First Person or Third Person?

Are you more comfortable writing in the first person? Do you use the more conventional third person? I deliberately chose to use the first person narrative in my debut novel, “It Cant Be You”.  In this psychological thriller, the head of the family is found dead at the very start of the story. His wife, son and daughter do not know whether he was killed or he killed himself.

Later the story traces events that led to his death. I used a lot of flashback to build up the story. Using the first person narrative gave me the flexibility to think and speak as I thought the characters would. I tried to use different voices for after all they were different people with differing likes, aspirations and fears.  They represented different generations with different values.

To understand the circumstances when one can be used rather than the other, I would recommend this  excellent blog post by Nathan Bransford ” First Person vs. Third Person.”

Another interesting method is to use the  Alternating Person View. In this the voice depends on the character. You could have some chapters written in the third person and others in the first person. In a book I just read by the New York Times best selling author,  Jeff Abbott called “The Last Minute” I found that while most of the book was written in the third person, all the parts pertaining to the main protagonist were written in the first person.

I was fascinated to see that while most of the book was written in the conventional past tense, some part of the book was written in the present tense. One of the characters, in fact, one of those for whom Abbott uses the first person describes events that happened in the past as if they were happening right then.

I believe some variety does make the book more interesting. Variations in the narrative make this happen but they should blend well and shape the story and not be used merely for the novelty.

What do you think? Would you like to share your thoughts/experiences on this one?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s