“I saw the days of the year stretching ahead like a series of bright, white boxes, and separating one box from another was sleep, like a black shade. Only for me, the long perspective of shades that set off one box from the next day had suddenly snapped up, and I could see day after day after day glaring ahead of me like a white, broad, infinitely desolate avenue.”
- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
First person point of view is when you use I or we from a viewpoint character which is demonstrated in the excerpt above. Now, what if this had been written in third person? It wouldn’t be quite as intimate would it? After much thought and rewriting of the first few chapters of my novel I decided to go with the first person perspective and the biggest reason why is because of the greater sense of intimacy. You’re right there with that character following their every move and living inside their head. You spend so much time in their head that you do, in a sense, become that character. And because the character is also the narrator, that direct connection from narrator to reader makes it more personal and believable. Also, first person seems to be less formal than the third person, so it doesn’t feel so much like we’re reading their story, but hearing it from their own mouth.
First person mirrors real life. It’s an experience we can relate to. We can’t hear the thoughts of others, we don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, we only know what is right in front of us, what we hear and observe. I’m not saying that you can’t make your story intimate with the third person perspective and I’m most certainly not opposed to writing in third person. You can definitely make your story intimate with third person, but the question is, just how much less intimate is it? If you do third person right, probably not much at all, but you have to think about what kind of story you're writing. If you want it to be more intimate and have the reader connect on a more personal level with the POV character, then I would seriously consider writing it in first person.
First person POV is, for a lot of people, more natural to write in. It's what we write our journal entries in and it's how we express our thoughts and talk to others about our experiences. Because all of us have already had experience using first person POV, it may be much easier to write in. I've found this to be true in my own writing. The words seem to flow much more easily when I write as if I'm the character.
Pros of first person POV
1. Your readers will have a deeper connection with the POV character. It allows for a more intimate reading experience.
2. It mirrors real life. We can't know the thoughts of others or what's going on behind the scenes. We can only know what is right in front of us from what we hear and observe.
3. It allows you to focus on just one character. This is great for new writers or for those who are writing their first novel.
4. It may be easier and more natural to write from first person POV. You have already had some experience with first person POV if you have ever written in your journal or talked to other people. When you share your thoughts with others or talk to tell them personal stories, you're using first person POV.
Cons of first person POV
1. You can't write the thoughts of other characters. If you want to introduce something that is outside the viewpoint characters scope, then you have to use the observations from the POV character to get that information across to the readers. For instance, if you want to let the reader know that another character is angry, then you must describe it in the way they stand, the tone of their voice, their facial expression, etc.
2. Your POV character can't be in every place all at once. What I mean by this is that if something important and/or exciting needs to happen elsewhere, then unfortunately your POV character is going to have to be told about that important/exciting happening through other means. A good example of this is seen in Suzanne Collins, The Mocking Jay, when a rescue team goes in to save Peeta and Johanna from the Capital and Katniss, being too important to send along, is left to wait with only word of mouth updates to let her know what is going on.
3. You can only get to know one character intimately. Assuming, of course, you're only doing the first person POV with one character (there are many authors who write the first person perspective with several characters in the same book! It can be done.) Again, you're not able to know the thoughts of others, unless the character outright tells you what they're thinking, but who knows if they're really saying the whole truth right?
There are many more pros and cons when it comes to using first person perspective, so please add your thoughts on this by commenting on Facebook below or by sharing on twitter. I want these blogs to lead to conversation because I'm just one person. These are my thoughts based on what I have experienced writing first person. The same goes for all other topics I blog about.