Writing in Third Person

I’ve recently began a new WIP. It’s a fantasy story and I’ve been working on the backstory, worldbuilding, and characters, for nearly a month now. One of my endeavors with this new story is to try and write a story in third person again.

All my first stories were in third person, merely because that’s what I was used to, but back in 2008, I wrote a story in first person POV, and happily carried on like so  — until now.

Back in my youth when I wrote in third person, I never gave much thought to the different states of omniscience, personal third, limited, etc., until I began reading writing how-to books in my early 20s. It was intimidating, until I told myself to stop analyzing and just write. I began writing in first person then on a whim, and it was the greatest thing ever. Writing in first person just feels so much more natural to me.

The major difference for me between writing in first vs third is that writing in third feels like I’m simultaneously the actor and the director. I feel compelled to describe things from a bigger lens, that I must strategically place the characters and set up each scene just so. And then tell every relevant action or thought of certain characters that the MC isn’t necessarily experiencing.

Writing in first is where I’m strictly the actor. Writing as the protagonist places me directly into the story. It’s a retelling, more than a telling. So, if that makes any sense, writing in first person feels more of a story experience rather than watching a story unfold. Becoming the character and showing their thoughts and actions makes more sense to me than writing about characters and their feelings and observations beyond their purview. It may seem limited, in the literary sense, but it just feels right.

In this new WIP, I want to try and write in third person again, if only just to see if I could still pull it off. I was scared, anxious, and thoroughly nervous. After gathering sufficient courage, I wrote chapter one of the WIP in third. It wasn’t as awful as I thought it’d be, but I wasn’t thrilled with the result. It just felt too shallow. The characters felt too distant to me. It felt too restrictive.

One would think, just write the story in first person. No one’s forcing you to write in third. I know I’d have no problem writing this new WIP in first person, it’s just that I feel I’d lose the grandeur of the story experience. Not that the setting is the focal point, but I do want it to have an impact. I want to be able to describe the setting… without the MC being a tour guide. Scenes need to unfold without the MC being there.

I will be rewriting chapter one in first person POV to compare the difference, and perhaps write a followup post about the differences.

A curious note: all my fantasy stories are written in third person. All my urban fantasy stories are written in first person. I wonder if the genre and setting have anything to do my hangups?

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14 responses to “Writing in Third Person

  1. I always write my novels in third person – I think it suits high fantasy better, and third person is what I prefer to read – but for some reason whenever I start thinking about a short story I compose in first person. It seems easier to jump straight into immersion in first person, and with a short word count that matters a lot.

    There do seem to be differences between genres, with a lot of YA fantasy in first person, which I’m really not a fan of. I would guess the books you’ve read have influenced your narrator choices in the different genres.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good observations! I do believe our influences run deep, more than we realize. I can’t think of many high fantasy books I’ve read that were in first person. But many of the urban fantasy stories I’ve read, to include Anne Rice, are written from first person. Seems I’ve followed suite.

      I enjoy both POVs, it’s hard to choose which I like better! I take it if given the choice, you’d choose to write in third? Also, do you write third person limited, or omniscient?

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s definitely harder when you don’t have firm preferences yourself!

        I always prefer to write in third person – and always third person limited. I don’t have the skill to pull off omniscient without seeming like I’m just head-hopping like crazy. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m rooting for you no matter which POV you decide to follow. I do think it’s interesting, as well, that your UF lends towards first while your straight up F leans towards third. It might not mean anything, but I’d be intrigued to see if the trend continues! Stoked that you’re working on a new story, however, and that you’re making progress while challenging yourself! Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aw, thanks!! I finished the recent urban fantasy, and I’ve been wanting to go back to the standard fantasy for a while now. And my first thought was to write in third, until the time came to actually start writing — and then I balked. It’s been so long! I’ve a feeling the mood of the story will be very different if I switch to first person… and that may not be a good thing! It’s always the most least expected thing to trip me up!

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      • At least you’re willing to experiment and try different POVs. I have no doubt that you’ll figure out which one fits the needs and voice of this story better, even if it takes a couple chapters and trial and error. You got this!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. A great deal of what’s being published is stuff written in first person. Good stuff! But third person has many good points and I applaud your decision to go with it. It will be interesting to see how the two POV versions of Ch I will differ.

    And good for you to start the new project! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I’ve a feeling the story mood will change drastically when I write the chapter in first person POV — unless the protagonist gets a makeover to become a little more serious. I want the protagonist to mature during the scope of the plot, and that growth seems easier to show in third than it would in first. After all these years of writing, I’m still coming to some interesting revelations about this writing shindig!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think it always depends on the story and the characters, not necessarily the genre. I’ve seen high / epic fantasy and urban fantasy written in both first person and third person. So I don’t think one is necessarily more appropriate than the other. It’s more about “what feels right.”

    I actually started writing the first draft of TKC (YA high / epic fantasy) in third person. But I was struggling with it; I wasn’t getting as deep into the main character’s perspective as I wanted to. So then I switched to first person, and the rest went more smoothly. And my new WIP, which is YA / New Adult magical realism? Third person, and I’m having no problem with it. *shrugs*

    Do what you think feels most natural for the story. That’s my only advice. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • And your advice is so appreciated! And one that I’ll definitely take, because it resonates. Stories have a life of their own, no doubt about that. I’ve switched POVs once, from third to first, like yourself. It was so much easier to write after that, nevermind that I never finished that story. But regardless, how interesting that your current WIP is smooth sailing in third person! Do you prefer writing in one POV over another?

      Liked by 1 person

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