Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme created by Rukky @ Eternity Books and hosted by Aria @ Book Nook Bits where we discuss certain topics, share our opinions, and spread the love by visiting each others’ posts. Today’s topic is: Do you prefer first or third person narration?
Third person objective: The facts of a narrative are reported by a seemingly neutral, impersonal observer or recorder. | Third person omniscient: An all-knowing narrator not only reports the facts but may also interpret events and relate the thoughts and feelings of any character. | Third person limited: A narrator reports the facts and interprets events from the perspective of a single character.
What kinds of narration do you prefer? First person? Third person objective? Third person omniscient? Third person limited?
Growing up, all the books I read were in third person, and when I read a first person narrative for the first time, it was a huge change and I hated it. However, the book that changed my opinion was the Percy Jackson series, which I absolutely loved, and ever since then, I began to enjoy first person narration much more. As for second person, I simply can’t stand it and it remains one of the very few things that would cause me to DNF a book.
Overall, I enjoy both first and third person narration, though it really depends on the genre. Mysteries and thrillers, for instance, have the best effect in first person. Both first person and third person limited work well for fantasy, though when it comes to epic fantasy, I personally prefer third person omniscient as it can do the most justice to the depth of such a world and the typically complex plot – case in point, Lord of the Rings.
What are the pros and cons of different kinds of narration?
- First person:
- The biggest pro of this type of narration is that it allows the reader to get into the character’s head, providing a greater emotional connect and making the character more relatable as a whole.
- It’s really easy to draw the reader into the story and hold their attention, along with being excellent for world building, as a character new to the situation they are in can be used as a means to explore the world and surroundings.
- First person narration is focused on a single character, and can hence limit access to the other character’s thoughts and actions.
- It also typically follows a single story thread as we see only what the main character sees and possibly miss out on a lot else going on.
- The narrative is limited to the knowledge of the POV character, and said character is hence not the most reliable narrator, giving a possibly biased perspective of events.
- From a writing perspective, the repeated use of ‘I’ can get irritating. I remember in writing class, this was one of the things pointed out to be aware of when revising drafts and we were encouraged to go through and replace the excessive ‘I’s’ with more creative forms of the sentence. This is not something I come across too often, but I’ve definitely noticed it in some first person narratives.
- Second person:
- Pros: The reader is brought into the thick of the action right from page one and is immersed in the world immediately
- Cons: I’m rather biased here as I’ve never liked this style of narration, but I feel that it’s very hard to write this POV effectively. Somehow, it’s never sounded quite right to me.
- Third person:
- It provides a much broader perspective, and can show different storylines at the same time easily, even if the characters involved are on opposite sides of the world.
- It allows the reader to follow multiple characters with ease, showing the character’s thoughts along with ongoing events. It’s not necessarily limited to the knowledge of the character.
- The narration is more reliable and unbiased, especially for third person omniscient.
- It can be harder to connect to characters in this style, particularly in third person omniscient because the narrator is god-like and knows everything so building the emotional connect is difficult. It’s much easier for third person limited, because it follows only one character, but it still holds the character at arm’s length.
- Focusing on multiple characters may spread the narrative too thin. The reader has much lesser page time with each character and there may not be sufficient time to develop strong character arcs for all of them.
Many of the downsides of first person narration can be resolved with a multiple POV narration of course, but that does have challenges of its own too. Ultimately, I think that the narration style should be chosen in accordance with the story and what conveys its message in the clearest manner and gives the characters the most effective voice.
Do you prefer first or third person narration? Share your thoughts in the comments below!