Writing In First Person

Inevitably, when I get a novel idea, it comes to me in first person.

The climatic moment of self-realisation (which for me generally comes first with a story) simply sounds better in first.

I lie in a daze, following the words, discovering the story… Yet when I sit to write, I write in third.

And if I start writing in first – or try changing a story into first – nine times out of ten, I change it to third.

Why?

Is it because of what I’ve read?
I haven’t come across many good books written in first. Most of the ones I’ve read have been fairly average, so perhaps I’ve subconsciously linked average writing with first person.

Is it because of genre?
A pitfall for writing in first is that it’s easy to get caught up in the protagonist and forget to pan out to the world at large. With a science fantasy like Above Ground, the world is bigger than any one character… and third person allows me to step back and describe the world without the very personal first person point of view distorting it.

Is it aesthetic?
The beauty of third person is the aching distance between reader and protagonist. You feel her pain yet can simultaneously see the bigger picture, which makes the moment all the more exquisite. For me the distance of third person allows for greater immersion and suspension of disbelief; I sink into the character because I want to, not because I’m forced to by the pronoun ‘I’.

Or is it something else?
Perhaps I am making excuses. The more I reread the above list the more doubts I have. The reasons which seemed so solid in my head appear now as flimsy as the screen from which they glow.

Thinking about it, I’ve read many averagely written third person novels – and don’t know why they stick out less in my mind. And a good writer could successfully use first person regardless of genre.

Perhaps it is simply experience. The majority of the books I love are written in third, and that is the sole reason for my unconscious bias.

What about you? Are you biased one way or another?

4 thoughts on “Writing In First Person

  1. Maybe the averagely written third person novels stick out less because third is just more common in general? Because the sampling is so large, you’re more likely to find great books and to forget the averagely written ones.

    I think these are all good reasons to write in third. Personally, I’m not biased towards either. They’re both effective tools that shouldn’t be overlooked or brushed off. I’ve met way too many writers who rule out first person right away and get annoyed at anyone else who uses it. It’s like an artist deciding they are never going to paint with red or any similar colors. I’m sure it can be done well, but when your work is looked at as a whole, it might be noticed that something is missing.

    Perhaps I’m the wrong person to ask though, haha. .

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