First Person or Not?

So when reading a book I have to admit my favorite to read is third person. I really enjoy being able to be inside the head of all the characters playing… Well at least the main characters at any rate.

I used to say I don’t read first person but after some reflection, I realized I really do read a lot more than I thought I did. The lady doth protest too much 😉 I mean, I’m an Anita Blake Junkie and I haven’t read a Laurell K. Hamilton book not written in first person. In my opinion it takes a special author to be able to write first person AND DO IT WELL. I’ve read some really bad first person. I’d say it is a 50/50 thing whether I enjoy a first person story or not. The type I hate most and I’ve bitched a lot is what I refer to as he said she said (example, “I answered the door. He handed me some roses. I told him how wonderful they are. I went to the kitchen. I put them in water. We sat in the living room. He told me about… I told him what I did… He kissed me. I kissed back, etc.”) Sadly, I have read quite a few books this way and I will for the life of me always wonder how these get past an editor but I won’t go there.

On opposite side of that coin, I’ve read some totally awesome first person written stories, most recently, More by Sloan Parker. This book is bound to be one of my favorite books. Sloan Parker kicks ass in first person, although I did admit in my review I would have loved being able to get to know what was going on inside all three characters heads it was a very minor selfish complaint.

What are the Pro’s and Con’s to first person?

My big con – I again refer to my favorite mainstream author Laurell K. Hamilton Anita is forever in the middle of massive fight and when she gets knocked out—and she does at least once in a book—the story stops until she is awake and she (us) has to be told what happened while she was unconscious. I’d much rather have been in the middle of the big meeting where Asher kicked ass and invited the rival Lion clan back to town;) lol. Okay, so I probably wouldn’t want to read Anita in anything other than first person because there are just to many people running around in her life but It doesn’t stop me from wanting to be in the middle of what is happening when Anita’s lights go out.

Pro: As a good friend recently pointed out, with first person, you do not have the dreaded head hopping. Nothing annoys me more than when I have to stop reading go back and see where the point of view changed. It is like a cold bucket of water right in the middle of hot sex 😉 lol and believe me, I have had to do this more than once and often I just can’t recover. I’ve been known to close the book and move on to the next. This doesn’t always happen but there are often times where the author just hasn’t been clear enough about whose opinion or thoughts we’re getting.

So I pose a question to both readers and authors…

Readers which do you like to read, first or third person stories or both? Why?

Authors, which is easier to write? I’ve read more than one author whose books vary how do you decide?

Have a Great Day!

T

34 Responses to “First Person or Not?”

  1. I used to avoid first person because it took too much effort for me to read somehow. lol But then I read a few that I didn’t have that problem with and now my brain is used to it so I read it just as easily as 3rd person.

    Some of my favorites are in 1st person, like Admit One by Jenna Hilary Sinclair and Lisa Kleypas’ contemporaries.

  2. I usually write in the third person past tense, though I have one in the first person past tense about to be released on May 1st. I found writing in the first to be more challenging – the reader can only see and assess the other characters through the eyes of the main protagonist, so keeping the pace and the tension going is a juggling act. But it is also very satisfying. Getting so deep into the head of the one character can be oddly freeing *g*.

    My personal bugbear is the first person presnt tense. It comes over as pretentious look-at-me-aren’t-I-clever and irritates the hell out of me.

  3. I have written a few stories in first person, but mostly write in third for precisely the reason you described – the chance to get inside everyone’s head. One thing I would like to try and never have is the third person omniscient point of view, which IS head hopping, but it is also a legitimate form of fiction, if handled properly. It can be distracting, but if done well it is very satisfying as a reader, because you don’t have to wait until the next section or chapter to find out how someone reacted to something just done. You get to be in everyone’s head at once. However, I’m not sure I am a skilled enough writer to attempt this, and I have stuck to keeping POV in clearly defined sections, and it seems to work pretty well. Interesting topic!

  4. As a writer, I probably enjoy writing in third person a lot more than first. I like the freedom to get inside the heads of several different characters. It makes the writing more interesting for me to see things through different eyes. I think it makes my story more dimensional and well-rounded. I rarely write things of any great length in first person because I find it too limiting. But shorter works? First person can work very well and be a more powerful and intimate connection to a character.

    As a reader, I don’t mind first person or third…as long as the story is well told.

