Saturday, August 15, 2009

First Person Point of View

I've recently been asked to change my book from first person point of view to third. At first, I kicked and screamed and cried NOOOOO! But then I considered the reasons behind the request and thought perhaps it would give my book more depth and create a way to add scenes from the male character's POV that would help the story to progress. I agreed to give it a try. Three weeks later, and half insane from the tedious job of turning every "I, me, we, us and mine" into it's third person counterpart, my fingers were raw and sore and my mind was mush. My book however, (at least in my mind) is a masterpiece.

Over the years I've heard several writers express their opinions about first person POV and have received a wide range of answers. I was told once that it was the true sign of a novice and that no publisher in their right mind would touch it, but then we have the (used way too much as an example) Twilight Series. All in first person and a huge hit. Except....she did sneak in some of Jacob's thoughts in the last two books. So is that cheating?

I'm quickly becoming a fan of 3rd person, but would like to hear your opinions on this issue.


  1. Third person is much easier for me to write than first person. I'm not sure why, it's just what I gravitate to. I do know that my mom, who reads voraciously, will not pick up a book if it is in first person. (Yes, that means she has NOT read Twilight.) I'm not sure why she feels that way, but she said it just gets on her nerves. As I writer, I prefer being the omnicient narrator and being able to jump around in my characters' heads. That being said, I did write a short story for Writer's Digest's contest in May that was in first person. It just fit the story better since it was a personal memoir and allowed me to take more liberties with my opinion and how I saw the situation. So for me, I guess it depends on what I'm writing.

  2. I used to always write in third person. Then I went to a writer's workshop where I learned that many books for younger readers are written in first person. Since that's who I write for, I decided to give it a try.

    It was so easy! The point-of-view character got an instant, present, powerful voice. The trouble was, since my pov character wasn't a poet, I couldn't go off in long flowing descriptions of the scenery like I used to.

    Most books for adults are written in third person. That's the standard. But in YA and Children's fiction, first person is the default point of view. It lends to a smaller word count, faster pacing, and a single, strong main character who is easy to identify with. On the other hand, first person limits the artistry of the prose and the complexity of the story, things adults want more of.

  3. I actually brought this up in a agent chat last Thursday. I'm seeing more and more books in first person with short, quippy sentences and it personally is starting to feel cliche.

    I like the literary capablities of third person POV, and I love getting into the heads of all my characters--not just the self absorbed "I" person.

    Good luck with the POV change. I'm glad your editor suggested it:)

  4. I prefer third so it's easier to have multiple POV characters (it's possible in first, but a little harder. I recently heard about a book with one child POV character in first person and the rest of the POV characters in third person).

    But I write fairly deep third person, so it has a lot of the power and voice of first person, but the flexibility of third.

    I often do shorter pieces in first, though. No idea why.

  5. I believe it depends on what your writing and the story you have to tell. All of my stories to this point, including my first novel, were written in third person. However, the book I've just completed is written in 1st person and, according to my own opinion as well as everyone who's read it, it is stronger than anything I've written before. There were two main reasons I chose 1st person for this book. 1--everytime I tried to write it, my character's first person voice came out. 2--the suspense in my story hinges on the character and the reader NOT knowing what's going on in the other character's heads. So, again, I think it depends on the story you want to tell.

  6. I think first person POV often makes a story feel more intimate, and often times more realistic. A lot of times I prefer reading in 1st person POV. Sometime 3rd person annoys me if I feel like I'm reading the person's name over and over again in a single paragraph.

    Both have their advantages and disadvantages. I think the trick is... like Ronda said... figuring out which will work best for your story-- which will allow you to achieve your goals for the story.

  7. Great post and comments. I think that like all writing "tools," the author must know when each tool is best for the situation. I have non-fiction stories that have worked best as 3rd-person and some that have worked best as 1st.

  8. A masterpiece is a masterpiece, whatever point of view it's written in. Although I don't think Twilight would fall into that realm, but it was a fun, popular book.

  9. I also started writing 3rd person, (4 books) but have gravitated to 1st, because of the intimacy one develops with the main character. It's all about the characters for me, and the more you get into a persons head, the more you empathize with them. That said, I agree that different stories call for different POV's.

  10. I have been having the problem of deciding which point of view to use for my young adult novel. I want the story to be in the third person, but I know that the market gravitates toward first person point of view. So I have tried some of both and still have not come to a conclusion. I will let you know how it ends up.

  11. Don't want to sound redundant, but I agree that it depends on the story needing to be told.
    I've written in both, and happen to prefer first because it is intimate. However, there are stories I've written that need to be more disconnected and a wider perspective than first allows.

    I think saying that one is better than the other is as fruitful as arguing over mountains or oceans, sweet or sour. It's all relative.

  12. All of my life I've written only in third person. I had loved bouncing around in other POVs. Then one day I decided to experiment with first person and it is so fun!

    I have to agree with Kristy, though.

  13. Thanks for all your wonderful comments. As I suspected, there is quite a variety of answers and motivation behind the way we each write. I don't think that any one way of writing is right or wrong, it just depends on our own personal preference. Thanks again for participating.



Related Posts with Thumbnails