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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When I think about it, it's strange. I particularly love a good first person mystery - especially with a character who has a weird sense of humour. But I’m actually writing a multiple POV series in which the first book had 14 POV characters and the second has 11. All in third person, of course. But some are close and some not-so-close.

Basically, when I switch scenes, I’m usually also morphing from one character into another. If you watch Star Trek, sometimes I feel a bit like Seven of Nine in the episode in which the people she’d assimilated kept popping up and taking over. Or just call it multiple personality disorder. But then, I’m a writer. 

The weird thing is, I do write first person – I have five coming-of-age novels for teens written from first person (17-18 year-old boy’s) perspective. Yes, I know - really weird. But they work. Or so I’ve had 17-18-year-old boys and their parents tell me. 

I think the reason I can do this is that even though I’m an introvert and not at all in your face, I was always good in drama – had lead roles in high school – and I day-dreamed a lot. Plus I studied psychology as well as English. Always been interested in what makes people tick. Give me a moment and I can get myself into a new character. And I really am there – can feel what they would feel, see what they would see.

Of course, to do multiple POV you have to know your characters fairly well. I try to set that up before I start writing.

I think every book needs to be told in the way that’s best for it. I teach a lot of writing classes, and one thing I suggest is that people don’t always have to stick with their first thought. Take the same scene and write if from different points of view. Try it third and first and even second. Try it close and further away. Even try it from different characters’ points of view. Find out what works best for that particular story.


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