  5. Maria63303 Says:

    As a reader, I read both. The book has to be well written regardless if it’s 1st or 3rd person, if a book is badly written it doesn’t matter wha person it is. I too like the Anita Blake series but it doesn’t bother me to hear what happened while Anita was knocked unconcious by someone else in past tense. I think that I read about half of my books in 1st and half in 3rd..lol

  6. Great Post! I must admit if I would pick up a book in first person I used to put it down. No second thoughts, even if it was by an author I liked. I couldn’t stand it!
    But over the last couple of years I have opened up a bit more. I agree though I like the perspective from all the character’s not just one. It feels like I have lost out or something.

    So I usually read the first chapter and give it a try, if it still doesn’t work for me I dump it!

    Brande

  7. As a writer and a reader, I generally prefer third person. However, some authors can really make first person shine.

  8. I reviewed a few months ago, a first person book that quite honestly took a lot of effort for me to continue.
    I find that sometimes it is all in the way the author, relays it to the reader.

  9. jaimesamms Says:

    I do both. Reading and writing, and I’ll be the odd author out. I like writing in first person. My stories are predominantly angst — er — character driven, so getting right good and deep into the POV of the character with the most to gain–or lose–in a story makes it more intense and easer for me to write. I often fall into stilted “he did, she did” writing when I’m writing third. That affliction you mentioned isn’t exclusive to first person. Iused t write almost exclusively in first, but lately, I find a mix of about half and half usually is the norm, and mostly, I don’t pick the POV, the story dose

    • Thank you Jaime I know that for the most part characters pick their story but I’ve always kinda wondered how they tell it to you 🙂 I suppose it would be a PITA if they told it in first and you tried to convert it to third 😉 hehe

      Thanks for stopping by!!!
      T

  10. Andrea Becraft Says:

    I read a little bit of everything. I guess the first person question depends on the story line and who the author is. Sometimes i can get into first person narrative and then sometimes it just doesn’t do it for me!

    ~*Drea*~

  11. susan leech Says:

    I will read most any book and first person is one of my favorite. I have been told I am strange but heck I already knew that. Give me a first, second or third person and I will read the book. More important to me in the story line and if it holds my interest. susan L.

  12. As a reader I grew up reading books (sci-f/fantasy) that were written in first person so it really doesn’t bother me. Isaac Asimov was a master at writing in first person present tense. I still enjoy reading his works “Number of the Beast”, “Stranger in a Strange Land”, “Time Enough for Love”, all very well written examples of first person POV.

    A writer’s books do have to be well written though no matter what POV or tense. Badly written books lose me.

  13. I’m an equal opportunity reader and it really doesn’t matter to me which POV the author uses… my only criteria is that the story is well-told and easy to get into.
    I find that my only really big complaint about a book is when I just cannot get involved with the characters. At that point I usually don’t continue. If I can’t care what’s happening to the person / people then I don’t really want to spend time on it.

  14. I’ve written both, and I’ve written books that have both first and third. The book really dictates whether it’s first or third. I’ve made mistakes on occasion: started a book in first and found it didn’t do what I needed and had to rewrite it in third and add a second POV, and I’ve started books in third that also failed and had to switch to first. I can’t really say how I make that choice. it just comes with the story.

    My first person novels have been well recieved, even the one that switched back and forth between 2 first person POVs. I don’t think one is any easier to write than the other, but the one thing I have to watch is keeping the POV character’s voice true.

  15. Present tense books (whether 1st or 3rd person) irrate the hell out of me. Those I generally don’t even attempt. I just can’t get into the characters as much as if it is past tense.

    I would generally avoid first person books, until I picked Jourdan Lane’s books – thanks to the anthology ‘Cowboy Up’. Now I’m willing to try 1st person, whereas before I would just reject them because they were 1st person. Still not my favourite, but I will at least try them. 🙂

    Michelle

  16. My 13-book Dick Hardesty mystery series is written in the first person simply because I consider the reader to be part of the process, and therefore Dick is, in effect, talking directly to him/her. I feel it gives a sense of…intimacy?…and that the reader will come to know Dick as a real person.

    I write my Elliott Smith series in third person specifically to separate it from the Dick Hardesty series. Each (first or third) has its advantages and drawbacks, of course, but probably because after 13 books of first person, I think I give it a slight edge over third.

    Interesting question, btw.

