It’s All About Perspective. Preferably Third Person.

He hated writing anything in first person. It just didn’t feel right. So he sat down at his blog to tell everyone about it, because he was sure they’d care.

A good book is made up of deep and interesting characters, a detailed plot that doesn’t get too confusing, a solid story and a dash of originality. But that’s about where it ends objectively. Readers are picky, picky people. They judge books by their covers, they angst over font choices and sizes, the ages of the characters, tenses and perspectives. Subjectivity reigns supreme in the world of books, and one tiny detail that may not even be a bad thing can get a potential reader to put down your book forever.

As someone who does both reading and writing, I’ve got my preferences for both. The same things that afflict readers also affect writing, and I find that many people write the way that they like to read. I think this is a pretty good idea, honestly. Some people cannot write certain things, especially things they don’t like, and that’s very evident when they try to do so anyway. So from both perspectives, I have very definite preferences.

My favorite genre for books is typically YA Fantasy and Science Fiction. I love to read it and I love to write it. But that’s such a broad category. When it comes to perspective, I choose almost exclusively third person. Reading in first person just seems weird, and writing it is even weirder. Why would I say that “I” am doing anything? I’m not. It’s fiction! And that’s not even me! One of the only exceptions I made for this particular preference is the Goosebumps series, a set of books that I’m pretty sure everyone and their mother have read. They were pretty good, though I can’t help but feel as though I’d enjoy them even more if they were in third person.

I’m also a past tense kind of person. I see some books do present tense, which is weird, but some even try future tense, which is just plain bizarre. For goodness’ sake, if you’re going to do future tense, just wait until it happens, then write about it. Talk about jumping the gun. So when I come across a book that has first person perspective and present tense, it’s just too weird to get into. I can read the books, but something feels off. For you heavy readers, I’m sure you know the feeling. You pick up a book that’s written differently than how you’re used to, and you can tell something doesn’t feel right.

Lots of people say that they prefer first person because it helps with their immersion, but that’s always been the opposite for me. Even if it’s not omniscient perspective, I like the third person stuff. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, the vast majority of books, and I get into them just fine. It’s just like when I’m watching a movie or playing a game, I don’t have to see the screen from a person’s point of view to get into it. (I actually really do not like first person shooter games.)

Buuut I digress. This is just my particular set of preferences, and I’m quite picky when it comes to them. What are your preferences when it comes to either reading or writing, whichever are applicable?

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9 thoughts on “It’s All About Perspective. Preferably Third Person.

  1. looseleafbri says:

    I have never consciously thought about this. My first reaction was that I don’t have a preference but now that I think about it I believe that for reading I like third person the best as well. Writing, on the other hand, I think third person is easier but I generally struggle with both. Lack of practice.

    • Aww. =C Yeah, it’s all hard without practice. But I think third is easiest because it’s so prevalent… everyone knows what it is. Now, when you get into second person territory is when it starts to get a bit weird. 😛

  2. I don’t like writing in first person because I get lost, and not in the good way. I’m just a narrator up here in omniscientville. Plus, it’s harder to move between scenes if you can only follow one character. Possible, but hard.

    • I suppose so! I haven’t had too much trouble with that, though I’ve found that my characters are together a lot of the time. The only book where my characters of interest aren’t always together was omniscient, though, so you may be onto something here…

  3. The POV doesn’t really matter for me. But the tense – oh yeah. I cannot read a book in future tense. In the current? Its a bit hard but past tense just works so much better. My brain doesn’t have to compute as much or back up and go… “huh?…. Oh! okay.. got it.”

    • Yeah, past tense just seems to be… easiest, I suppose? Or the most natural, at any rate. Sometimes I can forgive present, but I don’t know why future tense is even attempted, to be honest. >.> Maybe there are good examples out there that I haven’t seen…

  4. theabrasiveembrace says:

    I think simple past is just a good anchor time perspective. You still have tenses at your disposal that make it clear that something happened earlier and you have tenses to express something in the future. Of course you could also do that with present tense, but, for me personally, present tense has a tendency to make wriings very descriptive (now he…, then he…), it drags, and it’s tiresome.

    I also find first person narration tiresome. I usually prefer to read and write in third person. Though, again imho, first person can be a great tool for a chapter or a certain scene, have the reader completely merge with the view of one character. To me first person then seems less tiresome than a chapter with lots of self-talk or thoughts within the description.

  5. When I first started writing, I always did first person. Eventually, though, I learned to do third, and then I settled into it. Now I write a majority in third person limited. And I always to past tense.

    I think people who do second person — unless there’s a good reason for it — are just trying to be interesting, and mostly the same for future and present tense. Though I have read that one writer, John le Carre, writes flashbacks in present tense, to put you in the position of being pulled into this alternate world.

    I quite like that idea.

    As far as video games, I agree with you; seeing from the character’s POV is just harder, anyway, I think.

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