This is all about the voice. When you write in first person, you're telling that story from one character's point of view, in that character's voice. It's the classic PI perspective and allows the hero to make all sorts of comments on the action, comments that might be out of place in third person.

The first version of Panamanian Moon was in first person and third person because I had no idea how to build suspense when I was limited to what John Harper could see for himself. But I thought that switching from first to third was cheating, so I rewrote it all in first person.

One of the reasons my WIP is taking so long is that I'm writing in third person and that magnifies issues of plot, rhythm, voice and in each scene I risk switching points of view, something that is so easy to do and so hard to fix.

The advantages are a bigger book with a wider scope, subplots that are well-developed, and the ability to set things in motion with one character and watch as it plays out with other characters. All good, but it's a lot harder, at least it is to me.

What about you? What POV do you use and why? What do you sacrifice and what do you gain by the choice? And I know several writers who switch from first to third and pull it off just fine, but is it kosher?

Talk to me.

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Ray Banks did a brilliant job in his first book SATURDAY'S CHILD which had two completely distinctive first person points of view - it was wonderful stuff.

My first (and probably only!) book was first person. The one I'm working on at the moment is multiple third. I really love ensemble caper books (which is what I'm trying to do at the moment) and multiple third works really well for that because of the way all the strands come together.I enjoy reading both. I like first person because you really get to know a character from the inside out. I enjoy third person because you get more of an overview.

I'm currently reading Peter Temple's NOT DEAD ENOUGH which is due out in June and which is shaping up to be an excellent read. It has POVs of police, killer, victims and a couple of other characters and it's done really well. So well that I want to keep reading each character's story so the start of each new chapter makes me want to keep reading, rather than see it as a good point for a break.
Donna, I'm glad you mentioned Mr. Banks' work. There are a handful of writers I've read in the past year that have taken off the top of my head with their talent. Ray and Olen Steinhauer are two that kill me. Great stuff.

I was introduced to Ray when he and I were up for the same short story award. I remember reading his story and saying to my wife, "I'm toast. This fucking Brit can really write. Goddammit."
"in each scene I risk switching points of view, something that is so easy to do and so hard to fix."

This is so true, and happens all the time.

For me, POV shifts are like all the other gimmicks in the author's bag o' tricks: If I notice the writer doing it, it's bad. If I don't notice, it's okay. (Usually I only notice when it's done poorly.)

I started my novel in first person. When I'd written maybe 1/4 or so of it, I got some feedback from someone whose opinion I trust. He suggested that it would work better in third person. I agonized over the decision, but eventually I decided he was right and rewrote it.

I still think it was the right choice. First person is harder to do well and has a lot of problems inherent in it (especially for thrillers) that third person doesn't have. Some people (Child & Eisler come to mind) can pull it off, but it's tough.
I've only written short stories as yet, but so far my experience has been that
I have to find the correct POV to make it work. Usually it's the third person.
I feel uncomfortable making the words the protagonist speaks come from
my mouth if that makes sense. I did use first on several occassions to make
a pretty unsympathetic protagonist seem more likeable. But I like the distance
the third person gives you most of the time. I also feel it allows the writing itself to
occupy a bigger place in the story.
There are always exceptions, but I prefer reading third person multiple and I prefer writing third person multiple... When it comes to manuscripts, anyway.

I've done my share of first person short stories, which I find a lot of fun, but never a first person ms.

The one disadvantage to first person you didn't mention is that if the reader doesn't connect/like/find reason to stick with the protagonist in a first person narrative the book is toast, doesn't matter how well plotted it is. There is a series I won't read, not because the author can't write, but because I don't like the protagonist and since it's in first person narrative I don't want to spend time with them. And I can read stories about people I don't like but it's what I don't like about this one that makes the difference for me. Sorry, I won't name names. If the author did something in third I'd give it a go.
That's a good point. If you don't like the character, first person can be like a long flight next to an obnoxious talker.
I find the "right" POV per character too. It's kind of arbitrary and sometimes I find myself switching to a different POV when it starts to sound more natural that way.

I started my novel with POV shifts - first person, third person present, and third person past. I honestly felt that it was the best way to showcase all the different characters, and I don't think it was overly gimmicky. Then an agent I submitted to said he didn't care for first person narratives, so I requeried after rewriting my sample pages. He still didn't take it, but said it flowed much better. So I rewrote the whole book, and I agree with him.
My first two books were first person POV.

To me, it's much easier to keep one guy on track, what he does, sees, hears, smells, etc., and what that means to the story. I don't have to worry about the internal motivations of other characters this way, just the way they act and what the main character perceives about them.

That said, my third book features alternating first and third person POV, with the latter being the villian. I really wanted to get inside the head of a bad guy and see what makes him tick.
The process wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, but I had a pretty good handle on the layout of the story.
"While I can understand Sandra's reasoning, I don't subscribe to it. The most obnoxious chracters are sometimes the most interesting - I really don't have to like a character to read about them, or listen to 'em tell me a story."

But that's you, and you're a writer. Do you think readers who have money to choose between this story and another with a more "likable" character will opt for this one? (Yes, once again, the balance between art and commercialism!)
The character isn't obnoxious, though. There's, IMHO, a major contradiction within the character that I don't buy and it has something to do with her fundamental viewpoints and philosophies that makes it not work for me. I mean, I love Milne - I don't like him particularly but I'll eagerly spend time with him, and read Al's new one - phew! Some nasty characters in there but so well drawn you're spellbound.

But this one character, this one... Nope. My intense dislike for her goes over on a whole different level. It's not that I just don't like her, I dislike what she represents about (some) women. I could handle her in small doses, but in solid first pov, no way. Bought and read one book in the series and won't spend money on more.
No need to apologize Ray. I find myself asking often why something will work for me in one book and not another. There are times an author can break every rule you have and leave you still wanting more. Every time I try to come up with a no-no list I can think of someone who did that no-no and did it brilliantly.

It's weird how sometimes one little thing will throw us. That was part of why I started the stereotype/cliche thread - because I can read books that are reusing familiar storylines and love them and find them fresh, and then other books are stale as yesterday's toast. It's always interesting to hear why others react the way they do to books as well.
Absolutely agree with you on this. I find I have to start with voice. Starting with plot or character just screws me up. Once I have the voice, I have the person.

As you say, the most obnoxious characters are often the most interesting. I think it depends less on the writer in this case than it does on the reader. They'll either connect with a character or they won't, and there's no way to tell one way or the other.

Oh, and not to add too much to the kum-bay-fuckin'-ya love fest, here, but Saturday's Child was fucking incredible. The two voices really worked well in it.


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