Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mary's Rants: 1st Person vs. 3rd Person

I need to know...

I've heard from a very reliable person, well actually several reliable people, if you want to know what publishers are buying in your genre go to the bookstore. This is a very dangerous place for me since I always go over budget.

Okay sorry I got off topic for a minute. Anyway, my new WIP is women's fiction and I've been good and done my homework. Everything I've read in that genre is 1st person.

I'm in trouble. I've always written my stories in 3rd person. I've never really cared for stories in the 1st person. However, since I've been reading women's fiction I've actually enjoyed it. But now I need to decide--Do I go back to page one and convert to the 1st person? Or write how I've always done.

What are you thoughts? Do you think I should go with what the industry seems to be looking for? Or go with what I'm familiar with?


Tonya Kappes said...

Well if you want to be published in NYC, you're going to have to go with what the gatekeepers and their three-headed dogs think will sell.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

Women's fiction does tend to be in 1st person because the focus of the story is about her...her life, what she's going through, etc. And first person really does allow you to get into deep POV.

However, I have seen it done in 3rd person. It all depends. Do you have multiple pov's for the book? If so, you can also use 1st person for her and 3rd for any other characters whose pov's you slip into.

But in general, 1st person works best for that genre. Go with your gut.

Donna Cummings said...

I think it all depends on how your story needs to be told.

I have a 1st POV story that would lose its essence if I tried to change it to 3rd--the character's personality is just so central to the story. The tricky part with 1st is you have to make the other characters' personalities come alive without hearing from their POVs.

Try it from both POVs and see which one you like, and which one makes the story come alive. That's the one you'll want. :)

Katt said...

hey Mary,
I've concquered (i think) the 1st person angst by sitting down with a scene, closing my eyes and putting myself in the character's shoes.
Not only does it get the 1st person voice rolling, but I often discover some of the character's feelings that I hadn't noticed before.
Try it with one or two scenes. It may begin to flow for you... or not.
I lucked out and my friends who read the finished product said they felt like I was sitting in their living room telling my story.
I hope it works as well for you... and if it doesn't, Do What Works! and remember IT IS YOURS to create in whatever way you want.
GOOD LUCK, you'll find your way.

Cassy Pickard said...

Mary: This is a common concern. I have a dear friend, multi-published and an award winner. She wrote in 3rd person for all of her books-- until the last one. She made a discovery about 1st person. And, as she tells it, the story changed. The earlier stories need the 3rd person, but the last had to move to the 1st. I guess this is a long way of saying, it's your call. Not much help, huh?

Lindsay said...

Mary, If you can truly carry off the story in 3rd then give it a shot, otherwise it sounds like you'll have to rewrite/convert to 1st. Good luck.

Dale Mayer said...

Having never written in 1st person, I understand your quandary. I've thought about it often but never had a story that felt like it should be told that way.

I remember Linda Howard answering a question on that topic about one of her books that was written in 1st - I'd owned the book and until I read her discussion on it I hadn't realized it was written that way it was so well done. She said something to the effect that it's the only way thats the way the story had to be told. Even though she'd tried 3rd first.

So for me, until a story demands a 1st person POV, I'll stick with what I know.

Laura K. Curtis said...

I've read plenty of women's fiction in third person, but maybe there are different definitions of women's fiction! I guess it depends on whether you feel you can be comfortable living in the protagonist's skin and head.

As others have said, give it a shot. If the story really wants to be told, and it needs third person, go for it.

Mary Martinez said...

My goodness, it was such a short to the point post, I didn't think anyone would comment.

However, I am so glad all of you did. It really does help to bounce an idea off others. Even if it is a blog post, then hear what others think.

Gives me thoughts and ideas of how to determine what to do.

I have converted the first 3 pages to 1st person. I even had my husband read both ways.

He liked them both. However, he did say he preferred the 1st person. And as I convert, I think this is one of those stories that needs to be in 1st person.

Thank you for helping me with my dilemma.

(Tonya, I guess I'll go with the gatekeepers and three headed dogs!)

Liz Lipperman said...

Mary, I can't help you since I've never written any way except third person. I love writing multiple viewpoints.

But I thoroughly agree with Tonya about doing what NY is saying/aka buying. When I got my deal for a cozy series, I asked if I could write it in third person since just about every cozy I read was in first person POV. You have to look long and hard to find a third person one.

Long story short, my editor said I could do whatever I was comfortable with, so I had multiple POVS. My edits came back with her suggestion that I take out the killer POV scenes (about 6 pages)since - it was her story and they didn't really the reader anything they didn't find out later. She let me keep the love interest POV since he played a big part in the story.

I snuck in a bad guy POV in the new one and really liked it, then deleted it, remembering her advice.

So, I would say ..try the 1st person. If you absolutely hate it, then go back to third. Your book can stand beside mine on the shelf as the unusual one!!

Lesli Muir Lytle said...

Hi Mar,
I know first person is popular for the YA's but mine is in 3rd and it's doing fine.


If I had known just how far the 1st person popularity was going to go since I'd finished the story, I'd have forced myself to try it. Now I'm just crossing my fingers that an editor won't make me change. Where mine is a YA romance, however, it's not in only one POV. I hope that will make a difference.

FROM NOW ON, however, I'll be writing my YA's in first person for the first draft. I'm not planning to fight a working system. Even though I hate reading in 1st...

But then again, I'm The Queen of Up-Suckage.


Lesli Muir Lytle said...

Now, if you really want to hear a rant, ask me about first person present tense!

Mary Martinez said...

Thanks for the advice. I like being the unusual.

I have tried converting to 1st person and I'm surprised to say I actually like it.

Lesli, You can rant at me any time you want. I will be doing 1st person.

Thanks everyone for your helpful advice!

Marilyn said...

Do you think it differs if you want literary fiction or commercial fiction? Literary--go with your gut?
Commercial--go with what sells?