Never Too Old For Y.A. & N.A. Books discussion

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Opinions > First Person vs. Third Person

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message 1: by Marrie (new)

Marrie Do you like first person or third person POV? Why do you like the one you like?

I am a fan of first person myself, just because I usually find it easier to conect with the character and understand their thinking process. But, I do like third person in a way too. Third person is nice because it still feels personal, but can also add how some other characters in the story feel.
There are examples of both good first and third person literature all around, but I still like first person best. I always have and probably always will.
Still, I love books like Cinder, Harry Potter, The Heroes of Olympus series, and Gone and they're all in third person. I guess for me it just really depends on the writing.


message 2: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 22, 2013 10:32PM) (new)

I love first person and third persons sometimes.
I love first person because I can relate to the main character more. :) Like... The Fault in Our Stars by John Green Wonder by R.J. Palacio Divergent (Divergent, #1) by Veronica Roth
and my favorite third person books are Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices, #1) by Cassandra Clare City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1) by Cassandra Clare


message 3: by Amanda (new)

Amanda (pandwen) | 1 comments i love first person when i am asked the question but then i think about it and realise most of my favourite books are in 3rd ... as has been stated depends on the writing... although i HATE ... HATE ... HATE second person writing it is awful and have yet to come across a good example


message 4: by Veronica (new)

Veronica | 697 comments Both. I loved Prodigy (Legend, #2) by Marie Lu because MC alternatively narrate.


message 5: by Missy (new)

Missy Johnson | 5 comments I write my books in first person, only because that is how I prefer to read them. It's almost like an obsession for me, in that I will check before I buy to make sure it's written in first. Would need to be really good for me to buy if in third.

I just find I can really relate to the main character if I am seeing the story through his/her eyes.


message 6: by Lorelle (last edited Mar 27, 2013 03:44AM) (new)

Lorelle (lozza2407) | 35 comments ive only recently been alerted to a difference in first person present and first person past tense. Ive only started writing, and seem to be comfortable in first person present tense. But very few books seem to be written this way. I almost went back and rewrote it in past tense, but I figure I should stick with what I know! What do you guys think?


message 7: by Lorelle (new)

Lorelle (lozza2407) | 35 comments but in response to the question, i feel more emotionally involved reading in first person. I don't get as connected to the characters reading in third, and the characters are so important to me, but I wont not read a book if I pick it up and its in third.


message 8: by Renee (new)

Renee | 6 comments For YA books I prefer first person for sure. I do enjoy third person as well, but usually only when there is lot of dialogue. This is because I am a fan of "show" not "tell" me about the characters, if that makes sense. Also, third person is good to see many POVs, but needs to have good transitions.

Side note, I also write first person present Lorelle ;-)


message 9: by Missy (new)

Missy Johnson | 5 comments I prefer first person past, but I don't mind first person present :)


message 10: by harshini (new)

harshini  (watchmeread) | 104 comments I must say I love third person PoV better. This is purely because I am to usually interested in feeling what the character feels. Though I thought it would be a nice way to connect with the book, this connection has never happened for me. I literally do not have much to relate with the character.

Also I am more interested in the story and plot, and crazy schemes and adventures. Such things are usually more interesting in third person. For example, in the Chronicles of Narnia the narrator was probably the best character. In fact I connected well with all characters. Plus first person gets boring easily, and most are annoying at times. But third person gives us all sort of views :)


message 11: by Lorelle (new)

Lorelle (lozza2407) | 35 comments Renee wrote: "For YA books I prefer first person for sure. I do enjoy third person as well, but usually only when there is lot of dialogue. This is because I am a fan of "show" not "tell" me about the characters..."

Valerie wrote: "Lorelle wrote: "ive only recently been alerted to a difference in first person present and first person past tense. Ive only started writing, and seem to be comfortable in first person present tens..."

Woo hoo. High fives to First Person Present. I was feeling so alone, but I love it! If its good enough for Suzanne Collins..

Charlie holds the knife against my throat :)


message 12: by Lanie (new)

Lanie Jordan (lanie_jordan) | 39 comments When it comes to YA books, I like both and don't really have a preference.

