The Decision of First Versus Third Person

All this time I’ve been writing my novel in third person. I figure, it seems like most commercial fiction is written in third person and people like it. The consensus seems to be that either people don’t read first person because they don’t like it, or they’ve just never encountered it so they have no opinion.


When I freewrite, I ALWAYS end up writing in first person. It’s just natural to me. I love being in the character’s mind. I develop such a stronger connection with them, and I feel that if I’m developing that stronger connection, the reader will too. Especially if that character has to overcome a major internal struggle like mine does in my novel.

I’ve been struggling with writing in third person because I feel that’s what I’m “supposed” to do if I want to be successful. I keep wondering if I really have to do that to be successful, or if it’s all in my head. There are books out there that were very successful in first person, but I think it’s hard to do well, and I’m not exactly sure why.

Regardless, I decided that third person just wasn’t working for me in my novel. I felt distant from my character. I felt like she had no substance. She was just this selfish girl just drifting along with her circumstances instead of creating circumstances and responding to them. My entire first third of my rewrite has felt this way, and I hate it.

Once I hit 35,000 words, I changed to first person, figuring I’ll go back and edit it later, or switch back to third if first just isn’t working (it’s hard to go back and change anything until way later because I’m writing my novel by hand).

I love first person. It’s just the way I naturally want to write. So I’m diving into my character’s head, feeling what she’s feeling, and I feel like the story suddenly sparked to life. It now has a heartbeat. I’ll finish in first, then go back and try to clean up the mess of the first third.

Making decisions about changes in the novel has been hard, because I feel that if I have to make too many changes, I won’t be able to finish my edits on the third draft, which means I won’t get it to beta readers on schedule, I won’t get it to my editor on schedule, and I won’t publish on schedule. All of my decisions have been based around publication, and I feel like I’ve lost sight of the art itself.

My goal now is to just step back, release myself of timelines, and write at my own pace. I’ll take a break for November, then dive back in when December hits. I’ll take as long as it takes, regardless of the promises I’ve made to everyone. I’m so bound up by the expectations of everyone else that I feel like I’m more machine than artist. It’s time for me to return to my own skin.

How do you feel about first person versus third? Let me know in the comments!


Image Credit: Elliott Chau

3 thoughts on “The Decision of First Versus Third Person

  1. I think it depends on the story. Sometimes the distance of 3rd is better suited, sometimes the intimacy of 1st is appropriate. In 1st you can be unreliable, less so in 3rd. I think you get a feel for what does and doesn’t work. Although if writing 1st I find I need to constantly stay with the characters voice and avoid slipping into being the author. Good luck with the rest of your project!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If it is good writing I don’t care what person it is in. I’ve read stellar books in both modes. Go with what moves you and that will make it all work.

    Liked by 1 person

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