February 28, 2011 | By: Tracy

Better to Be 1st or 3rd?

I have two confessions for this Monday (blech) morning:

1) I intended to post our muse "eye candy" today. But, as I'm learning,  when you Google a good looking man -- and received hundreds of images of said hottie -- it takes time to select the right one. Multiply that by about 30-40 such men . . . and well, I'm having a great time, but nowhere near done.

So I'll be bringing that along next Monday.

2) I'm coming out of the closet & admitting that I'm in LOVE with 1st person narrative. It's the perspective in which I write my stories and the one I most enjoy reading.

A friend of mine once explained the difference between 1st and 3rd to me as:
"Third person is like watching a movie and knowing what's going to happen to your beloved characters before they do. First person is like being the character in the movie and having no idea what's about to hit you."

There is no right or wrong way. Both have their benefits and both have their drawbacks. Which is why it all boils down to a matter of personal preference.

Take my mother, for instance. She's one of those strange people that refuses to invest herself in a novel unless she's perused the last 5 pages to make sure she's satisfied with the way the story ends. My mom likes to retain that certain level of control by knowing exactly what's happening (third person)

Me, on the other hand, if you accidentally slip & tell me how a story wraps up I see absolutely NO reason to keep reading the damned thing. You've already taken all the fun out of it for me. I'm an adrenaline junkie who gets a kick out of not knowing what's around the next corner (first person)

Fortunately, there seems to be a pretty good mix of both in most genres. That being said there are times where it can be a little more challenging to find stories in the perspective you enjoy most.

Traditional adult romance is still predominantly written in third person (with multiple POV) . . . whereas young adult tends to be largely first person told stories. Doesn't mean you can't find first person romances or third person young adults -- you just have to look a little harder.

(Side note: if anyone can suggest any 1st person non-paranormal romances and/or romances written from the male POV, I'd be mighty grateful)

What about you guys: Do you have a reading preference one way or the other? Do you absolutely refuse to read one or the other? Which perspective do you write in? If you write in both, which comes more naturally to you?

28 witty remarks:

Gina said...

Definitely a bigger fan of first person, it's so much more personal and in depth. And I can't believe your mom cheats and reads the ending! LOL

Jane Green's novels are usually in first person, though I think she's considered more chick lit than romance. I'd recommend Mr. Maybe- some hot 'n sexy scenes in that one!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I can go either way, but right now I prefer reading and writing in first person. That wasn't always the case, but since I read a lot of YA (okay, until recently, I only read YA), I've grown to love the pov. I even *gasp* prefer present tense since it really gets me into the moment.

LM Preston said...

I can only really write best in 3rd, but I do enjoy 1st person if it's done well and the 'I's are well hidden.

Melissa said...

What about a non-paranormal contemporary book where the main guy PRETENDS to be a vampire but is actually completely normal. It's first, a guy, and there is romance. It is also funny. It's called Bloodthirsty by Flynn Meaney. (It was really good!)

I love first person as well. It's the immediacy and the intimacy, I think, that does it for me.

Anne Gallagher said...

I write and read in third person. Don't know why. Probably because I'm not into all that much adreneline. And I'd love to find a book written in a man's POV. That's next on my list to do, although my male characters all have their own POV in my ms.'s.

Matthew Rush said...

I'll read any POV, though I used to prefer third. One thing I really don't care for is present tense, but I'm seeing a lot of books coming out lately that are written in it. I can deal with it, but I prefer not to.

Elena Solodow said...

I used to avoid writing in first person because I thought it was too easy. When a new MC came into my life and demanded first person, I learned the truth! Right now I've been writing in first person for a while, but I look forward to returning to third at some point.

I don't remember if Looking for Alaska was first or third, but it is from a male perspective - and an excellent book to boot!

Summer Frey said...

I write my third person so limited that it's pretty much first with pronouns and names instead of I and me. I write my men that way, but I generally like to write my females in first. I don't have a reading preference--if it's done well, it's done well.

Cynthia said...

I have to admit I like them both. I read so much I like to switch it up a bit. My first work was 3rd person, my WIP is 1st. I find first so much harder to write. I love the challenge though. Books on the other hand I'll have to think about, but it is something I have wondered about too.

Janet Johnson said...

I write 3rd person. I don't mind first though. Maybe someday I'll even do a novel in first. :)

My mom is like yours and reads the end first, but I hate that! Definitely prefer to be surprised.

