Who is telling your story?
When I first started writing, I wrote everything from a first person point of view; I ran, I jumped, I looked. Every fan fiction I wrote was the same. I didn’t even consider any other way of writing. Despite reading books with it in. I’m not sure why I just never really noticed it. Then I got a message requesting a story, asking if I could do this one in third person, so they could experience everyone’s thoughts.
I was so confused and I will admit, I googled that one. I wasn’t clear on it. I had no idea what I was meant to do. I wrote out a 3,000 word story, and then realised half way through I switched back to first person and had to edit it. It was a messy, horrible, nightmare. But I did it.
Now third person is my perspective of choice for fan fictions, but I still usually use first person in my novels. My newest creation, that I am working on is third person and I’m enjoying the change.
What’s the difference?
Aside from the pronouns that you use. For first person it’s I, my, mine, us and for third person, he, she, them, her or him.
It’s about what the reader gets to experience.
First person perspective means that you can only know for sure what the character who’s voice you are writing in is thinking and feeling. Everything else is written and made through observations. It is basically how one would see real life.
You can look at a person and assume they are angry from the tension on their face, the rage in their eyes, but you cannot know for sure. Even if they admit they are, there’s a chance they are lying. Unless you are in their head, which you aren’t, there’s no way you can ever know for sure.
You can however, accurately and descriptively inform everyone of how you feel and what you are observing.
Third person perspective is divided into two groups. The first is
Omniscient narration here, the character telling the story (narrator) can explore the characters fully. It’s someone else narrating the story. Everyone is he, she, them. It can show what is happening in the minds of every person.
Restricted third person is when the story is still written in he, she, them but you can only tell what is going on in the main character’s head (the one the story is focused on.) They still have no idea what else is going on inside the minds of anyone else, they can, like in first person, observe and report, but never know with any real certainty.
What you use, really depends on your writing style, what your plot is, who’s story and thoughts you want to hear.
For me, I base it on what is happening and whether I want to reveal facts about the other characters.
In Battle for Terra, I used first person, because I didn’t want to have to deal with trying to get inside the minds of the aliens and a couple of the other characters involved. It gave away too much.
In Binary, given the betrayal Addison was facing, I couldn’t write anything that would outright give away who was trying to destroy Audris and her.
And now for my two new work in progress items. Compliant has a dark, mysterious and broody leader of a rebel group, Ben. I felt that if I used third person and revealed his thoughts it would really mess up the story line. I wanted his actions and reactions to show his personality and thoughts.
And my new, still being titled was meant to be making plot notes only story, that has wound up 12,000 words into the story. Yes, my bad. I chose third person restrictive, but I change views through out the story. My main focus is on Sarah, but I do add in brief sections for other people, like my secondary character, Eli and a mysterious unknown who is watching them from the shadows. The reason for this was because without the change in viewpoint you wouldn’t know Mr Unknown was there. Secondly, I needed Eli’s flash backs, they played an important part to the story. And thirdly, I have plans for later. And it will be vital to climax points in the story.
Personally, I love the way third person reads. I feel it makes writing come across more romantic. Not in a hearts and flowers way, but it just smooths it out a bit more and it really does change how a person writes.
So, for below is an extract from my Supernatural fanfic, Lullaby. Which you can find attached to the hyperlink. It was written in third person restrictive, changing perspectives at the line spacing from Rose to Dean.
Dean was a private person. It was one of the few things that Rose knew about him. Aside from the obvious anyway. He was tall, had amazing eyes and he was loyal. Even to her, a woman he hadn’t known all that long. Rose thought about that for a moment. Two years, that’s how long she’d known the Winchesters. She had been living with them for three months, 90 ninety days. She quickly calculated it into hunter’s years. Well, her version of hunter’s years. It was a 3:1 ratio. She’d known them six years.
In all that time, she’d never heard or had Dean ask for help. He’d never discussed any issues he had, never shared his emotions. Nothing. It intrigued her, fascinated her, ate at her curiosity. She often found herself sitting back watching him from a distance. She watched most people, but he was the one that captured her attention the most.
‘You’re doing it again,’ Dean commented, raising an eyebrow over his book.
Rose blushed slightly and went back to reading. She hadn’t realised she was watching him that intently.
Dean glanced up at her again, at that same moment she glanced up at him. They caught each other’s eyes and smiled. His smiled widened a bit more, but he beamed on the inside. She captivated every part of him. He hadn’t figured out why yet. He wondered, if in part, it was to do with her fascination for him. Whether it enticed his own curiosity. He knew what she was doing when she watched him. To begin with it confused him, the way she watched everything. It was like a child who had first started noticing the world around them. She took everything in. You could see her absorbing it. When he questioned it, she was honest, up front and told him everything. She was trying to figure out what made him tick, get to know him, and in general, understand him. Dean smiled, he made more of an effort to hide things from her since that talk.
At first it was a game, to annoy her. But after a while, it was because he feared once she knew him, she would stop paying attention.
Dean knew it was her thing, and she was good at it. She could read most people like a book, and quickly. She was their human lie detector. And at times Demon/Angel detector. She could tell when a person wasn’t “human”. Solely through their actions.
So the extract below is my first fanfic, called It’s Not a Thong. The quality of writing isn’t as good, but it’s first person perspective, just to give you an idea.
I sat back in my chair, raising my eyebrows at the man in front of me.
‘I can’t believe you are even thinking of trying to pull rank, let alone attempting it,’ I stated in disbelief.
‘Really?’ he challenged.
I smirked. He was arrogant and liked to be in control, so this wasn’t that much of a surprise.
‘Sweetheart, I can out hunt you without even breaking a sweat. It makes sense that I out rank you.’ He leaned forward on resting his forearms on the table and interlocking his fingers.
‘And yet, it’s usually me that ends up saving your arse,’ I countered, mirroring his actions. Looking deep into his green eyes, not wavering on my stance. Hearing a smirk coming from my left, I turned to look at his brother.
I looked between the two brothers, Dean and Sam Winchester. I had met them 12 months ago on a hunt in Ohio, turned out there was a male werewolf on an ex-wife torture spree.
He had started killing her family, eventually trying to turn her. I was standing in as coroner, when the two “FBI” agents approached me.
Having been a hunter myself, I was able to call B.S. on their cover. The werewolf was massive and stronger than any I had encountered before. So having the extra couple of sets of hands helped.
Since then we had randomly met up at several salt and burns, vamp nests and even a wendigo case. We kept in contact regularly and ended up travelling together. It seemed to make sense as more often than not we arrived at the same case. Now the only bad side is we are down to one car. My 1970 Dodge Charger got put in the bunker garage and we are using Dean’s Impala. It was a beautiful car. But being down to one vehicle was frustrating at times.
‘How about we drink for it?’ Dean suggested, wriggling his eyebrows.
I couldn’t help but laugh, ‘Really? You want to drink ourselves stupid, which I might add we are about on par with, and then the looser goes to grab tea?’
As you can see, perspective can change how a story is told, how it is written and the way in which emotions are expressed.
Finding what works for you, is essential. But it is always best to learn how to write in all perspectives as you never know where your story will take you.
Figure out what you want to portray, to keep secret and to reveal and go from there. Sometimes it might even help to write a paragraph or two of your work in the different perspectives to see what works. I will admit some of my work from my early days would have been pretty amazing if I had of used third person.
What’s your favourite perspective to write and read?
What do you find easiest?
I’d love to hear from you, either in the comments below or you can find me on my contact page.