Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | November 8, 2011

1st Person versus 3rd Person

One very important topic of writing is the point of view of the writer’s voice.

There are many reasons to prefer one point of view over the other, both from the writing side as well as the reading side.  Since some of my favorite books and authors represent both points of view, it seems impossible to decide which one is better.  Here’s some of the thinking I’ve done on this topic.

What’s your comfort zone?  My novel features a female protagonist and her friends (mostly female).  Being male, I write this in the third person because I feel more comfortable doing so.  My guess is that the majority of first person stories are probably written by writers the same gender as the protagonist.

Is your story based more on events and actions or character development?  First person puts you, the writer, into the driver’s seat and, therefore, puts the reader in a more intimate position to perceive the character development.  Third person gives you more of an opportunity to change points of view from character to character, which facilitates scene changes in an action-packed story.

What genre does your story fit into?  I’ve read that mystery, romance, and young adult feature first person the most.  Since the majority of the industry may favor third person, thrillers may have a hard time if not written in third person.  It may be best to follow the industry standard in this regard.

How do you describe your world?  It’s a challenge to describe the world through the eyes of one character.  Third person gives you more options here, as you can change which character’s point of view is being used if you need to.

If you were to write in the other point of view from the one you’ve been writing, what would be the effect?  There is plenty to be learned from doing this just for the experience.  Stories and characters can open up when a writer tries this, and some writers never go back.

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Responses

  1. I used to like first person a lot, mainly when I first started writing. Now i’m pretty much married to third.

    Like

  2. I’ve only done first person on the side when trying to get to know the characters (character blogs, etc.). Definitely effective for me. But I think I’ll always write in third for the book.

    Like


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