Roza M said...

I love readng and writing 1st person. Books in the past, before I read twilight was always third person. Harry potter, Girls in love, and so many others. Then when I read twilight I was like wow this is... I like it like this. I honestly read books all the way through unless I physically can;t like the beginning is so boring or just distracts me I stop reading the book. but I never skip ahead b/c I can't.

Kindros said...

I'll read either, it's not a big deal to me. I usually spoil movies for myself before I go to watch them to know if I will enjoy it or not. I've done this in the middle of books also though so I don't have to finish it (usually because it's torture, lol).

Diana said...

I prefer third, but first is okay as long as it isn't "I" or "was/were" heavy OR in present tense. Sometimes first person can feel like a play-by-play.
I think as long as the writing is tight it shouldn't matter.

Chris Phillips said...

I like first, but it would get old if that's all I read.

Kari Marie said...

I'll read either, but I have to like the character a lot if I'm reading them in first person. My first novel came out of my head in third (limited), but the second appears to be switching to first.

Angela Scott said...

I think it all depends on what kind of story needs to be told. My first three novels I wrote from in 1st person. The stories worked. My current WIP, it's in 3rd person because I have two differernt MC's, two different POV's.

Personally, I like 1st person. It's more intimate.

Colene Murphy said...

I have no favorite. I like being in the character but I also like knowing more than the character would say. It really depends on the story I guess. I write both ways, and have come no closer to deciding on a favorite that way either. Ah well.

Lindsey Edwards said...

I’m all about the omniscient POV myself , but I can see the pros of 1st person. Sorry, but I don’t have any *rec’s* for 1st person POV books, I only read 3rd person because I find it confusing to read one POV and then try and write from the opposite perspective.

salarsenッ said...

Comment 1: I have done that same thing with Google. Dang, you really need to be specific. Never know what pictures will come up.

Two: I wrote my second novel in 3rd; then, after a friend suggested I try it in 1st, I converted the entire manuscript to 1st. That's what the ms had been missing.

David Powers King said...

3rd. I've found it hard to immerse myself when I'm limited to the mind of one character. Spreading things out and exploring what's going on outside the main character's head does it for me. Some 1st person books do make an exception.

I gave you a shout-out on my blog ;)

Meredith said...

I love your friend's movie analogy. That's how I think of it, and first person always engages me more as a reader and writer.

LTM said...

omg! you + me = same person! I so prefer 1st person, but 3rd's OK... I also don't see the point in reading if I know how it'll end. It's why I never read books for which I've already seen the ending... :D <3

Trisha said...

Yeah, I must be a 1st person...errr, person, because I never want to know what happens before it does. Well, if it's romance I admit I want to know that they get together in the end, but I never skip ahead to find out.

Actually, I lie - i have skipped ahead ONE TIME, and it was with book #13 of an epic fantasy series (yes, book THIRTEEEEEEN!) and this scene had been a damn long time coming, and I just HAD TO SEE the lurve reunion. :P So yeah, I skipped ahead to read that. But that's the only time I ever have. ;) No I SWEEEEAR!

Kristen Callihan said...

Hello fellow Marylander! Whoot. Cough. Anyhoo.

1st person is my first love. However, I love reading 3rd as well. For me, 3rd person allows for a voyeuristic experience while 1st gives a more immediate connection with a character. I naturally gravitated toward 1st person when I started writing. Unfortunately, I was asked by a few editors, who told me romance readers do not like 1st (really?), to try my hand at 3rd. It took a while to get used to but I find that both POVs have their challenges and benefits.

Patti said...

I write in third, but enjoy reading 1st and want to try it for my next book.

Misha said...

I'm not too fussed. I also write in both (but not the same book).

My mother refuses to read first person, though.

:-)

E.C. Smith said...

I write in third...and still managed to surprise myself. What does that say about me? I usually read in third person too, but recently I've bounced outside my box and started reading in 1st.

I've surprised myself. . .yet again. I'm enjoying reading in 1st person pov. But, I really think it depends on the author's delivery of the story. If it's well done, I'll dive in head first and not come up for air until the last word.

Jodi Henry said...

Light, oh, wait that's not published yet.

The Dresden Files are like 11 books all from a male pov, and so good. Well, I have only read three, but still. So good.

And I've written both ways, and way prefer 1st person better. and the male POV too.

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