First Person, Third Person, Or What in the World Am I Doing?

Posted on 05/04/2012 by


So yesterday, because my brain was stupid and apparently didn’t want me to write the argument that I was supposed to be writing, I rewrote the first chapter of Wizards into the third person. Just to see what it would look like.

The answer is, the first half looks pretty good. Not so sure about the second half. It starts off in this sort of conversational mode that makes it feel a bit like there’s a narrator getting intrusive when it’s framed in the third person, which — no. But that’s okay. I could write that part out, or write it differently. I’m not totally sold on it making it to the final draft anyway.

The upside to doing this is that it completely removes any potential confusion caused by multiple first person narration. The (possible) downside, is that it makes it harder for me to lie to my readers. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think, sometimes, I keep too many secrets. There’s a massive one in Path that I went out of my way to protect for a long time and then a few people smacked me around about it and now I tell you the second you see the character for the first time. And I do think it’s better.

Using the third person would necessitate letting my readers in a little more. But it does introduce its own layer of confusion because it makes it clear, constant and unforgettable that the names they’re calling each other aren’t quite right, and, in one case, rampantly and persistently wrong through three different incarnations.

Ultimately though the real biggest downside of doing it is doing it. Switching from first to third person isn’t just a matter of switching pronouns. It’s time consuming mostly, complicated in places, and opens a very wide door for hiccups and errors to enter in. And I’ve already written about thirty thousand words so making the change would be a bitch.*

Although… vaguely lunatic as the notion is, I sort of feel like if I switch to third person I’ll still want to compose a lot of this book in first person and then switch it. Because I write differently in first. The choices I make in phrasing and tone and approach are just different. And I think the first person version is more appropriate to this book. Which is one of the reasons I chose it in the first place. That, and the lying. So I don’t know. Maybe I just wasted a day fiddling about with stuff I’ve already written for no reason. Or maybe not. We’ll see.


* But certainly not impossible. I switched seventy-nine thousand words in four weeks of panic once while finishing my honours thesis. Not something I’d recommend. But I did it. So.