The most common ways that both fiction and non-fiction are written in are 1st and 3rd person. There are several different forms you can take when writing in either point of view, for example, you could write the story in past or present tense (though I honestly can’t say I’ve ready any memorable 3rd person present tense books, or if I’ve read any at all).
Both POV have their strengths and weaknesses. I’d like to talk a bit about these, including what I personally love and hate about both.
First person can be an easy way to get into the head of your protagonist and build a story directly off of the events they experience. From personal experience (as little as that may be) writing in first person is a simple approach, and works exceptionally well in stories where your protagonist has a unique voice that a reader can either relate to and identify with, or someone different than what your typical reader may be used to, but keeping the character interesting and engaging.
Writing in first person, generally speaking, very poorly portrays more than one character. It’s difficult to write a good first person story that requires to be told from the point of view of more than one character (really, if you need to switch the POV at any point during the story you should use 3rd person instead). The tricky part comes from the fact that you need to give the reader an accurate glimpse of all of the characters that interact with the protagonist, through the view of the protagonist. This normally means there will be character bias: the protagonist will think of characters how they think of characters, and you will think of characters how you think of characters (but they’ll try to sway you to agree with their opinion).
Personal loves & hates
I love how truly good first person writing can draw you in to the book and give you the chance to actually sit in the protagonist’s shoes. It’s a lovely experience. What I hate about first person doesn’t really have much to do with person person itself, but rather how many authors write in first person and use multiple character POVs. It’s messy, confusing, and switching from being inside one person’s head into another can sometimes be annoying. I find that first person is used most frequently in the YA genre.
Third person does an exceptional job at telling the story from more than one character’s POV. In third person it’s a lot easier to keep track of who you’re following because you’re constantly being reminded of which characters are in the scene (rather than I). In third person I never hesitate to switch between revealing information inside the thoughts of one character to another- as long as it’s relevant- because of how fluid third person is at dropping suggestive statements that the mind will pick up without really thinking about it.
Unfortunately, third person has a major drawback. Unlike first person, you never really get to know any of the characters that well unless it’s primarily written to follow one character. You learn bits and pieces about the characters you get to interact with, and most of the time, you’re left to fill in the blanks yourself. If you’re someone who really likes to get to know the characters, sometimes it can be frustrating to not know everything you want to know.
Personal loves & hates
I love how third person can sometimes be challenging to write the way that portrays the scene perfectly. You’re not writing it as if you’re seeing it through someone else’s eyes, so you can’t rely on the thoughts of the character to explain everything perfectly. I also love how you can move the focus from character to character through the scene in progress without any disruptions or confusion. Something I really hate about third person is how simple it is for the writer to hide how a character feels about a situation. Hiding a character’s thoughts and feelings is easier than actually writing in third person! Then actually trying to explain how a character thinks and feels in a way that feels natural is incredibly difficult. Well, this could just be a problem I have, but I still hate it.
I prefer to write in third person, in any case. It fits better with my writing style, making it easier to create complex stories with many characters. I don’t see myself writing a first person novel any time soon because I haven’t gotten any ideas for a story revolving purely around one character.
*There’s also second person, but we don’t talk about second person around here.
What about you guys? Do you prefer writing in first or third person POV? How about reading?