Stories begin with a single idea. That’s how it was for me anyway. The King’s Elite started as a simple idea while driving to class one morning. I worked out the details all day. It kept evolving and changing as I thought of more scenarios to thicken the plot. After a week or so of daydreaming and mulling over the idea of writing a book, I decided to sit down and get some of my ideas on paper. That is when I realized I had no clue how to write. I couldn’t even decide if my story should be told in first or third person. I rewrote my first chapter probably 10 times (still never used that chapter) until I decided on the third person. Choosing the point of view for your story is critical, but there isn’t a right or wrong choice. It comes down to you, your story and how you want to tell it. The following are three pointers to consider when choosing your point of view. To keep the post snappy I am assuming you know the difference between first and third person.
Limited Perspective for the Reader
The question that matters most to first person is, would limited knowledge of the world and characters hurt or benefit the story? You will find most crime novels and mysteries are written in first person for this exact purpose. It is easy to slide in a plot twist or a last second surprise ending when your story has withheld information from the reader. The most comfortable and natural way to do this is through a first person narrative. Obviously, first person works best when you want the story to center on just one character’s experiences.
Third person can be trickier. Don’t get me wrong, third person can be used for mysteries as well (it’s what I used for my book), but it is difficult to keep the key elements lined up when juggling the story from one character to another. If you decide to use third person for your novel, then you must realize that you are broadening the reader’s experience in your story quite extensively. This will either make your story rich and vibrant, or it could clutter it up too much because the added details aren’t necessary. It’s important to get a feel for this before you get too far along in your work. Keep checking yourself and make sure you know exactly where you are heading as you write. If you keep finding yourself lost in your own thought process and constantly trying to patch different stories together, then it may be best to stick with first person for your story.
Some authors use first person so they can speed up the feel of their narrative. First person isn’t a faster or easier way to tell a story, but it whittles the perspectives you need to include down to one, which can help (unless you’re Herman Melville.) You need to think about your story first. Ask yourself if you can tell your story from just one point of view. You may find that it needs multiple view points. I won’t mention any books, but I’ve read several stories where I could tell the author chose first person just so he/she could speed up the narrative. As a result the story felt watered down and incomplete. I wanted to know more, because more was presented, but never delved into- that makes for a frustrating read.
Don’t Clutter Third Person
Third person isn’t without it’s problem either. Like I said before, it can be a daunting task to include a thorough perspective for multiple characters without slowing down your story. That is the problem I see with most books that failed at telling their story in the third person. I will admit that I had to rewrite the entire draft of my first book for this very reason. In fact, I recently rewrote the book again for a second edition because I still wasn’t happy with the flow of my narrative. I think I’m there now, but learning how to pace out a third person narrative while including 6 or 7 characters’ perspectives is a tough lesson indeed.
Writing is art created in a lab. These are pointers I came up with from my own experience, but they’re not rules by any means. The scientific aspect of storytelling is knowing the do’s and don’ts of writing; while the art aspect is knowing when to do the don’ts and ignore the do’s. Regardless of where you are at in the writing process, enjoy it and promise yourself that you will finish it.