean by Jewish propaganda but i think its clear people chose Hitler because of the fact he was responsible for starting World War 2 and essentially ignoring the Treaty of Versailles. Built an army, stocked weapons, and made pacts with Japan and Italy then proceeded to invade Austria and fake an election forcing Austria to be absorbed. All within a three year span. Oh yea and the Holocaust which comes later. So yea, I would kill Hitler.
Jack East (4 years ago)
John Titor is the forum time traveler
Andrei Piutorian (4 years ago)
The Name of the Wind is fucking trash; shit characters, aimless story, generic setting... The fact that Rothfuss basically plays the main character is also disgusting. I get that at times focus on traits that are important to you and other things you can relate to, but hot damn, his entire series is basically a heroic fantasy version of himself - though not less shitty than the real one, that's for sure. There were way better fantasy series released in the early 2000s, and The Prince of Nothing trilogy definitely gets my vote as the best one. It's masterfully written and unlike any other fantasy series, while not relying on gimmicks like "unreliable narrator" for its popularity.
Zoaz (1 year ago)
Yeah, I guess it's harsh, but I do think it's very justified. The guy seems to love build-up, but hate delivering.. I mean, for example, hearing from the man in the pub about the monsters out in the dark was a tense and interesting setup for a plot... that ends with an ''off camera' fight out in the woods that we never get to see and everything is all neatly resolved. No struggle to work out what kills the things or anything. Wrap it up and tie a bow on it. I had a very strong feeling that this would be a recurring theme. I mean, forget about interesting stuff with creepy spider things attacking people, nope, back to the day-to-day grind of generic kitchen-sink fantasy fluff. Such a let-down. The last straw was childhood for me as well - when he got to the lead-free greasepaint and him slowly learning magic for several chapters, I just gave up (turns out I was only 13% in, according to Kindle). I had a very strong hunch his parents would be brutally murdered off-camera by mysterious people and then he would go off to mope and seek revenge, or some crap. I just wasn't prepared to sit through nearly a thousand pages in the hope that something interesting would happen. Oh well.
Frida (1 year ago)
Wow, those are harsh words. I tried reading it a couple of years ago, thought they were setting up a really good story, with threats coming in the distance... and then they sit down and talk about his childhood, an entirely DIFFERENT story. I read that for a little while, then wondered "when are we going back to the story?" When I checked the rest of the book and noticed it's all going to be this, I put it down and haven't picked it up since. I felt cheated and lied to.
Zoaz (1 year ago)
Thank you for saying that. I don't know why it's so popular. A third of the way in and the main character is barely sitting down to tell his apparently super-interesting story. That's where it should have started. And when you realise that, you realise that starting there makes the whole set-up feel hackneyed. And then the story itself, well. It was pretty dull.
benjamin ross (4 years ago)
agreed the kingkiller chronicles were horrible
trevork1980 (4 years ago)
A great example of an unreliable first-person narrator is Alex in A Clockwork Orange (yes, there is a book).
OverNightGaming (3 years ago)
+trevork1980 Fight Club? another classic example
Trevor Mullins (4 years ago)
What's it going to be then, eh?
Sebastian Scharnagl (4 years ago)
Thanks for sharing But I've never seen a more fucked up handwriting
lynx lot (8 months ago)
Sebastian Scharnagl you haven't seen mine
Mutt Fitness (4 years ago)
http://www.tor.com/stories/2011/08/wikihistory is the story they are talking about
Mary Ann Millhouse (4 years ago)
Thanks!!
SixthSenseSynesthete (4 years ago)
I really just want him to throw a gummy bear at the camera. 
Talking Leaves (5 years ago)
I want to read the 100,000 Kingdoms and The Name of The Wind this year (2014). Has any other's read them and agree what Sanderson says?
Apofisu (5 years ago)
What school is this? I think I heard him mention BYU in another lecture?
TruthSurge (5 years ago)
That's a technique you use in kindergarten, not for adults.
Sophrosynicle (5 years ago)
It's also a properly used teaching technique, to keep the students attention. Don't view it as a Pavlov type of deal.
Mark Brenner (5 years ago)
if the first thing every time traveler does is kill hitler, wouldn't it be better to go back and kill ghengis khan?
PatBenatarRulz (5 years ago)
John Tidor was great; read him on the time traveler's website.
Auditia Yudha (5 years ago)
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Maddy Brewster (6 years ago)
I never thought I'd hear Brandon Sanderson saying "I never can write."
Phusius Heron (6 years ago)
I wish he had mentioned Heroes Die / Blade of Tyshalle by Matt Stover, my favorite fantasy thus far.
Thomas Giles (6 years ago)
Wikihistory
covmeister (6 years ago)
having massive problems finding those books in Ireland. Looks like im gonna have to use the ol plastic demon.
sariahsue (6 years ago)
I should have just waited. He writes it on the board later.
sariahsue (6 years ago)
Wikihistory by Desmond Warzel is the short story he's referring to around 6:30. I Googled it.
Carry C (6 years ago)
Just started reading The name of the wind. Amazing! Absolutly love it!
Words and Wyverns (6 years ago)
Just read the Warzel pistolary piece. Had me chuckling like a fool. Love the 1st person forum post apporach, would love to see more of it.
CorporateInk (6 years ago)
Rothfuss is amazing.
David Allen (6 years ago)
The Bartimaeous Trilogy by JonathanStroud: First and Third Person. Really Good. One of my favorites. Just read the first Chapter.

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