A friend and I were recently chatting about first person vs. third person, and she asked me why I chose to write my first book (and incidentally, my second, though she hasn’t yet read it) in the first person. I thought it was a great, discussion-provoking question, so I wanted to address it here.
For me, writing in the first person is simply instinctual. I used to do a lot of acting, and my writing process is very similar to my acting process: I tend to slip into my characters, embody them wholly, and so it’s only natural for me to spit out their words as if they are coming directly from them. When I’m in full-blown writing mode (something I desperately need to get back into), I literally find myself woken up in the middle of the night or stopped mid-sentence with the voices of my characters. So, in that sense, first person is the obvious choice.
It also doesn’t hurt that first person, in my opinion, is so much easier to write in. I have complete admiration for authors who pen in the third-person because I just never seem to be able to quite get into the groove when I’m writing in the third person. Words and ideas just don’t flow in the same way. I raised this with my friend, Laura Dave, whose new book, The Divorce Party, alternates between two different third person voices (and is great!), and she concurred, saying that it was so difficult that she’d never tackle that task again. I mean, come on, writing a book is hard enough, and I don’t mean to imply that I’m not willing to challenge myself – I am – but I’m just not sure that I’m up for climbing that mountain.
One thing I am considering for my next book is alternating between two, or even-three, first person voices. This might prove a challenge, but a good challenge, a way to stretch myself without tackling something that is going to suck, as I suspect my third-person book might. But I’m curious to hear what perspective you guys write in and why. Is it instinctual or is there a rational choice behind the voice that you use?
Photo courtesy Flickr’s Lá caitlin