Should I write in first or second person? Top ten tips to help you decide

This is a question I’ve been asking myself lately, as I’m about to embark upon a new book, which is different from anything I’ve written before. Normally, with commercial romantic fiction, third person is most common – although yes, there are plenty out there written in the first.

If you every find yourself with the same predicament, here are my top ten tips, which might help you decide:

  1. It could be argued that in the first person, you can really reach into the thoughts and feelings of the character, allowing the reader to empathise on a deeper level with them.
  2. If you stick with the first person, you can’t fall into the trap of head-hopping!
  3. Choosing the third person, however, means you can tell the story from more than one person’s point of view, which could be advantageous.
  4. If you opt for first person, there can’t be anything in the plot the main character doesn’t know – which could affect your story and how you tell it.
  5. Think about the genre you’re writing in and read, read, read! If you’re 50/50 whether to go for first or third person, you might like to go with the majority of authors writing in your genre – it could be an insight into what publishers prefer.
  6. If you’re writing commercial fiction and your aim is for your book to sell and be read, think about what’s fashionable at the moment. Literature trends go in waves, like any other type of fashion. If you’re unsure which way to go, thinking about what sells mean you shouldn’t go too far wrong.
  7. If you do opt for third person, remember you can still get into deep point of view by conveying the character’s thoughts and feelings. Italics tell the reader what is an unvoiced thought.
  8. Try writing a few paragraphs in the first person, then tell the same story in the third. What works best? What feels right to you as an author?
  9. Do you prefer reading books written in the first or the third person? It may well be that your reading preferences reflect your writing preferences too.
  10. Finally, like all dilemmas connected to writing, go with your heart! If your brain is telling you that you MUST write in the first person because that seems to be the trend, and everyone else is doing it, but your heart is screaming out at you to write in the third, go with your heart – it’s usually right!

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