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Writing perspectives - 1st, 2nd or 3rd person?

Updated: Jun 20

Should I write in first, second or third person?


Good question! There is no right or wrong answer, choose what's right for you and your story. If you're a beginner, this can seem overwhelming, but it's actually the best time to experiment with it.


One of the reasons I love writing is because there are no limits, which means anything is possible. There are so many different ways to approach your story and one of the things you have to decide is, which perspective will you be writing from? There is nothing stopping you from choosing more than one and switching perspectives throughout the story, as I said there is no rules to writing. So today, I am going through 1st, 2nd and 3rd person and sharing with you the benefits and limitations of each one.


It's important to consider the way you write and also your story when choosing a perspective. For example, if you are writing a suspense filled story, then perhaps 1st person would be better as you can have an unreliable narrator. Or perhaps if you're looking more for dramatic irony, 3rd person is better as you can communicate information with your readers without your characters knowing about it.


1st person

When you tell the story through the point of view of a character.


Strengths:

  • Read their thoughts and feelings

  • More intimate with the reader

  • A great way to have an unreliable narrator and trick the reader

Limitations:

  • One sided - you're only viewing the story from one character's perspective

  • Eliminates the opportunity for dramatic irony (although, again there are still ways around this).

  • It's hard for the reader to get a good understanding of what the main character looks like (unless they flat out describe themselves which can come across as unnatural) and their personality as you'll only know what they're like by how they perceive themselves


2nd person

When you directly address the reader. This technique is less common in writing, but can be extremely enticing if done correctly.


Strengths:

  • A direct line of communication with the reader

  • The perfect way to break the 'fourth wall'

  • An opportunity to incorporate the reader into your writing

Weaknesses:

  • Can be quite limiting

  • A difficult perspective to write from

  • Very easy to confuse and overwhelm the reader


3rd person

A birds eye view of the story, a narrator telling the story.


Strengths:

  • A great opportunity for dramatic irony

  • The narrator is all knowing and isn't restricted, therefore able to show all character's perspective.

  • It's simple and the least problematic perspective to write from

Weaknesses:

  • An outsiders perspective

  • Less intimacy with the reader

  • The reader misses out on being able to read the main characters thoughts


There is nothing wrong with experimenting with all three of these perspectives to see which one works for you. This is the perfect way to find out which perspective works better with your story too. If you have a strong main character, it might be better to tell the story from their perspective and let the reader in on their inner thoughts and feeling. However, if you were to use multiple perspectives (1st, 2nd and 3rd) person in your writing, you wouldn't be the first writer to do so. It can be complicated to use all three or even just two, however if it's done in the right way, you could create something extraordinary.

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