First Person Point of View – good or bad?

I haven’t had so much time for editing this past week, what with it being the end of a busy term AND nearly Christmas, but I have been plodding on with it bit by bit and reading as much as I can around the subject. Then the other day, I came across an article about point of view in novel writing. Its main point was that new writers often make the mistake of writing in the first person and this reveals their lack of experience. Cue much soul-searching as, of course, you have probably guessed that I have written my debut novel in the first person. All the self-doubt came pouring in as I read through to the end of the article, which assured me that only truly experienced, brilliant writers can pull off writing in the first person. On top of this, a new critique partner I found this week told me that they had only read one novel written in the first person and so felt a bit unsure about commenting on mine because of this aspect. So, I decided to do some more research and came across this article, which was a bit more reassuring but still gives me cause for concern.

http://www.scribophile.com/academy/using-first-person-pov

My concern stems from the fact that I have encountered some of these very problems, for example, the stream of consciousness and the limiting single perspective. It wasn’t ever a conscious decision for me to write in this point of view but now I can see that I might have made my writing life much harder by doing so. However, many books have been written this way, as the article suggests, which is why my new cp’s comment surprised me. I would have thought they would have read many more books written from this perspective than just the one they’re thinking of.

I am left wondering therefore, whether I ought to rewrite the whole thing now and if this would improve the novel immeasurably because it would give me much more freedom as a writer to be writing in the third person. I would be interested to hear other people’s thoughts on this matter and look forward to hearing from you. In the meantime, I will let my brain process it and consider how to deal with this latest turn in my learning curve.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and thank you, as always, for reading 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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9 thoughts on “First Person Point of View – good or bad?

  1. I personally like to read first person novels because it creates a deeper emotional attachment to the main character. It is more personal and puts the reader inside the action of the story. Whether writing in first or third, each perspective presents its own challenges. I think there are also genre expectations to consider when selecting the POV. I find most YA/NA tends to be in first person while many romance novels are in third. Perhaps you could try rewriting the first chapter in third and see how you feel about it but if the story feels more authentic in first person then stand by your story. No-one can tell your story but you.

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    • Thanks for commenting, Diana. I see you have also blogged on this issue. I had been considering rewriting the first chapter as you suggest, just to see what it looks like then. As you say, it’s partly about having the confidence then to make your own decision and as it is a romance novel, you feel like you don’t want to go against the grain. Still, I might give it a try for the first chapter which will at least give me an idea. Thanks again.

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  2. Honestly, first person POV is my favorite to read and write from. It gets the reader closer to the character quicker and allows us to get into their head. When i read this post, my heart was pounding (lol) because just like you, my current WIP is in the first person POV. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the first person POV. In fact, Suzie Townsend said in an interview, “I’m also shamelessly attracted to first person narrators—it’s easier for them to grab me early on.” I certainly agree with her.

    It is a matter of preference and you shouldn’t take those articles to heart because it is just a few people’s opinion. You shouldn’t feel discouraged at all. If you feel like first person POV is doing your story justice, go for it! 😀

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    • Thank you for your reply 🙂 I think it’s just that self-doubt creeping in, which is especially strong in new writers because if you hope to publish, you don’t want to fall at the first fence, you know? You’re right, of course. I just need to have the courage of my convictions and it helps to get positive comments on my blog. So, thank you again.

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  3. You want to find the best POV possible for your story. So if you think third person would make it better, you should rewrite it. But ONLY if you’re convinced. Try rewriting the first few pages, or chapters, in third, and see how it reads.

    Many times I start a story in a POV for an important reason. But I always ask myself these questions: Is the current POV narrator the best possible narrator for this story? If so, why is he or she the best? Why can’t the story be told by anyone else, even me?

    Also, if your narrator got YOU through the whole novel, then that might be a reason to keep first person as well. It means at least the narrator held your interest. Doesn’t mean it will hold a reader’s, though.

    Finally, if you feel good about first person and you’ve got great, logical reasons to back up your conviction, keep it. And then wait to see what a pro editor says when you get it edited. You can always change it later if there are good reasons for it.

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    • Hi MJ,
      Thank you for your detailed reply, I really appreciate it. I’m so glad I asked this question because I’ve had some really useful feedback here. I’m definitely going to have a go at rewriting the first chapter in third person just to see what that does to the story but I feel more confident after reading the comments I’ve received from other writers like yourself that I should follow my instinct about this for now. I’m sure, as you say, that an editor will be honest further down the line, I just hope that I can take that honesty at that point when I will have invested so much in my manuscript! Thank you again for taking the time to reply.

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  4. Hi Julie, I agree with everyone else. Try writing your first chapter in third person and see how it goes. I found writing my first novel was a huge learning curve and I lost track of how many rewrites there were [including 1st and 3rd person versions] and I finally realized this was as much a part of the ‘writing’ process as writing the first draft. I think the advice for first-timers to avoid first person narrative is based on the fact that many people tend to over-personalise it, so there is the danger that is becomes more memoir and less fiction. Perhaps that is why there are so many one-book-wonders. So try the re-writing – one chapter, two, six, however many it takes for you to experiment – and be prepared to be tough with yourself. After that, have the courage of your convictions. You might find it helpful too to put it aside and work on something else for a while, so you get some distance to be objective. SD

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    • Hi Sandra,
      Thanks so much for taking the time to reply, I really appreciate it. I will definitely try rewriting some chapters in third person to see how it feels. Since I wrote this post, I have been obsessively looking at books I’m reading/have read to see how the author chose to write them. To be honest, there seems to be a good mix of both 1st and 3rd and I don’t feel like any of these books particularly stand out in one point of view or another.
      I agree that it is a massive learning curve. Even though I consider myself a reasonably literate person, nothing I’ve done before has prepared me for writing a novel 🙂 I am enjoying learning though and it’s always good to find out that other people have shared these experiences.
      Thank you again and I hope you had a good Christmas x

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  5. Pingback: Writing from a different viewpoint and other POV issues | Julie Stock - My Writing Life

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