Okay so I’ve seen this topic thrown around on forums and on FB a lot, and I think it’s an interesting one to discuss. Especially because it appears that I am in the minority when it comes to narrative preferences with books that I read, and write, for that matter!
QUESTION: Which do you prefer: First person or third person narrative?
For those who don’t know, here are the definitions:
First-person narrative is a narrative mode where a story is narrated by one character at a time, speaking for and about themselves. First-person narrative may be singular, plural or multiple as well as being an authoritative, reliable or deceptive “voice” and represents point of view in the writing.
The narrators explicitly refer to themselves using words and phrases involving “I” (referred to as the first-person singular) and/or “we” (the first-person plural). This allows the reader or audience to see the point of view (including opinions, thoughts, and feelings) only of the narrator, and no other characters. In some stories, first-person narrators may refer to information they have heard from the other characters, in order to try to deliver a larger point of view. Other stories may switch from one narrator to another, allowing the reader or audience to experience the thoughts and feelings of more than one character.
In the third-person narrative mode, each and every character is referred to by the narrator as “he”, “she”, “it”, or “they”, but never as “I” or “we” (first person), or “you” (second-person). In third-person narrative, it is obvious that the narrator be merely an unspecified entity or uninvolved person that conveys the story, but not a character of any kind within the story being told.
I’ve noticed lately that a lot of the books I wind up reading are written in first person, so that must mean that most people enjoy it. In fact, the last four books I’ve read were written using that narrative, and I did my best to get over my qualms and just enjoy the stories. Because there are some really great books out there written using first person (cough cough, Dresden Files), and I would be doing a disservice to myself by passing them up simply because I don’t like the narrative.
But I find it harder to enjoy reading a book where I become the character. I guess I prefer reading about someone versus becoming them, if that makes sense. Especially if they are an annoying or boring character (like Bella Swan!). And plus when a book is written in third person, it allows the reader to experience the emotions and exploits of several different characters, not just the one, all in the same chapter or scene without being confusing. For me that’s more fun! I want to know what everyone is thinking and feeling and experiencing as an event takes place, and the only way to do that is with third person.
I’ve never attempted to write in first person so I really don’t know if I would like it or not, but I think it would be very difficult for me. I love getting into the minds of my characters, but it would feel weird to me to write as though I was them. It’s easier almost to be the omniscient puppetmaster, pulling the strings but not actually becoming the character being moved across the stage. Why that is, I don’t know. But I think it has a lot to do with the types of books I read growing up and the influence they’ve had on my writing style.
For example, my biggest inspiration as I’ve often said is Nora Roberts. I have yet to find a book of hers where she writes in first person. All of her novels (as far as I’m aware) are in third person, and there are a few of them that involve a large cast of characters where she jumps into the shoes of many people throughout the book (Montana Sky, Three Fates, etc). There is no real main character, there are six or seven of them, plus countless secondary characters, and she does transitions from character to character beautifully and seamlessly. With first person, such a feat would be very hard to accomplish and would most likely just end up being really confusing unless you separated the characters by chapters. Either way, my writing style seems best suited when written as third person, so I suppose I’ll stick to what I know best!
What do you prefer? It really does feel as though 80% of the books coming out these days are in first person, but is there still a place in reader’s hearts for third person?
I sure hope so! 🙂
“You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?” -Dirty Harry