First Person v Third Person

As mentioned in a previous post, I was going to rewrite the first chapter of my most recent WIP in first person. For nearly a decade now, I’ve been writing in first person, despite the fact that most of my prior stories were written in third. I was undecided of which POV to use in this fantasy WIP, so I conducted an experiment of writing the first chapter in third and first.

Initially, I hated the chapter I wrote in third. And now that I rewrote the chapter in first, I hate that one even more.

weepanddie

The major differences I discovered are the following:

  • It takes me significantly longer to write in third person than in first.
    • Writing in third person required much more thought and focus. I need to keep everyone in check, including the background, and most importantly, the plot. It took about 3-4 nights to write 2,700 words.
    • Writing in first person felt seamless. The words continued to flow and I was able to write 1,800 words in 1.5 nights.
  • I ramble a lot in first person.
    • The chapter in first person was longer than third. Okay, it was 1,000 words less. But it just felt longer in first than third.
      boredrick

      You’re still talking?? Booring!!

      And I only got halfway through the plot of chapter one in the first person version. Add another 2,000 words or so, and I’d be caught up to where chapter one in third person ends. Which means that it takes more words in first person to get to the same plot point. This leads me to:

  • Time passes by much more efficiently in third person.
    • In spending less time with the main character, the plot was able to move forward as it should. I couldn’t get as close to the characters as I’d have liked to, but at least there weren’t any dull moments.
    • As is often the case when I write in first, I’m with them every step of the way. And I don’t think it works so well for a story with a large scope and time frame — unlike my first person stories.
  • The visuals and atmosphere were much easier to convey in third person.
    • In not having a single lens from which to look out from, I was of course able to show much more of the backdrop. Setting a theme was simpler and more easily achieved in third than in first.
    • First person’s theme and general sentiment is limited by the views and opinions of the MC — whether or not s/he’s a reliable narrator — or, in my MC’s case, young and reckless.

There was such a big difference in the ambiance between the chapters that it didn’t take me too long to decide which POV to use. Which just goes to show that I should have just went with my initial instincts. But at least I know which POV works for this WIP! I will, however, be rewriting chapter one again in third person.

Meanwhile

Can I just digress here and complain about how there just aren’t enough hours in the day, it takes so long to do certain things, and there’s just so much I’d like to accomplish in a day, but it’s just nigh impossible because by the time I sit down to be creatively productive, there are only 2 waking hours left — and those of which are 2 groggy hours of trying to stay awake?

 

bettedrink

I got this. I think.

I digress. a post isn’t a post unless there’s some degree of complaining involved. I’ve been busy with my art commissions most every evening, which is why the writing is coming by at a snail’s pace. And now that school is back in session this week, there goes another chunk of what little amount of free time I’ve had this summer. I’ll just have to use my time more efficiently. *sobs and runs away*

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12 responses to “First Person v Third Person

  1. Interesting insights! I tend not to write in first person, but I can understand what you mean about it taking so long to get through things in first. Perhaps that’s part of the reason epic fantasy tends to be written in third. It’s long enough as it is. 🙂 Probably also because showing the world is easier in third.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Perhaps that’s part of the reason epic fantasy tends to be written in third. It’s long enough as it is.
      I think you’re absolutely right. Offhand, I can’t think of any tomes of the epic fantasy genre that are written in first — though I’m sure there are. Though then again, many of these epics have multiple POVs! That’s a whole ‘nother topic. But yes, third is quite thoughtful for our worldbuilding interest, and that’s especially important for this WIP.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. There really isn’t many hours in the day!! Honestly, I feel like since I don’t enjoy my job, it’s wasted hours during the day where instead I can do something productive towards my life goals. Darn needing money > <

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear you! I hate my day job, too, but I try to think of it as a helpful social experiment — observation of human behavior and interaction, as it were. My 45 minute commute doesn’t go unappreciated, though; I need somewhere to decompress in solitude! What irks me though is that I get so many inspirational ideas during the drive to and from work, and so many awesome aspirations while I’m at work, yet by the time I get home, the motivation wanes to nearly nil. Now if we could work on our WIPs while at work, then I think we’d be sufficiently productive!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Using time efficiently… yeah, first day of school today, and that didn’t happen!!

      Thank you! Yes, definitely frustrating, but worth it in the end. Thank goodness I’m not working on a timetable, or else I’d be royally screwed. Then sometimes, I feel like maybe I’m over-analyzing and wasting my time, especially since it was my initial plan! >.<

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with Candace. What exactly is this thing you called “using time more efficiently”? *lol* I’m still trying to figure out how to improve my time management skills.

    This was neat, to read about your experiment and how it helped you figure out which POV works best for your WIP. Every story has its own set of “requirements,” or what feels right for it, and it’s good that you took the time to figure that out for this story. I think I shared my own experience with switching from 3rd to 1st person with TKC in your other post, so I won’t repeat it here. But I will say that I’m finding 3rd person with the new WIP to be as “flowing” as 1st person was for TKC. Funny, huh?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, first day that the kids are back at school, and there goes the time-efficiency aspirations right out the back window! Flexibility is key in all this… I think!

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! Analyzing how it differs made a good visual for me as well, I think the logical side of brain really needed that level of convincing. Balancing out the pros and cons are important for sanity’s sake! That’s so curious that TKC called for first person, now I am thoroughly convinced that the story dictates the POV, not the author!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh yes, I’m a firm believer that the story’s needs determined the POV, not the author. 😉 I can think of a few authors who have written different POVs for different projects: N.K. Jemisin, Leigh Bardugo, Patrick Rothfuss, Ursula K. Le Guin… and they’re all among my favorites, oddly enough.

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  4. Hello Jessica. My name is Matt. Great post. I like to read third person, but my preferred POV for writing is first person. I like being able to see everything for a single characters thoughts and motives. I feel more attached to the character. At the moment i’m researching first person and reading books in first person. As with most writers I’m hopeful to publish someday.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Matt, thank you for stopping by! I enjoy reading third person, too — most of the books on my shelf are in third person, now that I think of it! But when it comes to writing, yes, I prefer writing in first person. It just feels more real. It’s good to research (what books are you researching?) but the best way to learn is to just do it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, third person seems more like fantasy which I love, but writing in frist person seems more realistic. So far I’ve looking at some of my favorite books in 1st person( The Darkest Minds for example). And you’re right. The more we write the better we get!

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