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Choosing Between First Person and Third Person: Which Point of View is Best for Your Writing?

Writing a novel is difficult. Picking the right perspective is important. This is what I think about writing in first person and third person points of view.


A pen and notebook lying on a desk.

As a reader, I read third person and first person speculative fiction books. Each point of view one has it's benefits and limitations. But I always wondered which one is better for my writing?


All my life I have written fiction in third person. It's been my default because my teacher told me it was "easier". For the most part it is easier. But a part of me wanted to explore a world from the limited view of a character. After careful research, I've decided to switch to first person point of view for my next series. Here's why.


First, in case you're new to writing...



What is third person point of view?


Marriam Webster dictionary defines third person narration as the following:


In third-person narration, the narrator exists outside the events of the story, and relates the actions of the characters by referring to their names or by the third-person pronouns he, she, or they.
Third-person narration can be further classified into several types: omniscient, limited, and objective.

Personally, I like to think of this point of view as the movie narration. Writing in third person is like witnessing the story from the camera operators perspective. The camera remains high above the action or it follows a specific character around all day. It keeps the a more objective view for the reader because we can see and understand things that the main character might miss.


What is first person point of view?


Marriam Webster dictionary defines first person narration as the following:


In first-person narration, the narrator is a person in the story, telling the story from their own point of view. The narration usually utilizes the pronoun I (or we, if the narrator is speaking as part of a group).

This is like having the camera and microphone inside the characters head. (It's a serious invasion of their privacy.) As writers, we are limited to seeing the world through their thoughts, sensations, and perceptions. Our view of the world is colored by the experiences and limitations of the character that's telling the story. Whatever their feelings are, we will likely feel the same way because we don't have a full picture.


Is it better to write in first person or third person?


I can't say one point of view is better than the other, there are pros and cons to both. What matters is how you want to tell the story and what you're comfortable writing.


One exercise you can try is wring the same short scene in third and first person point of view. After reading the story determine which one feels right to you. Once you pick a perspective, you'll have to stick with it for the entire story or series. Make sure you evaluate the scenes carefully because it is a lot of work to change an entire manuscript.


Don't think you'll have to stick with one perspective for every book or series you ever write. Every story you wish to tell will be different. Give yourself time to think it through before the start of each series.


How you feel about writing in a specific perspective is not the only thing to consider.


Before you start writing, you should examine your audience. If you look at the top twenty books in any category on Amazon (or another online book store), you'll get a good idea what those readers expect.


For example, if I'm going to write a dystopian book (which is what I'm doing now), I'll look at the top twenty bestsellers in the YA dystopian genre on Amazon. Mostly likely the number one bestseller will be The Hunger Games. In case you haven't read this book, it's told from Katniss' point of view. Or in other words it's in first person point of view.


As the reader, we are literally experiencing the world through her eyes. When she's panicking, we're panicking. When she grieves, we grieve. That is one of the biggest advantages of first person point of view. Emotions.


Most young adult books (not all) are told in first person point of view. If you're jumping into a young adult genre, you might consider writing your book in first person. This is not a requirement because there are successful books written in third person, Harry Potter being one of them.


If your genre is a mixture of both perspectives, pick the POV that you feel works best for your story.



 

Here is a quick snap shot of pros and cons of each point of view.


Third Person POV


Pros:

Multiple character perspectives

World building is easier

Readers get a better understanding of the whole scene


Cons:

Connection with the character might be limited

Multiple characters can confuse the reader

The narrator can't misdirect the reader.


First Person POV


Pros:

In-depth understanding of your character and their emotions

Easily access all the senses (i.e. taste, touch, sent, etc.)

Misdirect the reader for plot twists

Deliver the entire story in your characters voice.


Cons:

Can't describe your characters features well (unless you have the typical mirror scene)

You're limited to one character (two if your romance)

The character doesn't understand everything that the author does.

Danger of over or under sensitizing a scene



 

Writing The Progenitor Chronicles - Limited Third Person POV


For my first series, I wrote The Progenitor Chronicles in limited third person point of view. I chose this perspective because it was my default. It was easy to create the trees as sentient beings. While I limited the perspective to Xendara or one of her friends, it helped me create the dynamic world of the Six Systems. If I could go back and start over, I probably would keep this series in limited third person POV. I think it feels right for this story.


