Deep Point of View: First Person Or Third Person POV by Lisa Hall-Wilson - Canada


Is it better or does it create more emotional connection to write fiction in first or third person? Does genre matter? Can I use multiple POVS? Am I worried about the wrong things?

Is First Person Or Third Person Better?

This is one of the most common questions I get asked when I’m running my Method Acting For Writers class on writing in deep point of view. There’s a long answer and a short answer.

The Short Answer:

What do you feel more comfortable writing? Don’t get caught up in the first or third person dilemma – it’s a red herring. I’ve never heard a reader tell me they decided not to read a story that intrigued them because it was written in one or the other. Readers want well-told stories.

The Long Answer:

The question of first or third can be a question of genre. YA novels lately have been trending towards first person POV. Many romance genres also seem to be trending lately towards first person. That said, there are examples in those genres of authors using third person. Most of the fantasy novels I’ve read recently have been in third person, but your experience may be different.

Most writers seem to feel one POV comes more naturally to them than the other. So stick with that until you’re proficient and have a couple of titles under your belt. Some stories seem to lend themselves better to one POV style than another as well. You may find yourself writing in third for one novel, and the next writing in first.

First Person Isn’t Necessarily In Deep Point Of View

One of the common misperceptions I find is that writers assume a story written in first person POV must be written in deep POV. Not so. Some writers are able to write first person POV and still make use to distance and other techniques that would be considered “telling” in deep POV. I find this more commonly in literary fiction genres. To be clear, this isn’t wrong. It’s a stylistic choice.

“I wore a black suit and a white shirt, a black tie and black shoes, all polished and shiny: clothes that normally would make me feel uncomfortable, as if I were in a stolen uniform or pretending to be an adult. Today, they gave me comfort of a kind. I was wearing the right clothes for a hard day.” The Ocean At The End Of The Lane: A Novel, Neil Gaiman

So, this isn’t in deep POV because there’s too much distance between the character and the reader. The character is “telling a story” as opposed to living out a story and letting the reader experience it vicariously. There’s a filter applied that wouldn’t be present in deep point of view. It’s a stylistic choice.

Writing Deep POV In Third Person Isn’t Harder

If writing in third person has always been what comes naturally to you, then writing in third deep POV will become just as natural. There is a learning curve, that comes with learning deep POV, but it’s just as effective in third person as in first.

“Heart hammering, he lurched upright in bed. Sweat drenched the front of his T-shirt and plastered his hair to his temples…He squinted against the early morning sunlight and groaned. Another dream. Another ridiculous dream.” Dreamlander, K.M. Weiland

You Don’t Have To Stick To ALL The Rules

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