Monday, June 1, 2009

"Third Person Vs. First Person" or "The Voices in my Head Won't Shut Up"

"I allow my intuition to lead my path." --Manuel Puig

This would be a helpful quote, if all the voices in my head could ever agree.

My manuscript, Legacy of the Empress, is written in 3rd person, but the voices in my head are now telling me that the only way to really write my WIP is to switch gears and write it in 1st person.

There's just one problem. I LIKE 3rd person! 3rd person is easy for me. I get 3rd person. I'm a 3rd Person Person!

I'm noticing from reading other writer blogs that I am actually a freak in this regard. Others seem to love, love, love the freedom that 1st person allows. Some even write in present tense!

To those who do these things: I salute you! I also ask for your insight. How do you do what you do?

My main worry is when I'm in my character's brain and writing through their eyes is that I'll be too blunt or "tell" the reader too much, too soon. I've learned to play it pretty cool in 3rd, and reveal a little bit at a time, drawing people alone. If you're in someone's head... how do you maintain the mystery? How do you tread lightly in 1st?

I'm currently reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and am learning a ton about how to write effective, mysterious, wonderful fiction in this voice, but now I'd love to learn from YOU.

What do you prefer? If you write in 1st person, how do you work within that freedom? If you write in present tense like Ms. Collins, how do you keep your head from kersploding?

Please let me know how you do it if you do it.

I'd love to hear your tips and stories!


Scott said...

I write in third person. I'm not even sure I'd want to attempt first person, let alone first person present tense. SCARY!

For me, third person is the comfortable blanket I snuggle under to ward off the cold.

My personal thoughts - write in the way that is comfortable to you.

Another thought, write one chapter in first person and compare it to the same chapter written in third person. I did something similar with a project I've been working on. The project takes place from three separate perspectives. I went back and rewrote the chapter from a single perspective. I loved the new take on the project. My beta readers did not. They felt the three perspectives provided more insight/depth since many times the same event was taking place from three perspectives, and lending different aspects to the scene. I ended up staying with my three versus one perspective. So, give it a shot. Write that chapter in first person and see how things change . . . and whether you like those changes.

Best of luck.


Rebecca Knight said...

Good advice, Scott :)! Thanks for the input!

Abby said...

As you know, I write in first person. Third person kind of scares me. When I started my current accursed, never-ending write/rewrite/revise... um, sorry, I got off track there... my current WIP, I chose first person, because I thought it would best convey her feelings regarding her loss, impending relationship, blah, blah, blah. I just don't think it would have worked as well in third. But in third I could have shown things from other characters' perspectives, so that would have made writing a few scenes a little easier and maybe a little more interesting.

There are benefits to both, but I'm comfortable with first, so that's what I write. Maybe someday I'll get adventerous and try third. :)

I'm with Scott. Try rewriting a chapter in first and see if you like it better. I'd be happy to read it too, if you want an extra set of eyes.

shield maiden said...

I find it easiest to write in 3rd person as well. I never understood 1st person unless it is well written (which isn't always the case).

I agree with some of the comments that other people have made here--go with what is not only comfortable, but natural too.

I also want to say that if you're up for it, you could always try using both perspectives (tricky, I know but two authors who I think did a good job of using both are Anne Bronte and Jonathan Stroud).

Yunaleska said...

Go with what you feel like. I write third person. I admire first person. But third comes more naturally for me. However, I'm a close third person - its almost like first, only without the I's :) Best of both worlds.

Stephanie said...

When I started my first novel, liek many writers, it was loosely based on my life and I worked in thinsg that actually happened to me as a teen. It was only natural for me to write it in first person.

I like first person...I like being able to get inside the MC's head. When I write first person I tend to stick with one character's POV. I know some writers will skip around and jump from head to head in first...but I don't know. For me, in 1st, one POV works best.

A also really like third. For a while it scared me to write in third...but then I gave it a whirl and really liked it. I liked jumping from POV to POV and getting to share the perspective of other characters and not just the main character.

Rebecca Knight said...

You guys are definitely making me re-think my whole approach here.

I started writing in 1st, thought "Hmm, this might be cool for the story, but holy crap, it's hard," then just assumed that I was a huge wuss and needed to power through.

I'm a Power Through kind of person.

Now all this wonderful advice about writing what's comfortable :). I'm going to do some experimenting and see if I am being a wuss, or just a regular uncomfortable person.

Fascinating to hear your personal experiences--thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

My first two novels are in first...and honestly, I couldn't imagine them any other way. I didn't find it hard to stay in voice or tell the right story. My shorts are in third typically. I have written one in 1st person, present - because that is what the story demanded. It was hard...but it is one of my fav stories to date.

My current WiP is in third (I think...we'll see if it stays there). I picked third because there are multiple POVs that need to be told in the storyline.

Bottom line - I think the story itself dictates which tense, which POV, which voice, etc...

Good luck with everything. (And PS...Hunger Games is one of my all-time fav books!)