What are some pros and cons of writing in first person and third person?

For my story, I feel like first person would work best, and I think it's easier to write in, but there are a few scenes that I REALLY want to write and would need to be written in third person. Which do you prefer reading? What do you like and dislike about both points of view?

1 Answer

Writing in first person vs. third person is a tough choice to make, but it needn't be an either/or choice.

So let's first talk about what you want to do. Without knowing anything about what you are writing about, and so having absolutely no way of giving advice in that context, I can say that your story is calling out to you to write in first person, so that is the direction I'd take your work.

Once you start writing, you may find that it's the story itself that writes the scenes you are anticipating trouble with. Perhaps it takes another observer, also in first person, to cover the parts that are seemingly only possible in third. Perhaps you could use some sort of device to cover the part of the story that "should" be in third person, such as "Had Protagonist been able to witness this, this is what s/he would have seen... But alas, s/he didn't."

Writing a story is an exercise in letting go - yes, there is structure and tone and characterization and all that, but in the end the story is a living thing and you'll find that the more you let the story direct you and the less you direct the story, the better it will be and the happier you'll be with the results.

Having said all that, I find that writing in third person is easier because it's action from the "God Seat" - you know everything that is going on and can write from that point of view. Your reader, therefore, believes they know all, so when something happens unexpectedly and you haven't given them a clue that it's coming, it can come as a shock (sometimes unpleasant).

I find writing in first person more of a challenge because your story is now being told through the filter of a person (or people), so it can help maintain mystery and you sort of expect the unexpected, but developing the story line can be a challenge.

Whatever your choice, good luck!