First Person or Third Person? That Is the Question

Many novelists, especially those who are writing a first book, create protagonists who are based on themselves, so it is natural for them to write their stories in the first person. (I did this with my first four novels.) Other authors choose to write in the third person.

Here's a quick refresher on the difference between the two in case you're not sure:

First person uses I:

  •  I was glad it was coming to an end
  •  I couldn't believe Sally would say that to me
  •  I looked around in disbelief. What was I doing there?

Third person uses heshe, or the character's name:

  •  Dan was glad it was coming to an end
  •  Dan couldn't believe Sally would say that to him
  •  Karen looked around in disbelief. What was she doing there?

If you write in the first person, you only have one point of view. If you write in the third person, you have a choice: You can write from the perspective of a single character, or you can write from the perspective of multiple characters. When aspiring authors ask me which is the "right way" to go, I always tell them to do what feels right to them. For example, in my third-person books I write from the perspective of just one character. I do this because my brain isn't wired to see the story from multiple angles. But every brain is wired differently, so what works for me doesn't necessarily work for other writers.

I received an email a couple weeks ago from a man who was working on a novel and wasn't sure which point of view to use. He said an editor had suggested he write one chapter both in the first person and the third person, then read them both and go with whichever sounded better to him. I thought that was great advice.

Have you struggled with this decision? If so, what did you do? Please share your thoughts in the comments!


Maria Murnane is the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services to aspiring and published authors. Have questions? You can find her at


This blog post originally appeared on Reprinted with permission. © 2017 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

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