Thoughts on persons, First and Third

I once had a publisher who would not allow me to write from the first person perspective. He believed it to be too limiting to the reader. In some ways I think he was correct. In others, not so much.

A reader can never be closer to the lead character than he can in the intimacy that comes from a first person narrative. Only there can he really see, hear, feel, and touch as that individual does. Unfortunately, he cannot share such direct contact with any of the other characters, and can see them only through the eyes of the hero/heroine.

In a third person approach, the reader gets to peek at the foibles and motivation of anyone the writer cares to disclose, but that is essentially an unreal view of life. None of us can ever be sure what someone else is thinking, or of what goes on behind closed doors.

In first person, the reader is often more involved, but less aware. In third person, the reader must split his attention, but has a better understanding of context and motive.

In the past, I have encountered a book or two where the author attempted to write in both first and third person, alternating scenes or chapters to accomplish that goal. I found such efforts to be confusing, wordy, and repetitive. Don’t do that.

So what’s better, third person or first person? I don’t know. I write both. But never in the same book. That would be dumb.

At least, that’s how it seems to me.

David

Good Writing for Good Reading

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