Which Person is Which?

All the fiction I’ve written to date—unpublished things, as well as my Sally Solari novels—has been in the first person. However, when I started book one in my mystery series, Dying for a Taste, I actually did so in the third person. There was no particular reason for this choice, other than the fact that most novels seemed to be written that way.

But about four chapters in, something seemed wrong. It was as if Sally’s voice was shouting to me, “Let me out; I want to be heard!” So I went back and rewrote everything in the first person. And it clicked. It turned out Sally had been right.

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I need to be me!

The manuscript for the fifth book in the series is now finished, and as I wait for it to see the light of day, I’ve begun work on something new—something that could perhaps turn into a new series, one set on the Big Island of Hawai‘i, where I now live half time.

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As has been my habit, I again started this new project in the first person. But then I stopped. What if I were to try writing in a different way? What if I used the third person? Could it help me in finding a fresh, new voice for this character I was now trying to flesh out?

So I went back and rewrote the first few chapters, switching out every instance of “I” to a “she.” It’s painstaking work, as you have to search for all the “mys” and “ours,” as well.

And of course the way the story is told also changes when you move from first person to third. Not to mention that you also have to decide which third person you’re going to employ: the so-called “limited” third person (where the story is told from only one person’s point of view),

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or an “omniscient” third person (where the narrator knows what’s going on in the heads of multiple characters).

Suspense novels and thrillers—as well as science fiction books—frequently employ the omniscient third, changing point of view from scene-to-scene. This allows the reader to get inside the head of many different characters, and can also serve to give more of a breathtaking pace to the story.

But I instead chose the limited third person for this new manuscript, whereby the reader would only know as much as my protagonist did. It seemed more appropriate for the purposes of a traditional murder mystery. After all, where’s the mystery if you’re inside the head of all those who are suspects for the murder?

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And you know what? It’s been fun writing in this new third person. I’m enjoying stretching my writing chops by having to tell the story in a different manner. We shall see what happens, but at least for the time being, I’m going to keep at it this way.


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In other news, I’m thrilled to announce that the first in my Sally Solari series, Dying for a Taste, has just been released as an AUDIOBOOK! Yay! You can purchase it here.

 

 


Readers: Do you notice when a novel is told in the first as opposed to third person? Do you find it affects how you approach the story, or how you feel about the characters?

30 thoughts on “Which Person is Which?

  1. I switched from first to third person on a novel once. And yeah, all of that search-and-replacing is painful. I think it does change your perspective though. I hope the new series pans out!

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  2. It’s funny how that choice of POV affects the story. My Laurel Highlands books are alternating third-person close, but when I sat down to do the first Home Front story, there was no question – it was a first person story.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I’m with you, Leslie. To me, the whodunnit is perfect for first person or third person close. My Allie Cobb books are written in first and were like that from the start. It just felt right. I recently started a new series that I’m writing in third to help differentiate the two series. So far, so good.

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  3. I love first-person, which I often used for my YA books (ah, the angsty drama!), and I’m using it now for my series-in-progress. My Ladies Smythe & Westin series is “double-third-person” (?) because Dorothy and Summer are a sleuthing duo. It did feel sort of omniscient-third, though, since I always knew exactly what each was thinking at all times. (And they were often opposite things, lol!)

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    1. “Double-third person”–that’s a great phrase! So interesting that you can easily hop back and forth between opposite-minded characters. Lisa, do you have yourself writing one character first? Or alternating as you go along?

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Lisa, I like the fact that you use two different people for your POV. I usually have trouble switching in them when I read, but you do it in a way that I’m never confused.

      Liked by 4 people

  4. Leslie, I’m excited about the new series — and YAY on the audiobook release! I originally started the Liv & Di series in third person, so I could have POV from Liv AND Di. It wasn’t working and I (eventually) figured out it was Liv’s story to tell. When I switched to first person things began to click!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I prefer reading in first person, because I tend to get more into the story that way. I can do limited 3rd, but omniscient is too much for me to handle, as a reader

      Liked by 4 people

  5. Leslie, yay on the new series!

    I use first person in the Sassy Cat series, and it feels more natural. As a writer and a reader, I think having that up-close connection creates more intimacy.

    Different stories, though, require varying perspectives. (However, one POV I haven’t really used is omniscient.)

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I seem to be drawn to the first person, too–for the same reasons. But then again, I’m a big sci-fi fan, which is almost always written in the omniscient third. Part of me wants to some day try my hand at writing that, but it’s a little daunting…

      Liked by 3 people

  6. I definitely notice first vs. third. I often feel like first is more intimate while third is just a touch removed. Not that this is ever an issue after the first chapter, but that’s how I feel for that first chapter.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. Leslie, I’m so excited about your new series–can’t wait to hear more about it. And congrats on your audio release! And congrats on finishing book five as well (also can’t wait to read that). Throwing confetti for you on all counts!

    Re: POV, that switch from first to third or vice versa is such painstaking work! Agree with everyone saying that the story “feels” right one way or another. (How lovely that there is always a bit of mystery in the writing process, as the piece takes on momentum that we don’t expect! Keeps things interesting for sure.)

    Liked by 4 people

  8. I seem to be that rare cozy reader who generally prefers third person. I feel like it enables authors to paint a more detailed picture. First person doesn’t stop me from reading a book, of course. But I have a funny issue with it – because I know so many authors personally now, I keep seeing the author in my head, no matter how they describe the character!

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Ohmygersh, I’m already on the edge of my seat in anticipation of your new series! And how fabulous about the audio book AND completion of #5. You’ve got a lot of exciting things cooking (pun intended!).

    I love first person and close-third person for that up-close-and-personal feel, or alternately, a bit of flexibility. When I want the best of both worlds, I have turned to Lisa Gardner’s Flora Dane books, which alternate first and third person for the two main characters. It’s fascinating–and I’m guessing tricky to do! (At least I don’t think I could do it!)

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  10. I’m very late to this party, but I think this is an interesting topic. I’ve done both and there are pros and cons to each. One always feels right-er, though, luckily!

    Can’t wait to hear about the new series, Leslie! And yay for audio!

    Like

  11. I get the whole intimacy thing of 1st person but it can be off-putting sometimes, too. That POV needs to be handled with a subtle touch. Because for me, if the protagonist’s voice overwhelms the first few pages of a new book, I’m out of there. Like Ellen, I generally prefer a 3rd person cozy. And I love the term “double-third person.” My mystery novel has elements of romantic suspense, so the POV alternates between the two. But with the double-third person in mind, I can’t wait for Lisa’s Smythe & Westin sleuthing duo. But it’s good that that’s a WIP because I just jumped on Leslie’s audiobook offer.

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