First vs. Third

Exciting news: I’ve written the first scene of what will hopefully be my next manuscript, a little project I’m affectionately referring to as BUS WIP!!! (yep, with three exclamation points–not sure why, but every time I type BUS WIP!!! they’re there).

I’ve actually written this first scene twice. I’m experimenting, you see, with the POV I want to use for the story. I’m pretty sure I want to “hop heads” and my original instinct was to do dual first person POVs. Now, I’m not so sure. I’m starting to think that close third person might be more effective and, and I don’t know… professional sounding? The problem is this: I’ve always sort of thought I was incapable of writing in third person and honestly, I have a bit of an attitude about third person in general, especially in YA books. Often, it feels too distant.

Recently thought, I read Lisa McMann’s CRYER’S CROSS. In it, she used third-person, present tense and I thought it worked brilliantly. The right amount of distance for a creepy, horror kind of story, and an urgent, quick pace that worked really well for the subject matter.

While BUS WIP!!! is no horror story, I do intend for it to have short, suspenseful, action-packed scenes and a fast pace (whether I will actually pull this off is to be determined :)). So, present tense feels right. And shockingly, so does the close third person POV, but only after I wrote this first scene in first person, then converted it to third.

Confused yet? Here are the first few (tentative) sentences of BUS WIP!!! –

In first person, present tense: 
        When I first notice Jace Bryant peeking at my Chem test, I can’t quite believe it. He’s supposed to be this all-around brilliant guy—Mr. Upstanding. He always seems to know everything, excels at anything he attempts. He wouldn’t possibly copy off me. Would he?       
        But then he does it again, this subtle stretch of his neck that allows him the perfect view of my test packet. He makes a mark on his paper, taps his pencil eraser on the desk a few times, then goes about the whole show again. Jesus! He is copying.

And in third person, present tense:
        When Lia Bonelli first notices Jace Bryant peeking at her Chem test, she can’t quite believe it. He’s supposed to be this all-around brilliant guy—Mr. Upstanding. She’s sure this is some kind of fluke; Jace always seems to know everything. He excels at anything he attempts. He wouldn’t possibly copy off Lia. Would he?      
        But then he does it again, this subtle stretch of his neck that allows him the perfect view of her test packet. He makes a mark on his paper, taps his pencil eraser on the desk a few times, then goes about the whole show again. Jesus! Lia thinks, enraged. He is copying.

So? Opinions? Which POV works better based on these little samples? Which POV do you prefer when you’re writing?

In case you’re interested in reading more about the positives and negatives of different POVs, here are a few links that discuss the subject in greater detail:

Tara K. Harper’s First Person or Third
Novel-Writing-Help.com’s First vs. Third Person Point of View
Janice Hardy’s First Vs. Third: Point of View and Character Development
Ingrid Sundberg’s Five Advantages of Third Person Omniscient POV
James Scott Bell’s Understanding the Effects of Your POV
Write It Sideways Which is Best: First or Third Person Point of View?
Tami Moore’s Close Third Person Point of View (I found this one particularly helpful.)

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11 responses to “First vs. Third

  1. okay- I am totally 1st person prejudiced. It’s how I’ve been writing, so it feels right to me. I don’t dislike your 3rd person above, but it does feel slightly more distanced. Take this with a grain of salt. I think first person sounds “right” to my ear because I use it.

  2. oh-and I should have said– I like the voice a lot. Isn’t it great to have a new idea?

    • I love having a new idea, but I hate the first 10K words or so… It’s so hard for me to find my groove in the beginning! Thanks for your feedback, Kat. Giving third person a try is an interesting challenge for me, one I hope I can find some success in!

  3. I can take either POV, to read or write, but I like my third person to have almost no narrative distance. For example, I would cut ‘Lia thinks, enraged’ because they filter her thoughts rather than just showing them. Huh, this comment has actually not been that helpful since apart from the aforementioned filter I like both equally. Sorry about that!
    – Sophia.

  4. Thanks, Sophia. That “Lia thinks…” line was bugging me too, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. You’ve been QUITE helpful!

  5. Thanks so much for the link love!

    I think that with present tense, I like the first person PoV you’ve written – it feels very immediate and emotional.

    $.02

    ❤ Congrats on starting your next manuscript!!

  6. I have to agree with everyone else 🙂 In this instance, I prefer the first person point of view better. I just think we could hear Lia’s voice so much better.

    I also wanted to say that I ALWAYS have this problem whenever I start a new project and I almost always end up changing the POV when I’m finished. But each time I change the POV it always helps because I add a bit more description or voice each time. It may just be me though. I actually have that problem now as my WIP starts off in another character’s head and then the rest is in my MC’s head. But your list of links really helped me so thanks!

  7. I personal prefer first, but third doesn’t bother me once I get into the story. It usually takes me about a chapter before I stop noticing the tense. Good luck with BUS WIP!!! 🙂

  8. Thanks so much for the feedback, ladies. I’ll probably continue writing in first, then switch some chapters as I go until I make a decision. I’m no stranger to rewriting a whole stories in different tenses/POVs. While tedious, they’re fixes that are definitely doable.

  9. Pingback: Point of View: Close Third Person « Becky Levine

  10. Your 3rd POV is pretty distant. It can be written much closer:

    Lia Monelli can’t quite believe it. Jace Bryant is peeking at her Chem test. No. She has to be wrong, or it’s some kind of fluke. He’s this all-around brilliant guy—Mr. Upstanding. Jace always seems to know everything. He excels at anything he attempts. He wouldn’t really copy off her. Would he?
    But then he’s doing it again, this subtle stretch of his neck that allows him the perfect view of her test packet. He makes a mark on his paper, taps his pencil eraser on the desk a few times, then goes about the whole show again. Jesus! He is copying.