    • Now that is the one thing I often find hard LKH write both Anita Blake and Merry Gentry in first person and for the most part I’ve always been able to separate the two as Merry is nothing like Anita but sometimes I will get lost in the book I just sorta forget where I am and I’ll pop out and think Anita wouldn’t do that oh wait I’m in Merry’s world 😉 LOL

      It would have been nice them written different to separate them but I still love them both very much!!

  17. I have been readin romance a long, long time. Years ago there were not a lot of 1st person books available and what there was, was written so poorly that I refused to read 1st person. That lasted for years….until I read an ebook (my first ebook also) by TA Chase called Angel’s Evolution. When I read what “could be” in 1st person narrative I decided to give others a try…I have since found that 1st person is a talent all in its own. Some authors have it and unfortunately some dont. To me you have to work hard to make 1st person interestin ’cause it is the story all from 1 point of view. If not done carefully it can become monotonous and repetitive….So after all that, I prefer 3rd person and several pov’s but I will read 1st person IF the story really grabs me and I have to know what happens….*grin*

    jo

  18. Wow a nice surprise to find so many people with such different perspectives commenting on my post today thank you authors and readers alike for coming over today!

  19. Great topic! I like first person books, but admittedly, I didn’t for many years. As a kid, I read whatever book struck my fancy – 1st, 3rd, I didn’t care. Once I started writing, for some reason I stopped wanting to read 1st. It took Jeaniene Frost’s Halfway to the Grave to get me to love 1st person again, though I picked up an EC title this weekend written in first and almost didn’t buy it for that reason. I’m used to reading erotic romance written in third, but that doesn’t mean I won’t like one written in first. It depends on an individual author’s style. So I’m giving it a shot. 🙂

    • I think as kids we have the capacity to ignore the things that anoy us adults – I cringe at some of things I thought was good writing as a kid – Of course I use to always read those true confession magazines so obviously I did not have much taste as a kid 😉 lol

  20. I write both 1st and 3rd person. The character usually makes the decision for me. In my upcoming release titled Clean, DJ basically TOLD me she was going to tell it in 1st person, where as in All the Good Men, my main character wanted a little more distance, so we went with 3rd. LOL, yeah, I’m a nut.

  21. Hi T. Thanks for your kind words about More. I’m glad the first person worked for you with that story.

    This is a great discussion topic. Like some of the others, I write in both first and third person. I usually decide during my outline phase which I want to use for a particular story. Once I have a better feel for the characters and what I want them to say and how they should say it, I try out which POV I want to use and see if it works out.

    As a reader I will read either first or third person. I have favorite reads in both.

    Thanks again, T. I’m thrilled you enjoyed reading More.

    • Hey Sloan thanks for stopping buy I just don’t think I can tell you enough how much I liked More – I can be a broken record at times just ask the girls but sometimes certain things deserve to have the record stuck 😉

  22. I primarily write 3rd person. My first 1st person was Heart Song. It was a personal book that I think needed to be told that way. I never really thought I would write 1st person to tell you the truth. It sort of just came to me that way. I have tried other stories in 1st person now and the best is when I share it with my writing buddy and I ask if it’s okay, even if it’s in 1st person and she has to go back and check because she didn’t realize it was written that way. lol

    As a reader, I’ll read it either way. I’m with you, head hopping can pull me out of a story if it isn’t done right. I also notice it more now that I write. Before, it didn’t bother me at all. 🙂

    Thanks for the wonderful blog post!

  23. And Heart Song was perfect in first person you are right it needed to be told that way more emotion and you did it so well!!

    Now just get busy on the second verse 😉 lol

  24. I write in both 3rd and 1st. 1st is my preference, but most publishers prefer 3rd, so I’ve leaned more toward that. I prefer reading 1st.

  25. Valerie Says:

    For years I struggled to write a story in third person that was satisfying to me but was unsuccessful every time. Being a new writer, I began a journey in first person writing which has continued from the day I started the novel. Unbeknowest to me, if it’s the story line or the writing of person person that’s done it for me, but it’s working.
    I’ve also read both 1st and 3rd person stories and both are intriguing especially if the story is captivating.
    For my next two projects in mind, I have no yet decided what person will tell the story. But I look forward to getting my hands on some of the titles that I’ve read about through this post. ~Thanks~ Valerie

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