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Mile 8: First or Third

One of the early questions you have to answer, even before you start writing, is if you’ll be writing in first person or third person. This is known as the point of view (POV). Each offers advantages and disadvantages.

First person POV is “I” based. Everything you share with the reader comes through the point of view of the “I” character, the first-person narrator.

I was enjoying the conversation. My nerves were on edge. We were running late.

For many, it is easy to write, because it is how we think. You pick a character, usually the protagonist, and tell the story through their eyes, actions and thoughts. You are then (by convention) restricted from entering the minds of other characters, and the character you pick must almost always be present to move the story forward. A first person POV lends itself more to intimacy with the reader through the main character. It also gives you an opportunity to create a unique voice, which can be fun for all writers, and maybe especially fun for new ones.

Third person POV lets us watch and listen through an independent narrator, and instead of “I” or “we,” it is “she,” “they” or “them.”

They were enjoying the conversation. Everyone’s nerves were on edge. She was going to be late.

This POV allows you the luxury of moving quickly and easily between scenes and characters, keeping the story fresh, and gives you many opportunities to move the story forward. But, unless it is done well, it can be confusing to the reader. Your narrator needs to have a distinctive voice.

For my Brock Clemons series, I picked a hybrid. When Brock is the focus, which is about 75 percent of the time, I use first person and Brock is the one who thinks and speaks. However, for the balance of the chapters, I switch to a third person POV and have the narrator hover above other characters, usually without Brock being present. I like how it gives the reader (and the writer) a little break from Brock’s point of view.

I have been warned against this, because the transition between the two POVs can be challenging, and if not done well, is a quicker way to lose readers than even boring or poor writing.

I think it works — at least for me — and I enjoy it. However, it’s not for everyone. I suggest you try both styles for a few pages and see which is most natural and comfortable for you.

I wish you good writing, and if you have a question or something you’d like to share, send me an email at [email protected].

Thank you, enjoy and keep writing!

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