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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Mostly, I do first person. I like to have a sense of the character's voice in the writing, and it's sometimes easier to do in first than third. Though the first person can be much more intimate than third, you can sometimes lose that by creating distance when action takes place off-stage. Keeping the protagonist in the thick of it can be tough.
Interesting reading. I've been having some POV angst over my latest as well.

See, I love the first person. Love to read it and love to use it. Not just the first person, but a kind of... hell I don't know what to call it. First person conversational, maybe? When I do first person, I tend to write as if the character were speaking to someone on the next barstool. I use "you" a lot. Example from MONEY SHOT; (the protagonist is a former porn star) "My name is Gina Moretti, but you probably know me as Angel Dare. Don't worry, I won't tell your wife." The fictional "you" she's talking to is not just the reader, but a unique character. In HOODTOWN the "you" the protagonist was speaking to was an outsider, a person without a mask. That kind of first person POV is a really comfortable, natural style for me and when I use it, I find the writing really flies. It's almost like channeling, as if I just work out the plot like an improv scenario and then the character runs with it.

That being said, I'm using third for the new one and it's been a bumpy road so far. The choice to use third came mostly from the fact that one of the two protagonists is a man. I'm totally comfortable with getting into the heads of male characters, I just don't know if readers would be able to ignore my gender and fall seamlessly into a first person male narrative they way they would for a female voice. I also don't know if I could pull off two dueling "I"s in one book. Of course, the jury's still out. I'm a notorious mid-stream horse switcher.

As far as what do I think is kosher for other writers, I say anything goes. A strong writer can pretty much have their way with me any way they like. If the characters are compelling and the writing is good, I don't care if the whole story is from the dog's POV.
My first ever book, was in third. When I wrote my second book, which was my first mystery, I started it in third. It was an okay story, but it didn't take off until I switched it to first. I wrote four books in this series, and by the conclusion, I had developed a voice for this series, the narrative voice.

All well and good until I started my new series. The first version was not coincidentally in first person. I knew it, was comfortable with it, and so turned it in, and the editor was happy. But then I started thinking about it, and I thought for a new series, it wasn't much different from the first, just a different character. I wanted something new and fresh for me. So I rewrote the whole thing in revisions (with my editor's blessing, because it took a bit longer) in third multiple POV.

In theory, it is not hard to change POV. But finding your narrative voice is. That's the difficulty I'm having now. The book reads fine, but it doesn't yet sound like me. At least not in the first few chapters. So I need to work on that.

I guess my point is that you pick the voice and POV that tells the story best. If one doesn't work, try switching to see if another works best.

To me, Voice is all about the nuances of writing, the author's internal dialogue (as opposed to the characters' verbal dilalgue. Clearly if you are writing in first person, the internal dialogue is going to take on the persona of that main character. But in third person, the nuances, the flow of the writing, the way things are described when we aren't specifically dialoguing a character, that is voice. I think it is much harder in third.
I'm like you, Christa. I can write first person all day. Like Ray I think it's because of that acting thing, getting the feel for the rhythms of speech, treating the reader like a confidante or bar buddy with casual asides. You can get away with a lot. Backstory? Easy. Backstory in third person? Hard.

By the way, can't wait to read Hoodtown, I've heard so many good things.
>>By the way, can't wait to read Hoodtown, I've heard so many good things.

The bribery must be paying off.
That fictional "you" is what I love about first person. When I read that I feel like I'm being drawn into a partnership. It's one way, sure, but I'm engaged in ways more personal than if it's a distant, or even close, third.
I like first, I like third, I like third that's really first but without using "I" except in dialogue. There are characters who need to be in third because they would never go around talking about themselves, but you can (sneakily!) get in their heads through third. So, fine.

What drives me absolutely batty, though, is when one chapter is in first and the next in third. I obviously need to find the right medication for this problem, because it is now perfectly okay and standard and every other book I pick up does this. I just need to learn to cope.

I'm not crazy about spiders, either, but they don't bother me nearly as much.
What David J., said. If you notice, it isn't working. It's one of Elmore Leonard's 10 rules - worth checking out for sure. And the way he writes each scene from a specific character's POV is terrific. Almost first person, but not, and he never has the writing, "sticking his nose in."

I only want to hear what the characters have to say, but I also want to know what they're thinking - or what most of them are thinking, in their own voice. I (almost) never want to hear the writer, and as a writer I figure no one wants to hear me.
I'd add Joseph Finder to that list, David J. I loved the way he used first person in Paranoia. For awhile, I couldn't figure out why it had such an expansive, third-person feel. While it doesn't, technically, have different POVs, it does have different identities.

There's Cassidy the Wyatt-man, Cassidy the Trion-man, Cassidy the son, and Cassidy the friend. They are four different POVs, four different reactions, with four different character traits.

I just think that's the coolest thing since strawberries and chocolate fondue.

Barbara, I'm not crazy about switching from first to third, either. I like it better than switching from first to a different character's first, though.

If my story is in first, I'll sometimes write a bit of it in third first. And then I'll do the opposite if the story will be in third. It helps my third go deeper and my first become more transparent.
I think where it has bugged me (but then again, sometimes has actually worked - go figure) is when a series written in first starts throwing in scenes in third because, well, we can't give up on the familiar brand, but the character can't be where the action is for a particular scene, so let's just cheat a little.

Or sometimes I think the author just got bored and thought "I'd rather do this character in first" - maybe easier for the writer, but more work for the reader.

This reader, anyway.
All this talk about first and third, what about second? Personal feel with the ability to stand back and be objective at the same time. By the time my story is done, maybe second will be in fashion.

On the other hand, I like being the exception, so maybe I should warn you all away from it. ;-)
I don't switch from first to third, because I always write in third person--
but my current MIP is an experiment of switching POVs between three main characters.

I've seen it done before, and read where others shun it and say it's breaking all
the rules, but I think anything is possible if you can pull it off. If you're good enough,
you can break the rules eloquently.

I prefer writing in third because it is a more broad range to develop. I have
chapters that dialogue does it all for me, but my third person narrative has a
great leeway in setting up what dialogue misses. Characters can't always convey what a narrative can.


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