Thursday, March 11, 2010

Answers To Your Questions: First Or Third Person in Fiction?

A reader recently inquired if it is better to use first or third person point of view in fiction.

Definitions

First person point of view is when the author uses “I” and writes from the point of view of one character. It allows the author to share the character’s thoughts and feelings, even when s/he doesn’t speak.

Third person point of view allows the author to choose to be omniscient and expand the narrative to include more than one character’s actions and possibly even thoughts.

There is also the second person point of view. The author may be speaking directly to the reader by addressing him or her as “you.” This is a very directive style of writing.

Which POV to choose?

Is one point of view better than the other? No. It depends on your particular narrative and goals for the piece as a whole, as well as the individual characters.

How do you know which point of view to use? My suggestion is to try different points of views and see which ones reads better. You can save your drafts with different file names and experiment. How does the plot change if you put the third person narrative into a first person narrative? Does it become stronger or weaker? Perhaps you learn something new about the character by writing about her in first person, but decide to complete the piece in third person. You can integrate that knowledge into the third person point of view.

Changing the point of view of your writing is a good exercise to challenge your writing skills. Do you find that you always write in first person? Write a short story in the third person and notice how your writing (subject, tone, narrative, etc.) shifts. Try writing from the point of view of someone incredibly different from you (gender, age, culture, etc.) This will also help to shake up your usual writing style and try something new.

Have a question related to writing? Post it below in the Comments section or send me an email (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.) I’ll let you know when the answer is published.

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