First person or third person? First person or third person? First person or third person?
This question has been looping around in my mind ever since I began planning my current work in progress, but more than ever this week. I am currently re-writing after completing my first draft and this question has still been bothering me, so it seemed like a good blog topic for this week. (Please note that this post only focuses on first and third person, not second.)
Things to consider when choosing perspective;
1. Who’s telling the story?
When I started planning my novel it was only going to be told from one character’s point of view. And I knew, immediately, that it would be told in first person, present tense. However, as the story progressed I realised that I needed another storyteller in the mix. This is the story teller that’s been given me problems – I couldn’t seem to get it right, in first or third. I think that for any writer, before deciding which style you’re going to be writing in, you need to consider the person telling the story and the voice that they would use.
2. What does the reader need to see?
If you choose to tell the story in first person then you limit what the reader can see, by only following the inner thoughts and view point of one character. If you need the reader to see more than that, then you may need to consider third person instead, as this will allow you to explore different aspects of the story, without directly using or involving your main character. Of course, you can also get around this by including another point of view character, however this can get confusing if you add too many.
3. Can first and third person be used in the same story?
I asked this question over on my instagram page a while back and received mixed answers. Essentially, I was torn because I wanted to tell one character’s side in first person present tense and the other’s in third person past tense. Is this too confusing? I supported this option based on a couple of novels I’d read that did this and it worked so seamlessly I hardly noticed the transition until the end. I think, while this may not be a conventional way to tell a story, that if it works for you then that’s all that matters.
4. Write the same chapter in different perspectives
Eventually, I settled for writing several chapters in both first and third person. In both past and present tense. I considered what felt most natural for me as the writer and the character as a story teller. Then I looked back over them to see which one read the best. Of course, it was the one that had felt the most natural to write. In this case, it was first person present tense, which adds consistency to the telling of both sides of the story.
5. What feels right for you and your characters?
You don’t have to follow the rules. You don’t have to read articles that tell you third person is considered more or less skillful than first, or that your perspective doesn’t match your genre. You just need to write what feels right’ for you and your characters. There are no rules to writing and even if there are, you’re allowed to break them. Tell the story you want to tell, the way you want to tell it. That’s the only way.
I would really love to hear your thoughts on perspective and any battles you’ve had with it.
Please comment below with your experiences.