1st VS 3rd
For me, 1st-person has an immediate intimacy and it works well for stories where the POV character (usually the main character) is interesting enough to sustain interest in the world through his eyes. If I enjoy being in the character's head, I enjoy 1st-person.
3rd-person tends to shift the focus from inner character to other things, whether its world, systems (e.g. magic) or other externalities , which is not to say that 3rd-person narratation has to be bland or superficial, but it more easily allows for that.
Third allows more details in a scene or a situation for example without it becoming quite as exposition-based as it might appear in first person. But an issue is that it's fairly hard to 'hide' something from a reader in third person if you're saving up a surprise. It can feel a little cheap. So that's something to consider.
Personally I think the story you want to tell should dictate which POV you pick. And from that point, you also get to decide to degree of 'closeness' to the character. For example is the third-person letting you peer into your character's head and pick out thoughts? Does it just follow them? Did you want to omniscient and peer into every character's heads? Is it more like a CCYV camera view just simply observing?
Same with first person. Each type of POV has its strengths and weaknesses and you should try to play into the them and pick the POV whose weaknesses don't hurt the story you wanna tell.
Personally, I hate critiquing first person works, because the issue of a lack of good description is more prevalent and jarring than in 3rd person. A lot of people when they write in first forget that you don't need to filter everything through the use of the word "I" (as in I did X or I saw X). You can literally just describe the scene like you would in 3rd person. You have to pay more attention to specifically what the POV character can see (as opposed to third, where you can be more broad and even include details the POV character might not necessarily see or be able to infer).
normancrane Wrote: 3rd-person tends to shift the focus from inner character to other things, whether its world, systems (e.g. magic) or other externalities , which is not to say that 3rd-person narratation has to be bland or superficial, but it more easily allows for that.
I would disagree that you lose intimacy through 3rd vs. 1st person. I am quite literally terrible at emotions, but Brando Sando's Mistborn is told through 3rd person and we do get into Vin's head (in the trilogy) and Wax's head (in 4-6). But while these are the predominant two characters of their respective arcs, we do get more intimate moments in side characters' heads (moreso in 4-6).
I would more say that 3rd allows you to get that deeper understanding of the world's characters through broader points of view than just through the main character's POV through 1st, which locks you into their views and their interpretations of reality. That isn't to say one system is better than the other, they're narrative tools that have their own purpose. It falls on the author to pick the right tool that works for them.
But again, as a preference, I just dislike 1st for the same reason I hate present tense: When the execution is bad, it's more jarring to me.
This comes down I think to what will tell a better story and if this is a character you can get into the head of. That usually one of the factors when I can go either way with 1st or 3rd. Is this a character I can get into the head of. Some characters don't lend themselves very well to me where I can write in 1st POV.
What I would do in this case, is write out a test scene in each POV and decide from there.
If the story needs to be told by more than 3 viewpoints, then for me, 3rd person really needs to be used. Even then, I go with the episode dedicated to one character's viewpoint, so I can get in their head as much as possible and not confuse the reader (I really hate head hopping). First Person is more restrictive in what the character sees, and I always have to be careful not to describe more than the character would notice. Yet I have an easier time getting into a character's emotions, so it's always a trade-off.
These are not hard and fast rules, only what works for my writing.
Terramagica | Royal Road Alt-19th century magical steampunk with a Lovecraftian undertow
The White Horde (Revised) | Royal Road Old School Sword-and-Sandals epic, with lots of drama and intrigue.
In other words, the reader "sees" everything the narrator sees, and "hears" everything the narrator hears. No more, and no less. Any fact that is already known to various other characters, but not to the narrator, doesn't get shared with the reader either, so the reader doesn't have any "unfair advantage" that would allow him to jump ahead of the narrator's deductions because he knows more about other characters' dirty little secrets than does the narrator. Likewise, the narrator's solution should not be based upon important items which he "forgot to mention" to the reader before the last chapter or two.
