Figuring out which POV to use can be a headache, but it’s a lot easier when you narrow down your wants and needs.
Here’s a few questions to ask yourself before you choose:
- How many perspectives do you want to use?
It’s true that you can use as many as you wish (within reason) for first person and as many as you want for third person, but when it comes to the execution and the intrigue readers like and are looking for, it kind of narrows down as you look for who is telling the story.
When you write first person, it’s always best to just focus on a single character. They have to be the one who the story is about, who the story follows, and there should be a reason as to why we’re following their story and no one else’s. Two characters for first person should be the maximum, but even then, it really depends on why we need to follow that extra person.
Third person comes with multiple choices because—in the basic sense—you have omniscient where the narrator is in everyone’s head at once, so you don’t have to choose who to follow, and you also have limited where it’s just like first person, but with different pronouns. In third limited, you can have multiple point of views, and because you’re using other pronouns than “I,” it’s easier to follow along.
Choosing how many characters the story follows does help you determine which one you choose because if you’re following one character, you have the freedom to choose third limited or first person. If you’re following more than one character, you may want to choose third person (omniscient or limited).
- What tense do you want to use?
Tense doesn’t always help you choose which to go for, but it can help in some aspects. For example, if you want to use present tense, first person is best suited with it. This is just because third person can sometimes look weird if it isn’t written well enough because some writers can make it look choppy. But if you want to use past tense, then you have the freedom to choose whichever you like because past tense looks good with either or.
- Which are you most interested with writing: external or internal details?
The question is needed because if you want to write more internal details, then go with first person. First person is really good for those books where the story is mostly about the feelings of the main character, whether it’s their internal conflict, their emotions, or whatnot. Now, third person limited does act as a first person narrative, but it is distant for the reader. With first person, the reader can feel as though they are the character. Third person, no matter what, can feel as though the reader is watching a movie; we’re following a camera and an inner commentary.
However, if you’re interested in focusing on external details (such as the scenery and whatnot), then third person is the best way to go because this perspective is known for being truly descriptive.
- What genre is your story in?
This one also narrows down your search, but it’s more of that, “Can it be a ‘rule’ I break?” This is because certain genres comes with its own standard based on the complexity of the plot and world building. For example, science fictions, fantasies, historical fictions… these are usually in third person. Contemporaries, romance… these tend to be in first person.
However, just because it’s a standard, doesn’t mean it’s a “rule.” You can break it, but it heavily determines on… why? For instance, two of my previous novels have broken the standard. The first one is a romance, focusing on a single character, used in past tense. I used third person (instead of first person), because I focused more on the external details rather than the internal details. It’s romance, yes. And with romance, you should focus on their thoughts and emotions… which I did because it’s told in third person limited. However, the character was going to a place she had never been for the first time, so I thought using a lot of descriptions would be a little too much for first person. So instead, I chose third.
The second book is a murder mystery, focusing on a single character, used in past tense. But I used first person (instead of third person) because I focused more on the internal details because the character was more emotionally driven. Mystery and thrillers are usually in third person because of the external details the most, but the story focuses the most on emotion and how it can drive people to do certain things. So instead, I chose first.
- What is your preference?
Last, but not least, it then all comes down to you and how you see your book. If, after this entire time, you still don’t know which to choose, then focus on what you want. If you really want to write it in third person, then do it. What’s stopping you? Why don’t you? Why second guess it?
It depends on the writer because it comes down to preference. Some writers choose to write one perspective across the board because that’s what they’re comfortable with; others choose not to because they see different perspectives with different stories. Personally, I write whatever feels best for the story because I don’t have a preference. I read in both, I like both, so… it sometimes came hard to me because I was like, “Which do I choose?” But I came across various reasons why you should choose it based on the criteria I’ve said above and it helped me choose on easily on both.
For example, the current novel I’m writing is a sci-fi fantasy. It focuses on a single character, written in past tense… and I decided to write in third person. At first, when I tried writing it nearly four years ago, I wrote it in first person because I wanted it to be different. But it was way too complex because it honestly didn’t need to be told in his internal voice. So, when I began rewriting it… four years later, I chose to stick with the standard because it flowed better.
At the end of the day, it comes down to what you see the most for your own stories. It’s not a choice you have to decide based on what others want, but what you want.
Neither. Readers, like us writers, are prone to what they prefer the most. Many like first person, many like third person, and many like both. You will find people who hate third person and people who hate first person, but it’s not always about the perspective. I’ve come across a lot of people who hate first person, but not because they don’t like how it’s told, but because the writer doesn’t execute it well enough. For example, they’ll say something like, “I hate when it’s all about ‘I do this, I do that…’” Honestly, third person can do this, too. I’ve seen it. All you have to do is change the pronouns. The problem is not with the perspective, but the writer.
At the end of the day, it comes down to how you write and who you market the story to. If you write one hell of a story, people won’t care what perspective it uses because most won’t even notice. To give two examples:
I once met someone on here who complained about first person (and present tense) and how it’s not a popular choice, I had mentioned that the Hunger Games became a very popular trilogy with a first person, present tense base, and they were shocked because they had loved it and never even noticed.
And, secondly, I personally don’t like third person and present tense together because a lot of writers who have tried it, don’t execute it well enough. But then I read Unwind by Neal Shusterman which is, spoiler alert, written in third person, present tense. And guess what? It flows so smoothly that you don’t even notice it.
So… why does this happen? Because when you become stuck in the story, you get lost in it and don’t realize the things that you don’t even like.
I’ll also link down below of videos that are worth watching on the topic!