Thursday, December 20, 2012

First Person Versus Third Person Narrative Mode

The Memory Witch is my first ever attempt at writing in the first person. Because of the plot—a girl has her memories stolen away—I knew it was important to not head hop. I wanted everything to be told from Quinn’s perspective only.

Writing in first person past tense was a challenge. You’re really limiting POV and it was a tough switch after writing in third person for so long. Since the POV is only told from Quinn’s perspective, I found myself relying on certain plot devices to move the story along. For instance, since there’s a mystery that Quinn must unravel, she had to overhear certain conversations to learn more clues about her past.  

First person writing can also sound wooden and unnatural. It’s easy to end up with a narrative that has many sentences like “I went here” and “I did this.” Since Quinn is relaying the story to the reader, it was up to her to keep the story interesting and portray the secondary characters in a way that readers could connect with.

Although it was tough, I liked what it could achieve. I feel readers may be able to connect more with a character when first person is used. The story reads like a diary and I like the intimacy of the narrative mode.

What are your preferences as a reader and writer? Do you tend to like books with first person or third person POVs? Have you seen books where both are used? 


  1. I prefer both writing (my many attempts to actually write a story, that is) and reading from first person POV. I don't mind when it's a third person narrative, but I can relate more to the character when I read or write from their perspective. but it's definitely a lot harder to relate to secondary characters in a first person narrative. Interesting topic!

    1. I definitely agree with being able to relate more to characters who are written in the first person. I have found that some authors are able to write in third person and are still able to build that connection to the characters. I think they face an uphill battle though and readers may not be as invested in what happens to them.

  2. I have enjoyed First person stories, a favourite is reading a story with multiple characters telling the story.

  3. I think first person is more intimate and should be used when it's necessary to get into the head of the main character. In The Bird, I used third person but followed only two characters. I split the story with extra space when moving between the two and was careful not to head hop. Even in third person, it's easy to do. I only have one book written in first person and it still needed two opposing viewpoints to make a more potent punch. I like reading first person now and then but I prefer third person :) WRITE ON!