Novel Writing

Changing Point of View

Towards the end of NaNoWriMo, I decided to change my point of view from the omniscient past tense 3rd person to the present tense 1st person. As I was approaching the end of my story, I realised how important the inner workings of my characters are and how integral they are to my plot, so I swapped to the 1st person. Sure, the 3rd person can show inner workings and motives of characters, but the readers are one step removed. Using the 1st person, I am able to immerse my readers in the personalities of my characters far more efficiently.

“I can’t take any more of his incessant talking.” is much more dramatic and intimate than “Florence couldn’t take any more of his incessant talking”. To me, it feels so much more fun to write as if I were the character rather than an all-knowing God-like narrator.

I have since listened to a series of fantastic lectures by James Hynes called Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques, which discusses the differences between 3rd and 1st person point of view and narration.

James states that a positive of the 1st person present tense narration are that it is much more dramatic, and as such is commonly found in thriller novels, the genre of my work in progress. It is, however, much less realistic. Would someone actually pause and describe their surroundings when running from a serial killer? No, they wouldn’t. So I’ve traded excitement for believability, a choice, which I think, is working well in my novel.

I am midway through rewriting my first, unfinished, draft from the 3rd to the 1st person, and I am thoroughly enjoying how much drama I can create that way. I will keep you posted if I come across any other pitfalls or benefits of swapping to the 1st person.


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