Friday, February 17, 2012

1st person vs 3rd person

So this is something that I originally struggled with.  I didn't know whether to write this current book in first or third person POV.  oh the agony!  There's obviously no correct answer and it's specific to your story, but I didn't really understand the difference and which one was used when.

The first thing I did was to look at books similar to mine, an adventure/fantasy story with romantic elements.  Well, there were books with both POVs, so that didn't help much.  I knew there wasn't a correct answer, but I still didn't know why someone chose 1st vs 3rd.  I finally picked 1st, because I enjoyed 1st POVs better.  Then I took a few writing classes and I finally realized the difference; that as the writer, I had to decide what the story is really about - the MC's internal struggles (1st person) or the outside events that were happening (3rd person).  For this reason, adventure/action stories are usually third person.  There are always exceptions, of course; the Hunger Games is in first person, though that had a lot of internal motivation.  And I think Percy Jackson is in 1st person, though I read that I really long time ago and can't remember.

If you're still having trouble deciding which POV, another idea is to think about if different POVs are necessary.  While multiple view points can be done in first person, sometimes it can get confusing.  Is the other POV in first person as well?  If so, make sure the voices of the characters are different enough, so that the readers can tell whose head they are in.  Alternating between first and third is getting more common, though it can be tricky to make it believable.  Usually if different POVs are present, the story is written in 3rd person.

In the end, I realized I like first person POV better because I liked being inside the MC's head and understanding the motivations, despite my story being part-adventure story.

Do you write in 1st or 3rd?  Which do you prefer to write?  To read?


  1. It depends on the story, and its characters, and what feels right. :) My 1st MS was third past, the 2nd was first present, and now I'm back to third past, with 2 PoVs. Fun times. :)

    Thanks for sharing your process! Love to see how others' brains work.

  2. I tend to write in first. My first MS was first past, and current WIP is first present with two POVs. I actually started writing my first MS in third, but it didn't feel right so I switched to first and liked it much better. Like Leigh Ann said though, it just depends on the story :)

  3. This is EXACTLY what Im struggling with right now. The first bk in my telesa series was 1st person. That POV flows better for me all the time. BUT, i want to get more into some of the other characters POV and not drown so much in my main char angst and internal mess. Im trying to write the second bk in 3rd person and its NOT WORKING, aaaaargh. I keep slipping back into 1st person and when i write a diff character i 1st person them as well. I think i need to stick with 1st person then. Because thats what comes naturally for me. On a side note - i read the Game of Thrones series and he does third person but following a diff character in each chapter. I kind of like that.

  4. Switching POVs can get tricky. There's a bunch of books that switch POV for each chapter (like you said, Lani). Game of Thrones does that with third person and Maggie Steifvater does it in Shiver of her Wolves of Mercy Falls books (and probably sequels but I haven't read those) for first person. Oh and Stephenie Meyers does it in first person with the last [few?] Twilight sequels with Bella and Jacob. For Shiver, it was hard to tell the MCs apart (despite one being a dude and the other being a girl), so I would say make sure the voices are very different, otherwise who it is could get lost.

    Cassandra Clare shifts POVs throughout chapters with her Mortal Instruments series and her Infernal Devices series. Sometimes this can get confusing if POVs are switched in the middle of the scene.

    sooo many things to think about! best of luck everyone! I think I'll stick to one POV for now... hehe.