by Joe Siple
I’ve written enough that I have a pretty good grasp on POV. I understand the benefits and drawbacks of each. Third-person is the most versatile, of course, with a range of intimacy that can vary from nearly omnisciant on one side, all the way to hearing (or reading) every thought a character has on the other side. First person has the benefit of a “feel of immediacy" as well as allowing the writer to get very deeply into the character’s personality. Someone from my writer’s group is even trying her hand at a second-person manuscript and it’s working surprisingly well.
A high percentage of Young Adult novels are written in first-person, while more adult novels across the board are some degree of third-person. One thing I’ve learned from my agent is that it is currently difficult to sell manuscripts with multiple first-person points of view (as of this writing).
Unfortunately, I like to write in first-person, not uncommonly with multiple first-person POVs. I like how it feels like I can become the characters. I like how the characters’ voices seems easier to get on paper. I like how it gives a sense that anything can happen because the reader is living the story, moment-by-moment. So that’s how I usually write. First-person, present-tense.
I understand it’s not the right POV or tense for every story—not even every one of my stories. I might have to change the POV to third-person after finishing a first draft, or even after several drafts. And sometimes that works surprisingly well. It turns out first-person narratives translate pretty well into third-person, with a very close (or intimate) point of view. In fact, I don’t think my voice would be as strong if I just wrote a third-person manuscript, compared to first-person-turned-third-person. t’s all about really getting to know the character, and that’s easiest for me to do when I write in first-person.
At least, that’s where I am now. It’s entirely possible this is just a step on the way to becoming a good third-person writer. But for now, it works for me.
If you’re having a hard time finding your voice in your third-person manuscript, consider writing it in first-person. You might find it easier to develop the voice you’re looking for, and you might be surprised how well that voice survives (and how easy, if time-consuming, the process is) if you decide to change it back to third-person.