This post is the first in a series of which I talk about on about the creation of what I love (books). By this I mean I am going to rave on about different aspects of writing from dealing with writer’s block to character profiling. This post is going to be about, you guessed it, first person vs. third person.
Recently I have take up writing again after an idea which I have had since I was fourteen became actually plausible and a real possibility. It’s in the extremely early stages where I don’t know the beginning, middle, or end, and I know a lot of research does need to be done. But I know this story/book/whatever is going to be mainly driven on character development. So, for now I just want to free write to get my head into it and to get my brain into gear. And this is where the age old question comes into play: should I write in first person or in third?
I am so incredibly stuck on this as there are merits to both and also drawbacks. So, in a vain attempt to help me make up mind (for now at least as I’ll probably change it) I’m just going to list the pros and the cons of each.
- Writing in first person means being inside the main characters head, giving the reader a higher chance of becoming emotionally invested in the story/book. This is important as that is one of the major ways of keeping a reader hooked in until the very last sentence.
- Character development would be easier to track in first person as the reader knows their thoughts, feelings etc. as if they are their own.
- The reader experiences everything the main character experiences so nothing is ‘lost in translation’ along the way and every moment can be accounted for.
- Personally I find it harder to write in first person. I think it’s because I’m not a very opinionated person and writing from someone else’s point of view means a certain amount of bias needs to be added (especially for what I am writing now).
- It can get very ‘samey’. By this I mean the character’s actions and emotions can be constantly listed without any flowery imagery (which you must admit is quite nice to read).
- You have got to make this character believable for people to even bother reading this, but that is hard as you have got to make every thought, feeling, notion believable too. The best way to do that is by basing the main character upon yourself because who knows yourself better than you? But do you want your main character to be you?
- One of the biggest cons I can think of is that the world in the book is perceived from a biased point of view. Even if you don’t notice it it generally is. This can be subtly done through negative metaphors or the main character having a general ‘I hate the world’ attitude. But this could cause you to be based too. This could also be perceived as a pro too as sometimes the author wants you to see the world in this way. I still haven’t decided if that’s what I want though.
- Overall I find this easier to write in as it just flows better for me. There is no real reasoning behind this, I just prefer it. (This doesn’t mean that I think that this is the best).
- Depending on the narrative, writing in third person is generally a lot less biased than first, so you are not as persuaded to have certain inclinations about certain things.
- Personally I find that books written in third person have better descriptions of the outside world, for example look at Christopher Paolini’s work. His books are written in third person and his descriptions are extraordinary. I think this is because characters are less inclined to go into major descriptions and setting the scene fully because they don’t need to. This is definitely a pro for me because I have a love of both reading and writing detailed descriptions (yeah, yeah, I know I’m a freak!).
- When writing it you may find difficulties in deciding how in depth into characters heads you want to go. Do you want to go full-on Edward Cullen and reveal every thought to the audience, or do you want to keep them guessing and slightly unsure?
- It is easy to make the entire thing sound like a cold statement more suited for a report for your boss. This makes the entire book dull (unless there are a lot of action scenes in which case I will probably read it).
- There is a limit to how much the reader can see of the characters, so character development cannot be tracked as well or as easily as first person.
These are just some of my ideas on this highly controversial (not) subject and, as you can probably see, I am slightly biased towards third person. But that’s just because I’m human and I have a preference – this doesn’t mean I’m going to write in it though. I just want to know, am I the only one who prefers third person to first?