Tuesday, March 27, 2012

First-Person or Third-Person…Benefits and Drawbacks

First-person perspective or third? Which do you prefer to read? Which do you prefer to write?  

I’ve always considered myself a mostly third-person type of writer, but lately I’ve been experimenting a lot more with first-person in my short-stories and am enjoying it. Third-person has many great sweeping qualities, but first-person allows a lot of great introspection into a character’s mind. Depending on the style, third-person narratives can distance us a bit more from the characters, but at the same time first-person plots can get overwhelmed with the word “I” if an author isn’t careful.

Honestly, I think most people will read either so long as it’s good. So what makes you write one way or another in your own work? What qualities of the third-person and first-person styles sway you the most?


  1. I enjoy third person more. I guess it's just more comfortable and natural.

  2. I like that with third person, I'm not confined to just one character. I usually have two main characters and sometimes a scene is just better from one point of the view than the other.

  3. I enjoy writing first person because as you said, it allows a deeper look into the character's mind. That said, I think my next project will be in third for a change!

  4. I like and enjoy the third person. For me it comes naturally. Though I think I would like to write a book in the first person as it gives it a greater sense of intimacy.

  5. I enjoy selfishly writing in 1st person, gaining access to the mind. But 3rd person allows for more freedom. It is a toss-up, I guess.

  6. I agree -- as long as it's good, people will read either. I entered a slush pile contest once where they told me they thought 1st person was cliche. But I decided I didn't care :)

  7. Ooh, this is a toughie. I like both, depending on the genre. I think WHAT you're writing has a huge influence on HOW you write it. POV is partly dictated by the audience.

  8. I used to feel the same way, thinking that it would be embarrassing to write in first person, that it was somehow too personal. But I was 12,000 words into my first book and realized it was all wrong. I cast it aside and began again, in first person, and found the mc's voice.

    It's easier to hide things from the reader in first, though it can also be achieved with a very tight third person. For example, with the exception of a handful of times in the Harry Potter series, we only see things through Harry's filter.

  9. I can relate more to first person. I usually write in first person, so I am more used to it.


  10. Hello Mark:
    We much prefer reading novels written in the third person. Our feeling is that the first person is far more difficult to sustain with any degree of conviction and that is why we tend to avoid it.

  11. I personally enjoy both. Both are just different ways of telling a story. First person I enjoy because it gives more depth to the character and you can see what their seeing, or feeling, or thinking. Third person is nice however, because you can see a wider a range of characters and you don't have to be tied down in regards of how more or little you want the reader to see of tour world or characters.

    Honestly, I just think it depends on how you want your story told. To me just as long as it's written well, I'll read both. And similar to my reading, While I've tended to lean towards 3rd person, I don't limit myself to just that. It just depends on how I want my readers to read my story.

  12. Did a couple of posts on this earlier this month. It was after finishing The Hunger Games trilogy. I was disappointed with the third book, Mockingjay, as it highlighted the major weakness in writing in first person. The reader can lose so much when other things are happening. So for larger, epic stories, third person (limited or omniscient) works best.

  13. As long as the story is written well, the person usually fades into the background for me. I've written a majority of my novels in third person since I like being able to switch perspectives/people with less of a jar in the narrator's voice.

  14. I find third person more natural to read and write. I find first person can be intrusive unless it's done really well. As you say, it can bring you more into the mind of the MC, but it can fall flat very quickly if it's not handled well.

    I half-wrote a short story in third, then switched to first and felt it really came to life, so my conclusion is that it all depends on what's right for the story.

  15. Prefer third person I suppose. Like viewing someone from afar rather than pretending I'm doing all the action when clearly I'm not.

  16. Here's something weird: I drafted a story on Sunday and didn't get around to revising it until last night -- when I realized it was in 1st person. Not a big deal, but I'd thought for sure it was in 3rd when I wrote it! You're right, of course, that both can be done well (and badly).

  17. I've written in both. I like both, but I agree first person is definitely less confusing if you're going to have more than one pov!

  18. i absolutely love first person, and use it as much as i can. i love the idea of putting myself right into the shoes of the main character, it makes everything so much more alive for me, if you know what i mean!

    - catherine

  19. Good writing trumps everything, I think first person is a bit easier to write, it can cover up some weaknesses in the author. I wasn't confident enough to even try third until a few years ago, now I write in it by default.

  20. I enjoy reading and writing third person more...however my current work is in first person :) Its better for the story.

  21. Michael – Good to know, I def like 3rd person plenty myself.

    Alex – You raise an interesting point with POV. Does first or third person work better with multiple POVs?

    Kyra – Funny, I’m going the opposite way. I always loved 3rd person, but am experimenting with 1st.

    Rachna – That sense of intimacy is good, I just suppose it depends upon the story.

    Susan – Indeed, both can be very good.

    J.A. – Wow, those folks were smoking crack;) It’s all in the writing.

    Emily – Content and form are very much related. I wonder if the same story could be written in different persons just as an experiment.

    Donna – I know what you mean. It seems like the story itself dictates what will happen.

    Gina – Very cool, glad to meet you!

    Jane/Lance – Interesting interpretation. I wonder, do you have any books that are exceptions to the rule?

    Griffinclaw – I couldn’t agree more. It really depends on what you’re trying to do and hwo the fates influence you:)

    Jay – Funny you mention this as I debated with my wife about how person is used in these books and even though it’s first person, many readers felt as though it had a third person bent (if you will).

    Eagle – That’s a great way of describing it! Very cool:)

    Botantist – For short-stories anything goes for sure. Just trying to figure out how to apply that to my novels.

    Kingmush – Neato, nice to meet ya!

    Milo – Lol, that’s rad. Another example of how the story dictates how it will be written…not always the writer;)

    Sarah – Interesting interpretation, I would have said the opposite regarding POV with first person, but we’ll see.

    Catherine – Very neat, nice to meet you:)

    Rusty – Neat how your own writing took that arc. I’m kind of doing the same thing in reverse.

    Kelley – I think you hit the nail on the head there, whatever is better for the story:)