Why I Switched From 1st Person to 3rd Limited–A Writer’s Tale

Hey, we’re back! After an unannounced and unscheduled hiatus, I’m back on the blogging bandwagon. Yay!

I HAVE AN ANNOUNCEMENT: Next week I will be putting up the book list for this month and there will be a new and exciting change to this! Stay tuned.

elevent DW thumbs up.gif
Hint: It involves a giveaway!

Preparing for Pitch Wars kind of took over my life and I have come up with a bunch of new blog ideas from that experience! Today, I’m going to muse on what one mentor put in their wishlist. It went something like:

If you’re writing YA in third person, be prepared to justify that decision.

AKA Why not first person?

To which my initial, Pavlovian response was…

Why not zoidberg.jpg


Seriously, though, as someone who switched her manuscript from first to third, I think this is a great thing for me to muse upon.

I’d like to get one thing out of the way: I definitely think my manuscript is stronger in third. It’s different, but stronger.

Why do I prefer 3rd person for INNATE?

For those who may have been reading this when I referred to it as SAAFire, the working title for my MS is currently INNATE. Turns out you actually have to name your submission to Pitch Wars and Something Awesome and Also Fire just didn’t work anymore.

The main reason I think 3rd limited works really well for INNATE  is actually two-parter.

  • First, there are two POVs and it’s easier to jump between them with a few changes in style to differentiate them.
  • Second, there are some very dark moments in this story and taking the reader out of that character’s head lets me make the story less AND more intense at the same time.

You might be thinking, “Wait, how does it do that?”

I think of it this way: first person puts you in that character’s mind so you experience the emotion WITH the character, third person shows you the character’s reaction externally, so the reader FEELS FOR them.

With 3rd limited, I can take a step back from these extremely intense moments  and let readers have their own reaction.

Being in a character’s head for dark moments can also be distracting. One of my main characters doesn’t make it to the end of the book and Dawn’s reaction is overwhelming in 1st person. In 3rd, I can grab the second MC’s reaction, move the plot forward, and provide an atmosphere for that death. Earlier in the story, Skye struggles with a mental anguish that leads to some drastic measures–forcing my reader to ride out that pain with her for a few chapters is not the point of having Skye endure that.

What about voice?

I think one of the main concerns with writing YA in third is that it is so seamless to bring in voice in 1st person. Readers can get in that character’s head, it’s easier to add some flair. I get it. This last round of revisions highlighted some issues with voice (which I have fixed, if any Pitch Wars mentors are reading this).

My main issue with with voice in 3rd is head hopping, something for which I have scoured the manuscript. Head hopping isn’t really allowed in 3rd limited, since that POV is meant to be all in one narrator’s head at a time. When I switch POV between Skye and Dawn, each girl gets a whole chapter to herself. It might be a short chapter, but I try to make it really clear because I’ve read some books that aren’t clear and I hate that. 

Don’t do or be the things you hate. Best writing advice I ever got.

I have found a way to add Dawn’s voice and Skye’s voice to their individual chapters through word choice both in narration and dialogue and how they experience the world around them. Skye is blind, so she takes in an environment differently than Dawn does. Dawn is a little more impulsive, so she will react differently. But they’re sisters and extremely close, so it’s been a challenge making those voices realistic but distinct.

That is why I think my manuscript is stronger in 3rd. I totally get why many others choose to write in 1st but I’m also comforted by some really strong stories in 3rd that are currently published.

Was it hard?

Initially, switching from 1st to 3rd was really hard. I had chapters that were half in 3rd and half in 1st. The 1st person POV comes very naturally to me and I will definitely write at least one future story in 1st person. But I got used to 3rd and it seems I’ve gotten decent at writing it. I always think there is improvement to be made but I really like writing in 3rd. I see the characters differently, I write them differently. It has been an excellent learning experience.

And that’s why I wrote INNATE in 3rd person limited!

Next week I’ll have the update and the new book club list up! See you then!


Author: V. Kane

I write YA fantasy, blog about it, and then take my dog out for therapy. My current manuscript is ANATHEMA, a story of two sisters caught up in a war between the gods. Find me on Twitter at @ValkyrieWriting or Instagram at books_and_dogs

10 thoughts

  1. I love 3rd limited. Sure, there’s some flavor left out from the writing, but it allows many more POVs: because of tightly woven multi-faction intrigue, my novel has multiple, some of them not coming up regularly (they can’t be even considered “main” characters, though they are main players in the intrigue), so writing them all in 1st person would make no sense.
    To be honest, I’m starting to get tired of books written in the 1st person: most times, even if there’s complexity to the plot and to the characters’ motivation, we don’t get to see it because everything is filtered via 1 or 2 characters’ eyes.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve spent the majority of my time writing in 3rd person so it is actually easiest for me. Though I do occasionally write in 1st person, I agree that everything gets filtered. In the MS I submitted to pitchwars, It has been a long road because instead of having one or two main characters, I have many; and I needed to switch between their POV’s. It was hard, but easier when I decided to name the chapters after the character whose POV it is in.

    I have to agree that though you can feel for the characters by experiencing it from within their head, feeling it from the outside can be more intense. You aren’t feeling it with them, you are feeling it for them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a good idea to name the chapters after the POV character! One of the dangers I’ve seen with 3rd is that it becomes easy for an author to throw in a LOT of POV characters, sometimes even for only one scene that could be given through a main character’s eyes. I don’t think you get that in 1st so much. But yes, I think 3rd limited is much better for larger casts, as long as they’re POV is meaningful (which I’m sure yours are). 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m really not comfortable with the 1st person, I basically never write in it. Honestly, I think that 3rd person limited gives the possibility of a multi-layered story that no other mode gives.

    This said, I did an experiment with my first chapter. Because beta readers pointed out a difficulty in connecting with my MC, I rewrote the first chapter in 1st person and then reverted back to 3rd. It was a very interesting experiment, because the 1st person allowed fellings and thoughts inside the story that were never there with the 3rd. Some of them diseppered when I reveresed back to 3rd, but the feeling, the flair, remained.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is pretty much exactly what I found! It’s so much easier to convey thoughts and feelings–the MC’s own experience–in 1st person but I think sometimes the story itself is told better in 3rd. It depends on what you’re trying to do.


  4. I’m glad you wrote something positive about 3rd. I write in 3rd person all the time, and use more than one POV usually also. I find it gives the story a three dimensional flavor. I have never liked reading 1st person, simply because I did not want the author to make decisions for me. it was too darn personal but as you say, 3rd person lets the reader choose how to react.

    I made a change with my ms and slipped it into the adult category because I believe it will be more readily acceptable in 3rd. Well see how that works! Good luck on PitchWars!

    Liked by 1 person

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