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#12 on our list of best/worst things about being an aspiring writer - whether to write in first person or third (and which third) (we won't mention second because that's just silly)

I (erica) started writing in third person because it's what I read the most of. It can help you connect with all your characters. It allows you to switch scenes - even know what everyone in the book knows (thinking Stephen King here). It's what "all the great authors do." (the quotation marks are there because this is what I thought, not because someone actually told me that) (but yeah, I do like Stephen King)

But I couldn't get into it exactly like I had hoped. It felt like I was reading it, not writing it. So I switched to 1st and felt so much better - I interjected thought and feeling and voice and so many things I didn't have enough of before during the switch. For me, it felt like it was because of the change of pov. It might be because I was getting more experience, I guess time will tell. Maybe I'll get all scholarly and literary and go back to third.

What about you, what's your writing perspective? First? Third limited? Third (gulp) omniscient?

There's no right or wrong way - it all depends on you, your character, and your story. For more info on pov, link here and here and to the author interviews on this blog.


  1. Oh, I just had a HUGE conflict with myself over this one! I had written a PB in first and loved it, but after many re-writes it was suggested I write it in third. I did and I loved it. Drat! Finally held my breath and jumped into third, but with mostly dialogue, so it still kind of feels like it could be in first. Does that make sense?

  2. Third limited is my default, but I have been known to do the others. Here's my goofy story o' the day: When I was in primary school, I wrote a story in first person, and my teacher went to great lengths to tell me I should NEVER write in first person because it's too HARD to READ and that no REAL authors wrote in first... so I went to my desk, grabbed my current library book, handed it to her, and told her she was extremely wrong.

    Heh heh heh. Some days detention was worth it. ;)

  3. I've never tried 3rd-omnicient. My first ms was in 3rd-close (but 5 different main characters), and my latest one is in 1st person (with 3 main characters). I love getting close in on the emotions, which I do best in 1st too.

    But my "fatal flaw" is writing in present-tense. I love to read and write it, but I also can't seem to NOT write in it...
    The Middle Ages

  4. Megan - I do see a difference in picture books. There aren't too many in 1st that I can think of - maybe because they're meant as read-alouds? Although one of my preschoolers favorites is Owl Moon - they sit enchanted and that's in 1st (so do what makes you comfortable!)

    Su - as a teacher, that makes me sad. but yeah, I'm pretty sure I was told that at some point, too, because it is ingrained.

    B - I thought about bringing up tense, too, since that's a hot topic. I default right to past (as do most authors, I think), but for some things - action and suspense comes to mind first - present is fun, too.

  5. I most often write in 3rd person limited because honestly, I like it best (to read). It takes a REALLY great book for me to get into 1st person--normally it feels... young... like a diary--which makes it great for some YA, but in adult books I rarely get past it. The only loved exceptions I've read recently are Hunger Games (which WORKS as a diary) and The Book Thief, because DEATH is such a brilliant narrator (and honestly... it is only peripherally a story about him--much of it is told in 3rd person. And then The Secret Life of Bees (but that is also a teen narrator, and so forgiven for it all being me me me.)

    I don't like omniscient much more, probably because in order for there to have been mystery or surprise, there needs to be some trickery--it is contrived to have us learn so late when we SHOULD know everything... THIS has to do with my genre preferences, I think.

    I don't mind character hopping some... in fact more often than not I write more than one PoV, but when I am in a head, I only want to be in THAT head.

    Picky much? Yeah, I suppose I am. I recently read a recommendation though, for finding VOICE that suggested writing some scenes in first person and THAT I can get behind. I think it could be especially useful if characters seem similar, for finding out what ticks you can emphasize that differentiate them.

  6. Well Erica,

    You know my first novel was written in third limited, with so much head-hoping it was giving everyone who read it a headache! Now after a year of editing it makes sense. I do have different povs but at least they are not in the same sentence. lol.

    I have written a short story in first/past, but occasionally slip into present (not on purpose, lol)

    My present work is also in first/past. Surprisingly, I find it easier at times than third. This is a nice switch, but I still think I prefer to write in third.
    I write much faster in third, too.

    Great topic.


  7. I just read that you met during WriteOnCon. That's so cool!

    As for pov, I've tried both. My last one was in first, and the most recent is in 3rd. I'm not sure what my next one will be, but I suppose it depends on the story!

  8. I guess you could say mine is somewhat third person omniscient because I have two points of view. But it's limited in that it's only two of the character's points of view, and each chapter starts with the other's POV as a contuation of the story (not the same thing happening twice from each POV's). I have sort of an ensemble cast, with the two main characters and two equally important characters, we just don't see their POV. Each of those characters will get their own book and own POV (here's hoping, anyway ;p).

    My next book (not the sequels, but a whole different one) I've already decided to do in first person.

    Each book I have an idea for, or write, kinda tells me whether it should be in first or third. It just feels right, you know?

  9. Ugh!! That is such a hard choice! I like both just fine, but like 3rd a little bit better. Reading and writing wise.

  10. Hart--i agree that first can come across as feeling young (when I'm reading). And I love that you pointed out the "me, me, me" characteristic as a purposeful reason for choosing it in MG/YA.

    Michael-I think your ms has come a long way. I, too, enjoy switching POV in my writing. I've only written in first (so far) but considered switching to third for my rewrite. I didn't though. Maybe for a future story.


  11. Good discussion, thanks for all the viewpoints.

    And I have read that YA leans toward 1st person and adult lit is more generally 3rd person - although it's always up to the author. As we've all heard so many times, it's all about the quality of writing. :)

  12. One should try many different techniques, really, one new fairly often. It helps variety, and variety is very important.

  13. I'm a 3rd person writer all the way with a bit of internal monologue. I'm working on my 1st person skills though in my Friday blog posts. I hope to some day try a novel in first person!

  14. I LOVE first person - I write so much more naturally in it than third. Not sure I can go back to third now I've discovered first, TBH ;)



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