Wednesday, July 9, 2014

No Respecter of (Third) Persons: Part One -- How Does That Make You Feel? (an IWM post)

Somewhat recently, I was presented with the question of... okay, I don't remember, exactly, what the question was, but I'll say it like this: Why do you believe that third person perspective is superior to first person?
That's a really good question, especially since I don't exactly shy away from first person.
So, I suppose, the real question is more along the lines of "Why do I think you shouldn't use first person?"

Well, okay, it's not that I think you, the specific you sitting here reading this post, shouldn't use first person; it's that I think the general you out there shouldn't use first person. At least not until you have figured out how to write in third person. First person, especially for the beginning writer, has too many traps and short cuts; until you know how to get around them, you should write in third. And, actually, it's writing in third that will help you to learn to avoid the snares.

So let's start with descriptions...

* * *

Do you know the drill, yet? I feel like you ought to know the drill. Unless this is your first time here, in which case, here's the drill:
His name is Bit, and he's glad to meet you.

Seriously, though, hop right over to Indie Writers Monthly to find out why you ought to be writing in third person. Or, at lease, why you shouldn't be writing in first. No, they're not the same thing.


  1. A fascinating post. I'm afraid I don't agree with you 100% per cent about first and third person viewpoint. But it's certainly given me something to think about!

  2. I think the bigger trap than most of what you've mentioned is head-hopping while in first person. It's bad enough in third person, but in first, it sticks out terribly.

  3. Headed over to see if you give me hints about avoiding the traps….

  4. Hi, Bit! Bye, Andrew. (Headed over.)

  5. Ellie: As long as it makes people think, then I'm good.

    Alex H: I'm not sure what you mean by "head-hopping" in this context, since that shouldn't happen in first person. So...
    If you're talking about slipping into other characters' thoughts, there will some stuff on that in part 2.
    If you're talking about multiple first person perspectives, well, that's a whole other ball of wax.

    Elsie: They're sand traps.

    Crystal: Bit says "hi."

    TAS: Gotta love the public domain.

  6. I LOVE the freedom that 3rd brings… Love. But I have done both. I feel like I can get inside the character's head more with first, so I do like that… but I can see what you mean about the traps and short cuts with first.

    And laughing with your drill/bit stuff. So funny. :)

  7. Not a writer so doesn't apply. I loved the drill though.

  8. I think both first and third have advantages (first sometimes gives you more intimacy and can be fun if your character has a distinct voice, but third gives you a little more to work with in terms of world-building and I'm such a sucker for the right 3rd person narrative voice). Heading over there to read your thoughts!

  9. Morgan: I'm glad you liked the drill :)

    Here's the thing: I think you can get into the head of your protagonist just as much with third person. I think we've sort of forgotten that, though.

    Jo: I don't believe you. I read that story you wrote.

    Jessica: That distinct voice is the sticking point. I think most first person stories just have the author's voice.