Being that I’m writing my current novel in the first person I wanted to take some time to talk about first person POV in general, as well as some of the challenges that come with it. There are plenty of articles on the internet that go into detail on the technicalities of first person POV, so I won’t go into that side of things here. Feel free to look those up if you have any questions on how it works.
In my current work the story begins with an 8 year old boy. Now, with third person POV I can get inside his head and write about the world around him. It’s a bit more of a detached POV where you’re on the outside looking in. But, with first person I have to be the boy. It’s a small distinction, but one that can have large consequences if not pulled off correctly. All of his thoughts have to be that of an eight year old and not those of an adult. I think this is the most challenging portion I’ve faced so far, as eight years old for me was 20 years ago.
One thing I do like about first person POV over third person is how streamlined the story can be. Certainly, I could do something similar in the third person, but sometimes head hopping can be a dizzying affair. With first person POV I’m able to keep myself, as well as my readers, inside the same person’s head throughout the entirety of the story. Each chapter flows into the next and there’s no interruptions as you go from one character to the next character to the next character and so on before finally coming back to the one that was in some sort of dire situation 75 pages ago. I’ve always felt that if a character is in some sort of dramatic event that the event should be finished before moving onto other characters, though. Once that scene is completed, then I can move onto what’s happening with the next character and give readers a bit of a break from the tension as the next event builds itself up.
What I didn’t expect with writing in the first person was the difficulty of balancing individual scenes. Usually, with third person you have a bit more leeway as you can describe more of the world and show other events that are going on. With first person, as you well may know, you’re limited to what’s going on around the character. This means that once the descriptions of the immediate area are completed I need to fill up the rest with interesting characters. Even minor characters need to be animated and need to have personality, as otherwise the entire chapter could easily be very stale. If the readers aren’t interested in the characters in a first person POV novel then you’re very much in a dangerous area as they’ll likely put your book down long before finishing it.
I’ve learned quite a bit so far from changing to this perspective. Some say that authors tend to get stuck in the first person POV once they start using it, but I feel like it’s an excellent way to learn how to build interesting and unique characters without spreading yourself thin. You can take more time to build relationships and really get the knack of things before moving onto more complex writing. In some ways, I wish I had written this novel before “Bound by Fire”, but even my successes and my failures from that novel taught me something. I’ve been utilizing that knowledge in “The Puppet Prince” so far and I feel that my writing is all the better for it.
If you’re new to writing fantasy and aren’t sure which POV you wish to use here’s what I recommend. Take the same idea and write it in both first person and third person POV’s and see which you like better. First person will probably feel more natural, but that doesn’t always mean it’s the better of the two for that particular story or novel. Once you’ve settled on the way you wish to write it, go ahead and push forward with that POV. Even so, if you’re inexperienced with character building, at least try first person. If you can build a character who’s head people enjoy being in then you can write third person and build equally enthralling characters there as well.