But I don't really enjoy 1st person present. It's too odd for me. I wish I could like it more, though. It took me ages to get through Hunger Games (the first one) and I haven't been able to get into the second one yet. The style is just too hard for me to enjoy. :(


message 13: by Joanna Marie (last edited Apr 04, 2013 12:56AM) (new)

Joanna Marie (joannacapats) First person is what makes me get INTO the book more. But I can tolerate third person. Most of the books I read were written in third person then when I became interested in dystopian and YA, most of them were in first person which I loved but again, there's not much preference as long as writing and grammar is good.


message 14: by Eloise (new)

Eloise Kindred | 15 comments I think both have their pros and cons. First person helps to draw you in, as a reader, and makes it a lot easier to connect with the character. But on the downside, you only get to see the world through that person's eyes. Whilst reading the Twilight series, I often found myself wising I was in the midst of the action with Edward or Jacob, not stuck holed up in a safe place with Bella! Of course, Stephenie Meyer did counter this somewhat by occasionally flipping to Jacob's perspective, but not enough I feel.
As a writer, I have written books in both first and third person. I find it easier to write in first. It's much easier to convey the protagonist's thought processes and slip in all their little nuances and ironies.
It depends on the book, really. If something has a definite main character who's voice should be heard throughout (The Hunger Games is a good example) then first person works best. If it's more of an ensemble cast then third person is preferable. And of course, if the book has a tragic ending and the hero(ine) is set to die then first person is out - they can't be telling the story if they're dead!


message 15: by Leonie (new)

Leonie (leonierogers) I generally prefer third person, past tense, but I'm also very comfortable with first person past tense. Both bring the immediacy of the action/emotion/situation to me well. However, it has taken me a while to enjoy reading first person present tense, which seems to be more the current fashion.

I think it's because first person present tense needs to be done extremely well, and by a skilled writer, and because it's very difficult to do it very well. In addition, I really struggle with a novel where the tenses are mixed up (sometimes in the same sentence!) and am quite likely to put it down. I think that this is where great editing is so important.

When I write, I write in third person past tense. Mainly because I'm able to provide more than one POV, and because it's more my natural style.


message 16: by Joanna Marie (new)

Joanna Marie (joannacapats) Eloise wrote: "I think both have their pros and cons. First person helps to draw you in, as a reader, and makes it a lot easier to connect with the character. But on the downside, you only get to see the world th..."

I agree! :)


message 17: by E.B. (new)

E.B. Hood (melabeth) | 34 comments I write in first person, but do find some limits. What I did to help with some of the short comings of first person point of view was: Had my character read from one of the other characters diaries. And I have one character that pops in on all three books, and when he does the book is from his point of view. The reason for that, is I would like my readers to see and feel how others might perceive the main character.Melabeth the Vampire


message 18: by T.C. (new)

T.C. Slonaker I'm so glad you guys started this discussion! I've been struggling a lot with PoV lately. Personally, I like to read first person. I love the way Valerie explained it with the knife. But I write in 3rd person past tense. I have no idea why! That's just the way it comes out. I suppose it is because I KNOW the character, but I am NOT the character. I lot of times my characters do things I would personally never do.

For example, I have a character that I absolutely despise. He will need to get killed off at some point. So, if I wrote him from 1st person, I think I'd be afraid of committing suicide!


message 19: by Dean (new)

Dean MacAllister (deanmacallister) Valerie wrote: "I write in first person. IMO it's the most powerful way to tell a story. I haven't noticed so much in reading.

But take for example:

Charlie held the knife against Katherine's throat.

or

Charli..."


I prefer third person. It makes you feel like you are watching the scene. Caring about the characters only comes from good writing. Making yourself the main character gives the reader a sense of security that you will remain the whole story and if they don't like you they won't care. Third person takes away that security blanket...like Game of Thrones...where you risk investing in characters that may not be there in the next chapter. First person can be too 2-dimensional.

Saying that, though...the book I am currently writing mixes both...having a few characters telling the story from their POV, while also telling a story about them. That way you have no guarantees to the characters futures.


message 20: by Misha (new)

Misha (gravemishy) | 5 comments I like first person cause it helps me understand how that person feels about a situation, more so than third person would.


message 21: by K.M. (last edited Apr 10, 2013 02:58AM) (new)

K.M. Golland (kmgolland) So far I have written in first person past, but alternate with a present tense when my characters have an inner thought.

In my first book (which was a great learning platform) I wrote in first person past, but I threw in a chapter in third person past with two character's inner thoughts in present, giving it a multiple POV feel.

Yep, that totally sounds confusing. :)


message 22: by Destany (new)

Destany | 37 comments To me if depends on how the author writes it but I prefer first person because its easier to understand your main character and for me to be more in the book


message 23: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Matthews (rachelwrites93) | 13 comments I like both different forms of writing, I think though that third person means that the author has more freedom to skip between different character's POVs. I think that gives a lot of books more depth as you're seeing different character's and how they react to different situations. Whereas in first person you're only ever seeing different character's through one POV.

Just my opinion though, both obviously work when written well. :)


message 24: by T.C. (new)

T.C. Slonaker Rachel Caroline wrote: "I like both different forms of writing, I think though that third person means that the author has more freedom to skip between different character's POVs. I think that gives a lot of books more d..."