At the same time, I think I lost some of the feelings Xendara experienced. The loss of her father was difficult for her. I literally cried while I wrote it. But I was seeing in first person point of view while writing in third POV. Xendara struggled with depression for days until her friends and family intervened. I wonder how different the story would be, if I had chosen first person.


Writing in the limited third person perspective was relatively easy. I was writing in my voice with a little added flare and emotion from the characters. As the author, I was just the camera person observing these semi-immortal creatures on another planet.


Writing YA Dystopian Fantasy Series - First Person POV


After researching other popular dystopian books, I realized it was time to test the waters with first person POV. Since most bestselling young adult books are written in first person perspective, this is my chance. The difference in story telling is enormous.


So far, I've written two short stories in this series. In my normal process, my first draft is me telling myself the story. I don't worry about tenses, spelling or emotions, because I just write. There were a few pit falls. Here is what happened...


My writing defaulted to third person several times. Since I was no longer writing in my voice with added flare, it was difficult to find my characters frequency. It felt like static for a while. Over all, it took me three times to rewrite the story in a first POV style. Then I still had to add the emotions and voice of my characters.


Let me tell you, the voice of my characters would show up at horrible times. For example, once my main character started talking in my mind, while I was driving or brushing my teeth. It's really difficult to capture that voice when you're in the middle of doing something else. I had to scramble to write it down before the voice would leave. Some how, I managed to get them down.


Overall, I think I writing in first person point of view is going to cause me to write more drafts than third person point of view. I'm not sure if that is a good thing or bad thing. I imagine it will get easier for me, the more I write and develop my processes.


Which perspective is better for me?


I think it's too early to tell. Since this is my first experience writing in first person perspective, I still have much to learn. Plus I think I need to develop a different strategy for writing. But I believe first person perspective is pushing me to become a better writer. It's also helping me see the world with a different thought process to my own.



What about you? Which POV style do you prefer to write or read in? Let me know in the comments.



 

If you're reading this right now, thank you! I appreciate your time.


If you'd like to keep up to date with future blogs and get exclusive stories, please sign up for The Wright Newsletter.




 

Sara Wright is the clean sci-fi fantasy author of the Progenitor Chronicles.

 


The cover of The Progenitor - A girl looking off toward a planet while spaceships doc below her.

The Progenitor by Sara Wright



Peace was all Xendara desired, but her enemies hunger for her power. Princess Xendara is the heir to the throne, but her life is turned upside-down when a mysterious spaceship attacks. She learns her father had secrets. With his untimely demise, she must uncover them before her enemies remove her from power. In her quest to keep peace within the Six Systems, she discovers a power she didn’t know she had; a power that everyone is looking to exploit. With the help of her childhood friend Darijus, she unlocks long lost memories of her past, only to find his destiny is intertwined with her own. A prophecy guides her choices to the correct timeline. But can she trust a prophecy that foretells the death of a loved one? With the destiny of the Universe on the line, who she chooses to trust will divide a galaxy.


With powers her enemies aim to exploit, will she risk galactic war?



 

Keep in touch! Sign up for the monthly Wright newsletter to access the latest blogs, projects, sales, and more. As a thank you, you’ll receive the prequel to The Progenitor Chronicles, Time Crystal, for free. Click the image below!


cover of the short story, Time Crystal. It features a man looking up at the sky, while something explodes and heads towards the city below.


Time Crystal by Sara Wright

The Progenitor Chronicles


Synopsis:


Time Crystals are forbidden for a reason, but King Oren must use one to save a civilization.


King Oren’s only goal was to be a peaceful caretaker of the galaxy. But when a girl falls through a portal into his courtyard clutching a forbidden Time Crystal, his life changes.


With a cataclysmic event imminent, he must lead a group from his home system to the opposite side of the galaxy. Everyone looks to their seemingly immortal race for aid, but even with their elemental powers, they are far from perfect.


Armed with the Time Crystal, they seek to stop an exploding star from decimating an entire population. The problem is, he doesn’t know how to use the crystal. Even worse, he might die trying.


Will King Oren stop the star from exploding? Or will time unravel?

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