I know, I know…it’s a minor detail. For me, it doesn’t really matter all that much.
However I do seem to like books a bit better when they’re in first person. I don’t really know why this is. Maybe it’s for the fact that, most of the time, the plot is a lot easier to follow and read. And that fact that if the person is telling the story from first person POV, you know, at the very least, that they’ve got to still be alive at the end of the story. Heh.
So what about you? Sure, it’s a small thing, and doesn’t have to be tit or tat to enjoy a book. But do you, even if it’s an ever so small preference, prefer one over the other?
Well, I can only remember three books that I am absolutely certain were in first person and I only liked one of them. If you include ones I am uncertain of it, jumps to 3/5. While that would mean I like the majority of first person stories I read, the sample size is a bit small and pretty much meaningless.
Definitely a big fan of third person. First person can work in a short story, but it’s my view that there’s just no one person interesting enough to read a whole book in their mind, if that makes sense.
Also, I associate first-person books with the one-hour horror reads I devoured in elementary school. There was a time for such things, and it has passed.
I don’t care if it’s first person or third person, but second person, I cannot stand. (It seems to be a characteristic of a lot of amateur fiction.)
I find I don’t enjoy as much fiction that’s written in present tense, unless there’s a very compelling reason for it, or the writer’s so good I don’t notice it at first. A novel by Greg Iles comes to mind, where I was twenty pages or so in before I noticed it was in present tense. Present tense and second person seem to be common among novice writers, whose fiction isn’t as polished, so maybe that’s the root of my prejudices.
First person’s tricky, as the reader can only ‘know’ what that character knows. It’s easy to slip up and have the narrator be aware of something they shouldn’t actually know.
Right now the novel I’m reading alternates between first and third person. It’s a way of letting the reader get a fuller narrative…
For me, it depends on what the author is trying to do. First person is more subjective, third person is more objective, and both are useful in their place.
I think there are more successful third person narratives for the simple reason that some writers writing first person have a nasty habit of basing the narrator on themselves.
Characters meant to be an accurate reflection of the author are almost never good – it’s very hard to find the distance necessary to make them believable.
A few authors have used both in a story to good effect. The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood is about a woman who’s losing all sense of herself, who’s being absorbed into the man she intends to marry. As this process starts, the author switches from first to third person.
There’s a very irritating short story by Clark Blaise called “Eyes” in which he uses second-person. It’s obnoxious to be told what you’re doing and what you’re seeing, and what your life is like.
I think that’s why second-person only works in things like “Choose Your Own Adventure” and role-playing games, where there’s some measure of choice involved.
I usually prefer third person books, there are a few that have caught me which are first person (like Outlander) but I don’t usually read them. Even when I do my stories and whatnot I usually end up writing as third person past tense.
First person perspective makes the novel so much more personal, because it’s as though someone was sitting across from you and telling his story. Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, for example, probably wouldn’t have worked in third person because of the feeling involved. You’re being let in on someone’s thoughts and emotions and it’s much more personal.
On the other hand, third person is good when you want to see the story from all sides, through the eyes of many different characters. Also when there’s a wide-reaching story with pieces to pull together, or a “moral” to be learned from the experience, it usually needs a third person perspective to, well, put it in perspective.
It would be interesting for an author to write a novel in first person perspective, and then write the same novel in third person perspective. I wonder if it’s ever been done.