Exactly! I'm so bad at keeping secrets, he he.


message 25: by Teresa (new)

Teresa | 606 comments I would say I almost always like first person but third person works for me too. I recently read Safe Haven, which is in third person and found myself really hating the writing. It felt like the author was running down a list of the characters daily activities and thoughts rather than telling a story. First person almost always feel more personal to me which I like.


message 26: by ~Thena~ (new)

~Thena~ (athena-nadine) | 7 comments I prefer third person because when I read first person it too often feels like too much of the story is missing. Most first person books never switch POV and I like knowing what other important characters are thinking, feeling, and experiencing as well. But I'm sure my preference comes from reading high and epic fantasy for so many years.

I've gotten a bit more used to first person past tense over the last year or so, since it's become so popular, but I still don't really like first person present tense. It just feels wrong to me when I'm reading and it's really difficult for me to immerse myself in the story. There are very few books written in first person present that I can make it last the first few pages.


message 27: by Riley (new)

Riley Banks (RileyBanks) | 15 comments I'm with Thena - first person often feels like you're only receiving one aspect of the bigger picture. They can be effective, but too often, I'm left feeling like I'm reading someone's diary. And that's interesting for a while but they world is a much bigger place than that.

Take Twilight for instance. When I read that trilogy, I felt trapped in Bella's head. I felt like I couldn't escape her morbid darkness and her suicidal tendencies. My favourite book of all was actually the last, because for a brief part of the book, I got to escape Bella and see the world through Jacob's eyes.

I'm actually a fan of multi-character books where you see things unfold from different people's perspective.

That being said, occasionally I read a first person POV that I enjoy, but it is definitely the exception rather than the rule.


message 28: by ~Thena~ (new)

~Thena~ (athena-nadine) | 7 comments Riley wrote: "I'm with Thena - first person often feels like you're only receiving one aspect of the bigger picture. They can be effective, but too often, I'm left feeling like I'm reading someone's diary. And t..."

Yes! I was thinking about Twilight when I was responding. To me, it was just an OK book because I always felt like I was missing at least half the story. The books had potential, but there was so much missing for me by completely leaving out Edward's, Jacob's, and others' points of view. The last one was my favorite as well, and for exactly the reason you describe.

I read the bit of Midnight Sun Stephanie Meyer released after it was leaked, and I enjoyed it. But I ended up really annoyed because the other half of that book should not have needed to be its own volume. It should have been included in the first place.

My biggest issue with first person is that it's extremely difficult to do well, in a way that doesn't leave me feeling like I'm missing more of the story than I'm getting.


message 29: by Anya (new)

Anya Allyn | 16 comments
Valerie wrote:

Charlie held the knife against Katherine's throat.
Charlie holds the knife against my throat.


I like either. The above is a very powerful example of how 1st person can have a greater emotional effect on the reader though!


message 30: by Riley (new)

Riley Banks (RileyBanks) | 15 comments However if Katherine was a child and/or slated to die, you might not want to plunge your reader into that much horror!


message 31: by Leonie (last edited May 09, 2013 12:42AM) (new)

Leonie (leonierogers) Anya wrote: "
Valerie wrote:

Charlie held the knife against Katherine's throat.
Charlie holds the knife against my throat.


I like either. The above is a very powerful example of how 1st person can have a gr..."


Or even:

Katherine held her breath, as Charlie's shaking hand held the knife against her throat... etc

It really depends on how the author pictures the scene and writes it. I think a skilled writer should be able to draw the reader in, no matter whether they're writing in first or third person. Sometimes it just comes down to personal preference.


message 32: by Anya (new)

Anya Allyn | 16 comments Very true Leonie - and seeing as most thrillers/horror novels are written in third person, the authors certainly must be able to write very effective scenes in third person.


message 33: by T.C. (last edited May 09, 2013 05:09AM) (new)

T.C. Slonaker Riley wrote: "However if Katherine was a child and/or slated to die, you might not want to plunge your reader into that much horror!"

Interesting thought, RIley. Actually, I think if Katherine were a child in this situation - gruesome as it may be - 1st person might actually help the reader through it, since obviously Katherine will make it through.


message 34: by Riley (new)

Riley Banks (RileyBanks) | 15 comments Playing devil's advocate why is Katherine going to live if she is a child?


message 35: by ~Thena~ (new)

~Thena~ (athena-nadine) | 7 comments Riley wrote: "Playing devil's advocate why is Katherine going to live if she is a child?"

Because if the book is in first person, the narrator obviously lives until the end. Otherwise, she couldn't tell the story.


message 36: by Riley (new)

Riley Banks (RileyBanks) | 15 comments Lol. Thanks. Feel a bit stupid for not getting that!


message 37: by ~Thena~ (new)

~Thena~ (athena-nadine) | 7 comments Riley wrote: "Lol. Thanks. Feel a bit stupid for not getting that!"

