1st Person Vs. 3rd Person

So the battle of perspectives has begun.

I spent most of the summer obsessing over my Work-in-Progress (a novel): What will my main character be like, What order will things happen in, researching life in Ireland in th 1850’s, deciding that was too boring, changing it to Ireland in the 1950s…

Stuff like that plus staring blankly at the wall in front of my desk. There was a lot of that. So the most recent brick wall I ran into was that of Perspective. Should I tell it in the first or third person perspective.

1st person pros:

I want the book to be character driven. I want to leave a certain ambiguity around a large portion of the events (i.e. did they really happen or was it all in her head?). and this will be easier to achieve through 1st person. I’ve read a few books from a child’s perspective such as Room which gave a really unique slant on events. I’m already 8,000 words into a draft written in the 1st perspective.

3rd person pros:

I can tell other characters stories in much more detail than if i used 1st person. The main character won’t have to be there for all major events. I write better in 3rd person, I’m more comfortable with it. I’m only 8,000 words in so if I want to change perspective the time is now instead of re-writing 40,000 words later down the line. I don’t know if I can write this particular story (convey my themes etc.) using the linguistic register of a child (Just to clarify, I’m aiming the book at adults).

So how did i figure it out?

By doing nothing.

I left the book alone for three weeks, not wanting to go much further in case I’d be forced to change it all later on. I wrote a few notes and things. Went back to college, caught up with friends, joined more societies than what’s strictly healthy and read a lot.

1st Person Vs. 3rd Person

This book solved everything for me. Recommended to me by a friend it told a brilliant story, from the point of view of a child, in the third person! It helped me decide early on in the in a scene where the protagonist is walking through the woods, intercut with the antagonists point of view (don’t want to ruin it but if you’ve read it you which bit I’m talking about), the scene is very complex and handled very skilfully. He handles dark complex things in an adult register while still showing a certain degree of childhood innocence which is exactly what I want to capture (though I don’t want to go quite as disturbing and unsettling as he goes at some points). I finished the book and learned a lot from it.

So off I go to start again back at page 1 but with a much clearer idea of how to go about it. Doing nothing finally paid off.

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