If you’ve ever written fiction, be it in whatever genre, then you’ve undoubtedly hesitated about whether you should write in
And while both have their merits and challenges, there are differences and one can be better suited to specific genres than the other.
Here is a brief overview to help you find which best suits both you, and the story you want to tell:
When to write in 1st person
Writing in 1st person is when the author places themselves in the main character’s head. They write with I, me, mine, etc.
Just like everyone else, I had heard of dragons before. I had just never seen one. Not until I was staring down its huge, yellow eyes, choking on the smoke coming out of its nostrils.
- It’s easier for the author to get into the character’s head, see things from their point of view, become the character. It can make them more believable because it’s easier for the author to infuse characteristics and traits into them in this way.
- It makes the character more relatable for the readers because they get an insider’s perspective. They know first hand what the character is thinking, and why they are thinking that way.
- It’s an easy way for an author to create a bond with their readers; they can give them glimpses into the character’s mind that can be difficult to convey in third person.
If the whole story does not revolve around a single character, it can be difficult to tell the readers what is going on elsewhere in the story, when the main character is not present.
- As it is often used in Young Adult novels (YA), it can be associated with a less mature audience and voice.
When to use it:
This can be a great tool to use when your target audience is young. Children and young adults love reading in first person, as it allows them to project themselves into the character and the story much more easily than with third person.
Genres well suited to it:
When to write in 3rd person
Writing in third person is when the author places themselves outside of the characters’ heads. They write in he/she/they, their, etc.
His blood ran cold as he froze in place, not daring to move a single muscle for fear of the dragon seeing him. His heart was pounding unnaturally loud in his ears, his hands growing cold and slick as his sword slipped in his grip.
This choice makes it a lot easier to write about multiple points of view. As mentioned earlier, if your story is complex and there are multiple arcs that need to be moved forward, it can be a challenge to do so when writing in first person. Writing in third person makes this easier.
- This writing style often sounds more mature, more serious than in first person.
- It’s possible for the author to adjust the “camera lens”, if you will, about the story they are telling. In first person, the reader is always in the midst of the action. In third person, the author can choose to zoom in or zoom out as they please, making it a lot easier to give a reader an overall view of what’s going on.
It can be a challenge for an author to get a reader into their character’s head when writing in third person. It can make the story and characters impersonal and distant, which ruins the reading experience.
When to use it:
When you have stories that are complex, with multiple story arcs, or many important characters who all need to share time in the spotlight,
It can also help to use third person when you want to give your story a more mature, serious voice.
Genres well suited to it:
- Thriller, crime
There you have it!
You can choose to use one over the other, or even mix them, using one first person and then multiple third POVs, as several authors (including Diana Gabaldon in the series Outlander) have done successfully.
And keep in mind that despite what is written here, both of these styles can be used very well in any genre, as long as the author has the talent for it.
There are books written in first person that are incredibly deep, serious and wonderfully written.
There are books written in third person where the author has the uncanny ability to get the reader inside the character’s head and getting them to identify with their struggles and hardships.
The best advice anyone can give you is probably to go with what you like most, and what you feel most comfortable with. I mean, writing a novel is hard enough as it is, right? There really isn’t any need to add extra lego pieces under your bare feet as you stumble forward on the path to finishing your novel. Unless you like stepping on leggo pieces, in which case, who are you??
What about you? Do you prefer to write in first person, or in third? Does it match what you like as a reader? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear!!