LOL. It's something that took me a while to get used to when I started reading books in first person. Sometimes I remind myself that the main character is going to be ok because s/he is still around to tell the story. lol


message 38: by Maria (new)

Maria (mariathebooknerd) I actually prefer first person POV because I feel a lot connected with the main character. However, there are few books that are still my favorite though they used third person like Harry Potter and The Lumatere Chronicles.


message 39: by T.C. (new)

T.C. Slonaker Riley wrote: "Lol. Thanks. Feel a bit stupid for not getting that!"

Never feel stupid for asking a question. There's always at least one someone else with the same question, and you were just the brave one to ask it! ;)


message 40: by Patricia (new)

Patricia Hamill (patricia_hamill) | 26 comments Third person present takes some getting used to. I've only read one series that uses it.


message 41: by Olivia (new)

Olivia Gavilan (oliviagavilan) I prefer third person because I think the characters actually get more developed; a character sees themselves as normal so from first person I find that while it's true you can connect more the character is actually less defined. It all depends on the story though, some are meant to be first person and some third person, as long as it's handled well both can be good. First person present tense is currently in vogue in YA and I find it irritating and distracting, it is very hard to get right and most of these dystopian first person present YA books all start to sound really similar and blur together.


message 42: by T.C. (new)

T.C. Slonaker Good point, Olivia!


message 43: by Becky (new)

Becky Savoie (chicaposh) | 1 comments I actually read a comment by an author I love that recommended that aspiring writers not keep a journal because nobody likes reading stories in the first person. They're boring. Uh...what?
Maybe she finds them boring, but I find both equally intriguing. My first book I'm working on is in third person, but one of the next ones I have planned is in the first person. I think certain books call for first person and certain ones work better in third. It whatever's needed for the characters to tell their story most effectively. Though I do have ONE problem in reading first person too often. If it's a GOOD story, the kind that sucks you in? I find myself narrating my own life in my head for the next week or so after I read the book. I start wondering what someone else might think about my thoughts and actions. Not a terrible problem, but a funny one :P


message 44: by T.C. (new)

T.C. Slonaker Maybe that's why I've never written one in first person. Too hard to get out of that character, and who would want to have some of those problems, ya know?


message 45: by Gary (new)

Gary Bonn | 34 comments Lorelle wrote: "ive only recently been alerted to a difference in first person present and first person past tense. Ive only started writing, and seem to be comfortable in first person present tense. But very few ..."

First person present is becoming more popular, but has it's limitations. It's a bit of a challenge in that it may be easy to connect with the character, but that is often a trade off against the reader understanding anything the character doesn't experience. The Reader becomes distanced from the world and, often, the story itself. I use it a lot - but I've had my hand held by editors who helped me past the worst pitfalls (but I keep finding more!).
Some people can write in first/present flawlessly - but may need help with third or omniscient.
I'd suggest you stick with it - but also work in third - just so you don't (like I did) use first/present as a default and get your fingers slapped for not using the correct narrative technique for the job.


message 46: by Gary (new)

Gary Bonn | 34 comments Lorelle wrote: "Renee wrote: "For YA books I prefer first person for sure. I do enjoy third person as well, but usually only when there is lot of dialogue. This is because I am a fan of "show" not "tell" me about ..."

Blood running into my collar, the blade in my flesh... lol


message 47: by Gary (new)

Gary Bonn | 34 comments Olivia wrote: "I prefer third person because I think the characters actually get more developed; a character sees themselves as normal so from first person I find that while it's true you can connect more the cha..."
It is very hard to get right - and in many ways still experimental for many writers. I suspect it will become the norm, despite its limitations. You are very perceptive when you point out that seeing a person from their own point of view, limits the reader's understanding. There are ways round it - but third person is still the toolkit with the most versatility.


message 48: by Laura (new)

Laura Cantu (lauraccantu) | 6 comments I love both! I enjoy reading from a character's inner view and getting to know the way his/her mind works. However, third person also has its charms. You can get more accurate background information from third person, which can sometimes be enjoyable. Therefore, I think it depends on the author's ability to make me care for one or more of their characters, regardless of whether the story is written in first or third person.


message 49: by Scott-robert (new)

Scott-robert Shenkman | 202 comments I enjoy first person. It helps me feel more connected with the character. Two problems though:

1) Women authors writing first person as male. A lot of times they miss and say something here or there that I, as a man, find jarring. I would have a guy run-through for a "gender edit".

2) Something about first person present tense doesn't connect for me. I feel a story that's being told is being told for a reason. So why is the person breaking the wall without a good reason. They don't know what's coming. I especially find this off-putting in serious books. I guess I'm saying that, while first person feels like a story being told, present tense makes me ask "why is this story being told?" The narrator doesn't know the significance of what will happen down the road.


message 50: by Laura (new)

Laura Cantu (lauraccantu) | 6 comments Well said. I totally agree with you about the present tense issue. I've never been able to make it through an entire book when it speaks in present tense.
Interesting note about women authors too!


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