FIRST PERSON v’s THIRD PERSON

Twenty years ago this was a meaty question. Now it seems to have drifted into the background. But there is still a certain assumption that First Person is more literary.

In my experience there are very few writers who capture my interest in First Person. The notable exceptions are Jim Butcher and John Scalzi. To a lesser extent Ian M. Banks but I generally find his work a bit dry and unengaging since his early days.

Conversely there are atrocious examples of First which are grotesquely successful (I’m thinking Twilight here) and then there’s Dan Brown who gives Third a bad name even on his best days (I did enjoy Angels & Demons, though- we all have our guilty pleasures I suppose. And I am a failed Catholic after all, so …)

This probably says more about my sensibilities than POV but I find Third person so much more flexible and dramatically satisfying than First. And it’s not that I avoid First but try as I might I cannot warm to it as a reader.

As a writer I use it occasionally to drift into and out of a character’s psyche for specific effect but have never attempted to maintain the POV. The limitations just seem too obvious and not worth the effort. Given that so few of these efforts have succeeded elsewhere this conclusion appears self-evident. All of which has made me suspicious of my own internal logic.

So I started an exercise to see if I could in fact write something in First that would at least hold my own interest. Patchy success so far; I’ll continue to try but given my preferred subject matter (sci-fi, paranormal) Third works that much better.

Which is probably the whole point- we craft our techniques to the subject matter? Or we should. It is the story that should be served by the method not the technique for its own sake. Or was that Creative Writing 101 blasphemy?

iDM

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