Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Write Wednesday: First vs. Third Person

Ok -- so I've been reading middle grade novels (I just won two from Walden Pond Press, which is an imprint of HarperCollins, and they have been so nice, going above and beyond in their e-mails to let me know that an author of one of the books I won is going to be in my area soon in case I wanted to meet him) and I realize now why I've been plodding through them.

I think I'm used to reading first person.

A lot of YA fantasy and sci-fi (Beautiful Creatures, Hunger Games, Maximum Ride) that I read is in first person.  It connects you instantly with the character on an emotional level.

Middle grade novels don't deal with a lot of complex emotion, so it makes sense that they are, generally, in third person.

It isn't a good or bad thing, it just is this way.

But I only noticed it because I started reading The Girl from Felony Bay by J.E. Thompson and was sucked in from the beginning -- it's a middle grade novel told in first person.

Isn't it strange that this particular choice of storytelling could make such a difference?

I've been told before that a young author should tell stories in third person until they get the hang of it.  But most stories I like to read are told in first person.

Which means I told my NaNo novels all wrong (which, in retrospect, is probably why I didn't go back and revise them...), except for the last one.  I had a strong voice in my head for the character and she was always willing to talk.  I did much better on that novel than on the others and it's one I am seriously considering getting into shape and shipping off to an agent, which is a first for me.

It's also a clue to the type of writing I'll probably do more of -- I'm stronger with first person because I've read more of it.  I understand it better, I can wield it better.

There is definitely a place for third person -- if you've a large cast of characters, for instance.  Also, again, if you're writing middle grade, it's better to keep the emotions simple.  I can also see it being used if you're spacing your characters out geographically and/or switching between characters (I find switching between characters in first person to be a little confusing unless they're vastly different).

I don't think one is better than the other, but I know which one I tend to gravitate toward, and which one I'm more likely to write, now that I've paid attention.

What about you?  Do you prefer writing or reading in first or third person?  Does it make a difference to you at all?

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