Chat Between Chapters: Who Prefers First? What about Third? and What the Heck is Second…

September 21, 2014 Chat Between Chapters, Featured Posts 29


 When it comes to points of view in books, do you prefer first or third? And what the heck is second person? Have you read a book in second person?

Julie Review Avatar Julie:

I think it really depends on the type of book for me to like the third or first person perspective. Some books are really well done in first person and you the reader really get a good feel for the main character. I also enjoy first person in POV changes so you get inside the mind of both/each character. Sometimes though when the main character is annoying as hell, that first person perspective makes it even worse. Third person gives you a bit of a distance from the main character and the narrator can keep secrets from us the reader.  Third person narrative can share the thoughts of other characters as often as those of the main character, so we can get a little more information that way. I don’t think I’ve ever read a second person narrative. That would be an interesting experience.

Rose review avatar Rose:

I once recommended a book to my cousin on the basis that she loved one of my favorite novels, The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. I recommended she read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Guess what? She hated Outlander! Can you believe that? I was so surprised. She said the biggest thing about Outlander that she just couldn’t get past is that it was written in first person. The Bronze Horseman is written in third person. I was shocked. I have heard of people having preference, but her prejudice of my favorite book of all time seemed a little out of line. I mean I typically prefer first person point of view. I feel like I get to know the character better if I am reading the story in first person. I think first person feels more authentic and like the narrator is more honest and trustworthy. However, I am not adverse to third person. Sometimes third person is a better choice for a novel and that is okay. Third person allows the reader to perhaps see more what motivates a character than what first person does. Sometimes the reader knows the third person character better that that character knows herself! As for second person… I am always confused by this.  I read Stolen: A Letter to My Captor by Lucy Christopher and that is about as close to second person as I think I have ever encountered in a novel. What about you? What is your preference?

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29 Responses to “Chat Between Chapters: Who Prefers First? What about Third? and What the Heck is Second…”

    • Julie

      That’s really what matters most – that the book is well written and enjoyable 🙂

  1. Jackie

    I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that was written in second person, but I have read a few short stories bye Lorrie Moore that were in second person. That was such an interesting reading experience.

    I like both first person and third person POVs, but I think I tend to prefer third person. I suppose it depends entirely on the genre I’m reading though. If it’s a contemporary novel, I prefer first person. If it’s fantasy or science fiction, I prefer third person (getting inside the characters head is fine, but I want to know so much more about the world beyond the characters perspective!)

    • Julie

      I like your distinction there with the sci-fi and fantasy books. You really do get more world building if you’re not always in the character’s head heh.

    • Rose

      good distinction, Jackie. I can see how genre would make a difference as to preference between 1st and 3rd POVs

  2. Brenda @DailyMayo

    I agree with April that second person almost never works. I used to hate first person, but now, I think I might prefer it? It really depends on the type of story, I guess. I still like third person past-tense for kid’s books, but I think I prefer first for stories about adults. Thanks for linking to Quote Me Thursday this week! You ladies always have such fun discussion questions. 🙂
    Brenda @DailyMayo recently posted…10 Quotes from the Most Banned Books of All Time

    • Julie

      Ooh I like the distinction you made – first person for adult books and third for children’s. Though most YA is in first these days, not sure how that quite fits into that.

    • Julie

      I’m with you – as long as it works for the story, any POV is fine with me. But it has to work, and the characters have to fit their voice. I’ve never read Stolen but I’m a bit curious about how second person works there.

  3. Leila @ LeilaReads

    I think the story determines whether or not I prefer 1st or 3rd person. 2nd person (in my opinion) is pretentious and tedious. Rose, I can see where your friend is coming from after having read the other books in the Outlander series. While I adore Outlander, I love how in the other books we get everyone else’s perspective (which became necessary as the story grew in scope). I’m a big fan of perspective changes in either 1st or 3rd person, as long as they help move the story and are done in a deliberate manner. Really interesting question, and one I was just thinking about after having read yet another YA in the 1st person.
    Leila @ LeilaReads recently posted…Let’s Talk About Sex (In YA)

    • Julie

      Ooh I agree with you that it depends on the story. Perspective switching is a delicate balance and when done well, really adds to the book.

    • Rose

      I can see my cousin’s point, but it just surprised me because I never really paid attention before to POV

  4. Charlotte @ Thoughts and Pens

    During pre-blogging days, most of the books that I’ve read are written in third person POV. That’s why when I started blogging and getting more exposed to first POV, I had a hard time adjusting. It really came as a shock to me when people write in their reviews that their reading experience were ruined because the book was written in 3rd person POV. Heee. But I am okay now.

    As for the second person POV, I have not read a fictional book that uses the said POV. I’ve read a lot of procedural manuals and other instructional materials that use it though. Not so sure if said POV will work on fiction books. Heck, I don’t think I’d read it. Would be really weird.
    Charlotte @ Thoughts and Pens recently posted…Stacking the Shelves {34}

    • Julie

      I agree that second person POV would be awkward in fiction. I haven’t really experienced it, but would be worth checking out one day maybe.

  5. Charleen

    I prefer third to first. With first-person, it becomes much more important that I like that character’s personality, or at least that I like their voice. I wouldn’t have an immediate prejudice against books in first-person, it’s just there are more possibilities for the book to not work for me.

    My big pet peeve, though, is switching back and forth between the two. I don’t think a book should be written in first unless the whole thing is. If you’re going to switch between several characters, a close third person is so similar to first in terms of what the reader knows about their thoughts and feelings that I just don’t see a point to putting one of those characters in first-person, just because.

    There are situations where it can work, depending on the structure of the story… but I’ve read several books that would have been exactly the same (and much clearer) if they were just told in shifting third-person POV.

    As for second-person… I’ve read a couple books that used it sparingly. It’s not as complete a deal-breaker as I might have once thought, but like any writing decision, there should be a good reason to use it, not just as a novelty.
    Charleen recently posted…Bookish (and not so bookish) Thoughts – #34

    • Julie

      I agree with you that with first person it is very important to like the character and their personality. Maybe that’s the issue I’ve been having lately is not connecting to characters with their first person POV.

    • Rose

      Nice thoughts on how the stakes are higher for 1st person POV. I agree that that sometimes alternating 1st person POV can get confusing. I think that a close 3rd person would be a better choice for many writers, especially the less skilled ones. sometimes new writers are not very good at distinguishing voice. or perhaps write in 1st for one character’s POV, but 3rd for another character.

      • Julie

        Terri I agree with you – if the POV switches but the new character’s voice isn’t obvious or distinctly different from the previous narrator’s, it just doesn’t work.

      • Rose

        okay, so i have had a busy month and when I have busy months, I comment all at once, as you may have noticed… bad habit. gotta break it. okay, so i literally just commented above about alternating POV’s need distinct character voices.. and then I scroll down and BAM! You said the same thing! que creepy music again!

  1. Hot Scot Saturday #6: On Perspectives | LeilaReads

    […] story in a new way.  The ladies at Chapter Break recently wrote about perspective in writing in a Chat Between Chapters, and how much it can affect  a story.  The comments seemed to indicate that the first person was […]

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