Aug 14, 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. I think it is considered novice because it is easier to write in first person than third usually. Or at least, that is the way it is for me.

  2. I did the very same thing to my novel, it had been in 1st person for the entire time, and then when I changed it to 3rd, so many new elements and opportunities opened up that I never went back. An idea for rewriting and exploration: Whatever POV one chooses initially, try a change or two and see what happens.

  3. I originally wrote my novel in first person, but then changed to third person when I realized how much freedom I would have in third person. The hardest part for me was changing everything. It was nuts, and it made for some funny sentences at first! :)

  4. I think both POVs have their merits, but I prefer 3rd person in most cases for my own writing. If I were really focusing on a specific person's experiences and didn't care about getting into anyone else's head, I might try 1st person.

    So far I don't have any serious projects where I haven't wanted to show part of the story from someone's else's POV.

  5. I'm currently writing third person, but have been intrigued by the idea of first person wondering if it would give me better opportunities to get inside the MC's head and reveal her thoughts. I've been contemplating doing a switch with one chapter and see which POV I like better.

  6. I have actually written in both, and think both have pros and cons.

    In YA, very often, readers look to that first person POV because they WANT to be in the head of the main character. They want to know everything that person is thinking or feeling, and it just isn't possible in third. In the past few years, a large portion of YA titles being sold have been in first person.

    In adult genres though, we want an opportunity to see what's happening to and with the other characters in the story in order to have a much fuller view of the plot--similarly to the way we see movies. Most adult genre books are third person.

    Is one better than the other? I think it really depends on the author and the audience.

    One way to know if switching POV is a good idea might be to read a BUNCH of books in your genre and see if they're written in first or third. For instance, my target readership is similar to Twilight, Wings, Hourglass Door, and many others, all done in first person. And I have to be honest. I can't imagine loving them the way I do if they'd been done in third.

    But I have lots of other favorites done in third--which I love for different reasons.

    Again, depends on author, audience, and story.

    Good luck with your rewrites!

  7. I also have written in both, and to be honest, it depends on the book and the way the characters come to me as I'm writing. I have one book that I wanted to write in third, tried to write in third, but every time I tried I lost the main character's voice. He became flat. Two dimension. In that case, the only way to keep the story alive was by giving him his way and letting us live in his head. It works.

    So, I chose my voice on a case by case basis. I've got to get the voices in my head to shut up somehow. lol

  8. I write mostly adult fiction and use third person for them. I like third because it is more versatile.

    However I just started a YA and it couldn't be anything but first. I believe it depends on who the MC is.

  9. I actually don't have a preference. Each story, to my mind, has it's own voice, and sometimes that's first person, and sometimes it's third. Sometimes it even calls for something even more drastic like omniscient.

    Either way, when you find the voice for your story (and sometimes, like you discovered) it's not the one your first start using. It's like finding the native language for your story. You CAN tell it in Spanish (or first person, say) but the translation falls a little flat. Discover that it's really French (or third person) and translate it, and voila! You have a masterpiece.

    I don't think first is a novice voice because first person has it's own tricks to maneuver around. And it can be a very powerful voice when used appropriately.

  10. My philosophy is write in whatever POV works best for the author and the plot. And since I've seen a number of well-written books done in first person, I don't think it's the sign of a novice, either.

  11. Personally, I think saying first person is easier is similar to saying that children's books are easier than adult books. Each different kind of writing has its own unique challenges if you're going to write the story well.

    But every story is different. In the YA market, first person is huge. Twilight isn't even the tip of the iceburg there.

    And writing in present tense is even becoming popular. It doesn't matter that everyone says it's not as good. If what you're going for is absolute immediacy, and you write it well, first person present tense is amazing. I haven't attempted to write it myself yet, but I love to read it when it's well done.

    If you re-wrote your book in third person and it really came alive and seemed like a better story, then absolutely go with it. It sounds like it'll be a great thing. But if your next book comes out better in first, don't be afraid to go that way, too.

    Sorry for the long-windedness. I do that sometimes. :-D Good luck with your book. :o)