Some writers have the detective (a professional, or an inspired amateur) be the first-person narrator. Travis McGee (John D. Macdonald), The Continental Op (Dashiell Hammett), Kinsey Milhone (Sue Grafton), and Philip Marlowe (Raymond Chandler) spring to mind. Others prefer to "take a step back" by having a less-clever friend of the detective be the one describing these events to us -- the most famous example being Arthur Conan Doyle's use of Dr. Watson as the usual narrator of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Other classic examples include Captain Hastings in the early novels about Hercule Poirot (Agatha Christie), and Archie Goodwin as the assistant to Nero Wolfe (Rex Stout). (To be fair, I should point out that Agatha Christie eventually decided that she could send Hastings off to Argentina to run a ranch with his wife, and have Poirot investigate many more cases without needing a loyal sidekick standing by to gasp in astonishment at how brilliant Poirot's deductions were.)
I think one advantage of the "use a friend of the detective to tell the story" approach is that the reader isn't being asked to match his or her intellect against such supergeniuses as Holmes or Wolfe; only against a more "ordinary" person. Sherlock Holmes may have figured out what was really going on within the first ten minutes that he was on the case. But if he doesn't immediately share his current thoughts with Watson, then Watson doesn't know what theory Holmes is exploring, which means the reader doesn't know either, and thus the reader has more time to try to get ahead of Watson, and "catch up" with the Great Detective, before the climax of the story. (For instance, an alert reader might ask: "Why is Holmes suddenly thumping his walking stick against the pavement, right in front of his own client's pawnshop? Of course Watson doesn't have a clue, but am I sharp enough to figure out the purpose of the exercise, before it is all explained at the end?")
On the other hand, sometimes it can get frustrating to read story with a mystery at the heart of the plot, if the author is constantly head-hopping from one character to another, while working hard to avoid explaining to us the important things which several of these characters ought to already know. I want to describe one particularly painful experience I had with that sort of thing.
Several years ago I read the novel The Simple Truth by David Baldacci.
Early on, we were told that prisoner Rufus Harms, an African-American serving a life sentence for the murder of a little girl, had recently sent an appeal to the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. (The novel was happening a few decades after he'd been convicted.) In his written appeal, he must have offered some sort of statement about why he now believed he had been wrongfully convicted. (Which he had been, but the details don't matter right now.)
Michael Fiske, a young lawyer serving as a clerk at the Supreme Court, was the main viewpoint character in the early chapters. We were told that he read the appeal when it arrived in the mail (but didn't show it to anyone else right away because of its inflammatory implications which might be a huge lie), and thus he knew what that appeal was all about.
Then he was murdered to keep his mouth shut.
In addition to Michael knowing -- of course Rufus, the guy who'd been locked in prison for at least 20 years, knew what it was all about.
After he escaped from prison, he also told his brother Josh what it was all about.
The bad guys (who had railroaded Rufus to cover something up) knew what it was all about.
As we approached the end of the book, some of the other good guys (such as Michael's brother, and the young female lawyer who became the brother's new girlfriend) finally learned what it was all about.
We saw the third-person perspectives of each of the above characters at various times. But we readers didn't see anyone "say" (not even in their thoughts), in plain English, just what all the fuss was about -- until even later, in the big showdown scene in which the corruption of a U.S. Senator was revealed!
I felt that was a rotten way to structure the plot. If we'd just been following the POV of one sympathetic character all the way through, and if that character didn't learn the real circumstances surrounding the death of that little girl until near the end, that would have been fine! But we readers saw, at different times, the POVs of all sorts of people, good and bad, many of whom must have known what this was all about at the time we were reading their viewpoint scenes. It felt like Baldacci was being Obnoxiously Coy, chapter after chapter after chapter, by never allowing anyone to say, in any onstage dialogue, what the speaking character and practically everyone else in the main cast already knew!
(Although I admit I had figured out the rough outline of what must have happened on the night of the little girl's violent death -- long before we were told in plain English.)
My entire writing style would crumble if I were to do so, unless I were to maybe write from 1st person in the future after the character knows what was gonna happen. But even then, I wouldn't be able to tell scenes outside of mc pov without doing drastic switch.
Even when I read things in first person perspective, I can't help but think 'man why did this person write in 1st person?' I feel that while there are benefits to it such as being able to hide things from the viewers and tell exactly the thoughts and feelings of the mc, I feel that anything you can do in first you can do in 3rd- but not the other way around.
I also kinda feel that in first person you have to speak in the voice of the character all the time, which would mean description would be very different than 3rd person.