- Books, Literature, and Writing
First or Third Person?
Writing a book is nothing more than putting words to paper that form a plot, right? No! It is so much more than that. It is plot, character, words, poetry, and beauty. It is deciding on which point of view to use! First or third person is best? What is the difference? How are they used? What are they?
When we talk about first and third person, we are talking about how the story is told and to a degree from whose perspective. Where does the reader fit into the grand scheme of plans? Are they right there in the soul of the narrator or more of a presence watching from afar?
What is first person writing? It is writing as though the person whose eyes the reader is viewing the story through is actually telling the story. It is their story. Webster describes it as “a set of linguistic forms (as verb forms, pronouns, and inflectional affixes) referring to the speaker or writer of the utterance in which they occur; a linguistic form belonging to such a set; reference of a linguistic form to the speaker or writer of the utterance in which it occurs; a style of discourse marked by general use of verbs and pronouns of the first person”.
I watched through the curtains as he got out of the car. My heart betrayed me as it did a somersault. He wasn’t supposed to come today. I couldn’t understand why he changed his plans, but a part of me didn’t want to argue.
This is an example of first person. I am not telling the story of someone else. I’m telling the story of me even if it is a fictitious me. The “I” denotes first person.
First Person gets very personal. It draws the reader to one character and one character only. The reader almost forms a bond with the narrator. One site says it is the most commonly used by new writers as it is “thought to be the easier viewpoint to handle, it is believed to be somehow warmer and more intimate, too, because you can get as up close and personal to the main character as it's possible to get.” (http://www.novel-writing-help.com/first-person-point-of-view.html)
It also is the most natural voice (ibid). We naturally resort to telling personal stories. We talk to people everyday using the words “I” and “me”. It is easy to tell something from our own perspective which in turns makes writing first person naturally easier for most people.
First Person Advantages
To sum it up, the advantages can be:
Easily relationship with the main character as the reader can get to know them real well.
For writing, it can be the easiest
Keeps the focus on one character
You can’t get into the mind of other characters.
You have to be the main character
It is a biased viewpoint
Third person pulls the reader away from one individual person and sets them above the drama. You get to see more as a third person narrative though the writer can limit the third person’s view as much as he/she wants. You stand away from the action and get pulled in where needed. Your own knowledge is typically more.
There is no “I” did this or that. It is ‘she’ or ‘he’. The reader is watching from a distance. Once in awhile, the writer allows the reader to swoop in and getter a closer look at an individual, but overall the reader is set apart and sees more everyone instead of just one particular character.
Now some authors still limit the point of view to one individual though the story is told in third person. Think of it as traveling with that individual that you know better than the other characters. You are not in their minds, but you get a better sense of what is going on as you watch the one character. You see it through their actions and words though you are apart from it.
The third person can be harder to write because the writer has to be outside of it all looking in. They also have to remember whose viewpoint they are writing from at that moment as it can change within a scene depending on what the writer wants the reader to see. I always use the example of the vintage romances I used to read. They were always in third person but from the viewpoint of the main female character. I loved it when the author would switch at the end of a scene to give me the viewpoint of the main male character so I could see what he was thinking during this time instead of trying to interpret his actions.
Both first and third person can be powerful depending on the story they are being used in. If you want to draw deep emotion from a reader, first person is typically the best way to go unless you feel that third person is better but using the point of view of one particular character. Try writing a scene using both first and third person. Which one turns out better? Which one feels more comfortable and portrays the story in the way you want it to be done? You don’t have to pick first or third person and stick with it forever. Every story is different and you can change up how you write it. Remember that writing is to be fun so don’t hesitate to experiment.