Third Person? First Person? Crazy Person?

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When I started writing my first novel, I wrote in third person. I’d never really written fiction before, so I assumed that third person was the way to go–most books I read were in third person. It seemed to work out fine. I wasn’t quite sure about the rules for how to show thoughts in the third person, but I knew I’d figure it out.

In 2009 (one year into the long process of that book), I went to my first writing conference, and someone asked me if I’d thought about writing my book in first person.

Why not? I tried it. I changed every Alexis to I, every her to me, every them to us. It took FOREVER.

And, to my total surprise, the tone of the story changed. (This is probably a big DUH to everyone else, but it was a fresh insight to me.) It was easier to access Alexis’s emotions, and to make her seem real. The language became less formal. “Alexis was disoriented” changed into “I couldn’t figure out where I was.”

I wrote one chapter in first person, and sent both versions to some reader/writer friends, and almost every single person thought that the first person version was more effective.

You’d think I would’ve learned my lesson after the first book, but with the second book, the exact same thing happened. Third person (to prove I could do it), a trial chapter in first person, comparison of both by friends, change to first person, language tightening, story getting better…

Lisa is grateful that everything she writes doesn’t have to be in third person.

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3 responses to “Third Person? First Person? Crazy Person?

  1. I can’t even remember how many switches I made from 1st to 3rd to 1st in my novel. Oh, and the tense changes, from present to past. Grr.

    A lot of the YA I’ve read recently seems to be in 1st (and present tense). Probably for ease of connection to the MC, like you said.

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