Writing First vs. Third Person

Photo credit: shaylamyst on Flickr
My NaNo novel this year is in third person. This is a pretty unusual shift for me—I haven't written a book in third person since literally my first novel ever, over a decade ago. But somewhere along the way, as I've read more third person that has become perma-favorites, as I decided to write a book with three POV characters, I decided it was time to experiment with third person again.

I like it.

In a way, writing first person helped me learn how to write third person better. With my very first book, I saw narration as a sort of separate thing, something tacked on to explain what was happening. But as I began writing first person, I learned how to meld narration with character, how every word mattered. I learned to think about whether this POV character would use this specific word, and whether they'd notice that detail, or how the way they saw a room or character would be different if it were narrated by someone else.

Now I'm bringing all of those lessons back into limited third person, and I'm pretty delighted with how seamless it's been to switch over. Because when making the switch from first person to limited third, the truth is while it does have a very different feel to it, the mechanics are basically the same. You filter the narrative through a single character's perspective and consider how that character experiences the events around them.

Ultimately, the difference between, "I stared at him; what was he talking about?" and "She stared at him; what was he talking about?" isn't all that large. But when a manuscript calls for one over the other, you'll know because it'll fit the tone the story in a way the other tense couldn't.

Have you played with first and third person? What has your experience been like? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
Author @Ava_Jae shares her thoughts on switching from first to third person. (Click to tweet

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