When choosing to write a story, whether it's a short, novella, epic series, poem or six-word story, one of the most important aspects to choose to write in is a first-person perspective or third-person perspective. For some people, the choice is a no-brainer, but for most, it is a decision that they spend a long time considering, and with good reason too.
But, what's the difference and why does it matter?
Before a decision is made it is important to understand what they are:
First Person POV:
This is told from the protagonists own perspective; sentences will include statements of the characters own thoughts and the use of showing, rather than telling the story, becomes paramount. This is because when we experience a strong emotion, we feel it in our body, and only label it after the fact. The use of I as the pronoun is used in this style of writing.
For example, imagine you have an important interview or audition - the butterflies in your stomach swirl around, making you nauseous.
ex: The crowd hushed as I stepped onto the stage. As the brightness of the lights blinded me but I gritted my teeth: it was now or never.
Third Person POV:
Used to add tension and climax to a story where the reader is in the knowledge of the bigger picture, but the protagonist does not know as much as the reader. It works great in crime and thriller novels and is the most commonly used POV. It also enables the reader to jump heads and see the story from the perspective of multiple protagonists, rather than just the one.
A blend of showing and telling are at play here and can be used to effectively showcase the raw emotions and experience of the protagonists. The use of the pronouns they, their, his and her are used in this style.
ex: The crowd grew silent as she pranced onto the stage. Every light focused on her slight form as they waited for her debut performance to begin.
Second Person POV:
A perspective that is used rarely as it plants the reader into the present thought processes and can be difficult to get right. It works well in poetry and when it is important for the reader to be present with the protagonist. The pronouns you and yours are used here.
ex: You wait with bated breath for it to begin. Your tutu rests on your hips, a little heavy, but that will lighten as you get stronger. You question your skill: are you good enough? Will the crowd like what you have created? Taking a deep breath, you step out onto the stage; you are ready to begin.
So, what to choose?
Think about what story it is you're trying to tell. These prompts might help you decide:
- What is it the reader needs to know?
- What style do you find easier?
- Do you want to have multiple protagonists or a single one?
- Do you want to add tension by limiting the reader's knowledge?
- Which style would suit the type of story?
In the end, the choice is up to you.
I chose first person POV simply because I needed to limit the information the reader had as Rey is the protagonist and this is her tale. At sixteen winters old, it was not possible she would understand the reason for the Envoy existing, nor have an understanding of secret government organisations and how they operate, therefore the story made sense to tell it from her perspective.