Should You Write Using First or Third Person POV?

first person or third person pov

Choosing between first person pov or third person pov can greatly impact your novel, so what shall it be then?

I chose this topic for today’s post because I’m currently in a middle of a deep and sweaty debate with myself. I started writing my novel using a third person narrative. I studied screenwriting so it came as an easy and natural option. But, and there’s always a “but” in drama, I went to a writing workshop where I was instructed to write everything using a first person narrative. It got me confused.

Consider this blog post as an example; I’m trying to help you decide whether or not you should be choosing the first or third person pov while I talk about my private life. Does it piss you off? Does it interest you at all? Do I sound braggie or are you feeling identification with me because we share the same confusion? Blogs usually are a more personal medium so my hopes are that you came here for a personal insight and not for a cold-cut-technical manual about writing point of views.

You’ve probably read some good books that use the first person pov and some good books that use the third. You’ve probably read shitty ones as well. The answer lies within you as a writer and not among the falsified general opinion.

First person can be annoying

Personally, I hate first person novels that sound too whiny and too self centered. I don’t want to hear about a character’s problem before I get to know it well enough to care. And I don’t want the character to bluntly tell about itself like I care to listen. I prefer a first person narrator who tell me its story through its mind and eyes (and ears) just like it is. I’ll learn and care more about a character out of the things that happen to it, and not by it telling me what happened. Just like the regular rule of “show don’t tell”.

Third person can be emotionally detached

On the other hand, whenever I read third person novels it seems like a much bigger challenge and a greater satisfaction for a writer to see his creation from above. In third person we tend to describe the action and dialog better and to have lesser focus on inner monologue and thoughts. It might be a good thing if you’re writing an action packed thriller, and it might be a good thing if you personally can’t stand to use the letter “I” every two sentences to describe the situation, but it might be get the reader (and you) to be less emotionally involved with your hero’s journey.

Writing guides’ tips

Other blogs might tell you that if you character has a unique world view or a unique inner personality you should use first person pov. But this is nonsense. A good writer can convey anything through anything. As the title implies, it is just a matter of point of view. The plot is still the same plot and the characters are the same characters, right?

Multiple characters or omnipotent narrator

Write multiple POVs or write as an omnipotent narrator.

This is where it gets complex. If you can’t choose between the two main forms of writing, you might feel that all of your main characters need personal voices. You can write each chapter through the eyes of a different character and mix your narratives. You can also go in and out of characters’ heads and tell their both actions and inner monologue as an omnipotent narrator. These options are more suited for complex stories with an ensemble of main characters (just like today’s good TV shows).

Still confused?

For beginning writers I would advise to stick with the classic form of one hero one plot. For more advanced writers I would say, go play with complex forms.

The best way to decide is to start writing. Then, let others read it and see if it makes them feel the way you intended. Ask them if the scenes got them engaged and if they felt anything for the main character. If you get positive answers keep writing, if not, try switching pov and implement the notes that your readers gave you.

Another way to test your pov is to write the same scene once in first person and once it third person. You’ll feel which one is easier to write and usually that option will be the better one in the reader’s eyes because you were able to put your imagination on the page as flawlessly as possible with no friction.

What did I choose eventually?

I decided to write my novel in first person. After trying both forms I felt more connected to my main character when I write through his eyes. The basis of the plot revolves around my personal life 10 years ago so it’s easier for me to remember who I was and what to write than to see myself from the outside. But I didn’t stop there. I tested this hypothesis and my readers told me that they were much more involved with my hero in oppose to the third person pov I began with. Great success!

Final words

I didn’t write for this blog in a while because I’m working on my short stories Ebook that will be released soon on Amazon. You can check out the Hebrew version here. And don’t forget – writing longhand is better than typing.

Let me know what you think of this post below ->

About the Author

Moran Chaim

4 Comments

Natalie

In different chapters and scenes I use different points of view. When there is a need for a character’s thoughts through inner monologue, I use first person. For action scenes (especially fight scenes) I use third person. In action scenes I think it is not necessary to get inside the characters head. There is also third person controlled conscious. You know the thoughts of the major character, but still get to see most of the action.

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Robin I.

Third! THIRD!

Unless one is very skilled, there is danger in first person–so many ways to go wrong… First person narratored can be done well, but it’s such a risk.

It seems like a lot of new writers feel like they *need* to write in first person. Maybe they do. I wrote almost entirely in first person for years. I’ve found much more balance in third person. Of course, my writing is very different now. I think I like it better. Interesting that you are moving from third to first–how we change!

But what kind of writing instructor tells you to write *everything* in first person. I can see it for an exercise, but unless it’s a class in first person… sheesh…

Reply
Moran Chaim

Yes it was just an exercise for us to abandon all rules and let our writing go free and wild. It helped me a lot in a way that I don’t criticize myself that much anymore but just having fun writing and caring about the rules later. I do feel first person is a dangerous zone but that’s the direction I’m going for until I’m proven differently by my beta readers. Thanks Robin

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