First Person or Third Person Narratives: Which is Better?
When it comes to fiction writing, which is better? First person or third person narratives? While for some it might be a matter of personal preference, or genre, there are clear pros and cons to each. Let’s take a look, and then I’ll tell you why I write in a specific narrative.
Pros and Cons of Writing in First Person
First person narrative is “actually a very strong voice for new writers to adopt, since it forces you into the story and also forces you to be ruthlessly disciplined about which perspective you write the story from,” Ginger, a blogger on Hidden Gem Books contends.
Not everyone agrees. Here are the pros and cons of writing a novel in first person.
- You get an insider’s view. This perspective gives readers greater access to a character’s mind. Readers get to know what makes a character who he or she is.
- It can make a character more relatable and like a real person from page one.
- There is a directness that makes these narratives easy to read.
- The main character can say whatever he or she wants – to the reader.
- It can be a challenge telling a story from one perspective only. Authors are limited to what the main character has experienced and what the character sees or feels.
- There is only one perspective throughout. If a reader doesn’t like the main character, they are unlikely to read more of the book.
- Setting can be a challenge because people don’t generally describe their surroundings or what other people in the room are wearing. This can only be done in small doses without sounding unnatural.
- The narrative is biased.
Pros and Cons of Writing in Third Person
Pen and the Pad defines third person as, “omniscient or subjective third person narrator allows readers to understand actions, thoughts and motivations for one, some or all characters” whereas “objective third-person use eliminates narrator bias in a story, presenting only the facts without interpretation.”
Here are the pros and cons to writing in third person.
- The story can be told from multiple viewpoints. Works best for many genres.
- Characters can die without the story ending.
- Narrative is unbiased.
- An omniscient narrative can tell the reader things characters do not know.
- The main character doesn’t need to be in every scene.
- Easier to establish setting.
- The reader isn’t as intimate with a character as in first person narratives.
- More difficult to add character’s memories and opinions into the narrative.
Which POV to I Prefer?
For all my historical fiction work, I write in third person. This makes it much easier to establish setting. I use a subjective third person narrator and focus on actions, thoughts and motivations of one main character. The exception is Those Left Behind. In that novel, the Steward family collectively was the main character, and the narrative changed from chapter to chapter.
In my contemporary project that I’ve been working on since the start of the pandemic, I employ a first person narrative. It works for the story and the genre, but does pose challenges with setting.
What do you prefer? First person or third person narratives? Leave a comment below.
Learn More About My Books
I’m a multi-genre author of numerous books. I write contemporary fiction, historical fiction and nonfiction.
Curious about The Rock Star’s Wife series? Click here to learn more.
Curious about The Unmarriable Kind? Click here to learn more.
Curious about Rose’s Assignment? Click here to learn more.
Curious about Journey of Hope? Click here to learn more.
Curious about the WWI Trilogy? Click here to learn more.
Curious about my nonfiction books? Click here to learn more.