Which is Better: 1st Person or 3rd Person?
I’ve always written in 1st person.
Every novel and short unfinished story that I’ve worked on has been in 1st person. So why-oh-why did I decide to change my 90,000-word work in progress to 3rd person?
Because I love adding on piles of extra work? No!
I decided to make the change because it was better for my story. I tested it out with a couple of chapters and felt that it made things tighter, cleaner and read better. My descriptions were better, the action was more clear and I feel like it’s overall a stronger story.
It was a lot of work but so worth it.
That’s not to say that 3rd person is ultimately better than 1st - I think it depends on the writer, the characters, the story and what level of closeness to the characters you want.
So here’s what I love about the 1st person point-of-view:
You allow the reader to get to know the characters very closely. They are literally inside their head and seeing the world from their eyes. This allows the reader to get to know them very intimately and to get invested in their journey.
Another thing I love about 1st person is how you can mislead the reader with a biased or downright crazy character. Or they can seem totally sane but because the reader isn’t getting that full world perspective – it can be jarring when you reveal what is truly going on.
A book that I recently reviewed on Instagram is the perfect example of this killer technique. (I’m so punny!) BEAUTIFUL BAD by Annie Ward is written in first person but we see two different timelines throughout the book. One timeline is in the past when she and her now-husband first met and the beginning of their relationship. The other timeline is the present and the current struggles they are experiencing in their marriage.
But what you don’t realize, as the reader, is how Maddie is leading you astray. It’s right in front of the reader’s eyes but I didn’t realize what was going on until the very end. This is a beautiful example of how 1st person can make you think you’re close to the character but really, there is some wool over your eyes.
Now, here’s what I love about 3rd person point of view:
I love the diversity of 3rd person. I love that I can have 2 or 3 main characters and get to see the situation from each of their eyes. You can still achieve that closeness with each character but 3rd person gives you some more freedom. Some more wiggle room with who gets to describe what and that can allow you to change up how things are perceived or depicted to the reader.
What I found while changing over my current work-in-progress to 3rd person was that my descriptions changed. I found I was able to show more instead of just telling.
I read somewhere that 1st person is mostly used by writing beginners and I can see the truth in that. It’s the easiest way to get in there and really truly feel what your characters are doing or what they need. It’s a little bit easier but for me, I felt like it was holding me back and I didn’t even realize it.
3rd person always scared me. I don’t know why maybe it was the beginner in me but now I’ve tackled it. And I see the merits of it!
One book that I’ve read recently that mixes both 1st and 3rd person point-of-view is MY SISTER IS MISSING by Julia Barrett. She leads the reader through the story from two perspectives – Steph, who is missing and her sister, Jess. Steph’s chapters are in 1st person while Jess’ are in 3rd. I’ll admit that it tripped me up for a little bit but it was a very effective way of telling the story.
The story through Jess’ eyes needed to be a little wider, to include the police, Steph’s friends and her husband. While Steph’s story needed to be close and just seen through her eyes. If you’re wanting a good example of how to mix the two – I’d highly recommend this book.
So tell me, lovelies, which POV do you like best? What are your success stories with 1st? Why do you love 3rd?