I’m the mother of three sons, all voracious readers, and all highly opinionated. Each knows what he expects from a story, so if he’s going to invest time reading a book, it better deliver. So, no surprise that as I rinsed the dishes and arranged them in the dishwasher my youngest son, Joey joined me to talk books.
“Hey Ma, do you prefer books written in first or third person?”
I thought for a moment, which did I prefer? First or third person point of view? “Either as long as it’s well done.”
A lively discussion ensued regarding the pros and cons of first person…he had mostly cons, I was somewhat divided.
I wondered how my writer friends might feel about the topic, so I brought it up at a recent write in.
“It doesn’t work well in fantasy, how do you give the reader a view of the world you’ve built in first person?”
“Don’t like it, it just doesn’t work for me.”
“The reader’s view is too limited in first person.”
The majority landed on the third person POV team.
Interestingly enough I’d never considered POV as controversial until these conversations. Personally, I love good writing, and whether the author delivers in first or in third, I’m happy.
First person done well can be amazing. Think Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain, or Edgar Allen Poe’s, The Tell Tale Heart. Either story can be told in third person, but first person gives you a more personal glimpse into the main character’s head, and The Tell-Tale Heart gives you a view of the mind of an insane person that you probably couldn’t get in third person.
Some of my current favorite authors do first person brilliantly.
Author, Megan Hart writes in both first and third person and does both well. Her first-person books are seductive, slightly dark and suck the reader in from the very first line. As a reader you know her heroine, and each page gives you a better understanding of the main character, the choices she makes, what she thinks and how she feels.
The Book Seller, by Cynthia Swanson is written in first person. Swanson could have told the story in third, but by writing in first, she kept secrets from the reader, only to be revealed at the perfect moment.
Erika Robuck pens literary fiction in first person. Many of her stories offer a glimpse into the life of a historical figure, but written from the point of view of a fictional character who could have been in their life. By doing this, Robuck is able to present a different perspective. The story is fiction, but with an amazing excellent historical detail. She leaves you wondering…what if?
I write primarily in third person, but occasionally in first. And I read and love both. Tell a good story, make me turn the next page. If the writer puts me into their world and I don’t want to leave, I don’t care what tools she (or he) uses to get me there.
What about you? Do you prefer to read third person or first? And why? Or do you care? Which do you use when you write?
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