First vs. Third

17 Dec

So I’m reading along and I realized that a lot of books lately are being written in first-person. (I’m a little slow sometimes.) First-person is totally fine, but sometimes I wonder if these books need to be written that way. Personally, I prefer writing in third because I like jumping into different POVs. All that got me wondering, when is it necessary/beneficial to write in first and I found Tara K. Harper’s Writer’s Workshop. She makes some interesting points.

In first-person, the benefit is the ability to get inside the character’s head. The reader knows their every thought and emotion. If that’s what drives the story, this works perfectly. Twilight succeeds in first because it all focuses around Bella’s thoughts and how much she loves Edward. One of the problems with first is that the story is only told from the one POV (usually). This sometimes forces the author to create unrealistic situations just so the main character can see or overhear something. For example, I read a book recently where the MC followed someone into a storage room, then hid behind the shelves to hear what was happening and she witnessed three people kill someone. That in itself, is fine with me. But before they killed him, the people went into this long talk about them hunting demons (The guy is a demon and he knows who they are.) and then they elaborately explained what a demon is (Again, they’re saying this to the demon. I think he knows.) See the problem.

On to third. Third allows the exploration of multiple POVs. So the MC doesn’t have to figure out the villians motive, we can jump to his POV and find out for ourselves. Then comes the fun of the reader knowing what’s coming but the MC doesn’t. Sometimes this works and other times it doesn’t. I would hate to know the murderer in a mystery novel before the detective. But knowing that the villian is planning a magic ritual to destroy all the witches in the area, that adds suspense for me. How will they find out? Can they stop him?

This is far from all the pros and cons of either, just the ones that jumped out at me. Happy writing!


Posted by on 2009/12/17 in Writing


4 responses to “First vs. Third

  1. Uninvoked

    2009/12/17 at 20:03

    You’ve got the most perfect name for a blog. Who could resist you?

    I agree very much with your thoughts. First person shouldn’t be used if it is going to be too realistic, but I’ve actually read books that I wished were in first, and vice versa. (I still haven’t forgiven Patricia Wrede for writing the final book of her Enchanted Forest Chronicles from the first person perspective of a person who wasn’t even born when the rest of the story was written. To me, the fourth book just kinda dangles off the rest of them like a bad tooth. >.<

    • Candice Beever

      2009/12/17 at 20:27

      I’m glad you liked the name. I haven’t read that series but it does sound a little off. I usually find myself wishing that books were written in third, but that may just be because first is such a hot trend that I’m getting sick of it. Thanks for the read.

  2. Koreen

    2009/12/29 at 23:05

    Hey, this post actually inspired my own blog today–thanks. As far as trends that bug me, I think stories written in present tense are higher on my list than 1st person. Although, that could be because I like writing in 1st (hope Horizons didn’t but you too much).

    • Candice Beever

      2009/12/29 at 23:10

      I could totally see present tense being annoying, but I’ve only read a few books written that way. And no, Horizons didn’t bug me. I don’t hate first-person, unless it’s used when it shouldn’t be. You use it really well and most of the time I barely even notice it’s in first. I’ll have to check out your blog to see what I inspired. Thanks for the read.


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