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First, Second Or Third Person?

June 1st, 2018

We give plenty of good advice in the Writers Bureau Comprehensive Course about how to decide whether to write your novel/short story in the first person or the third person.  For the uninitiated, here’s a quick reminder.

First Person:  I did this/I did that.

Third Person: Jack did this/Jack did that.

The main difference between them is that in the first-person you’ll only be able to identify with one person – the narrator – and the various scenes will be perceived through that character’s eyes. The other characters will be described by whoever is telling the tale. But – and this is a big but – the reader will only find out what the narrator knows, so your story will, in a sense, be limited in its action. But done well it can lead to great fiction – think of Jane Eyre!

If you go for the third person, you can switch to any character’s viewpoint and follow the action wherever it goes. You can get inside their heads and share their thoughts and emotions with the reader. This lets us know what other characters are thinking and doing. But you have to be careful that you don’t adopt so many different viewpoints that it becomes confusing for the reader.

OK, that covers first and third person viewpoint. But what about second person? This is one you rarely see in fiction as it can be very difficult to handle successfully. So, I was surprised to read an article recently about a short story called Cyprus Avenue by Lucy Caldwell. It’s a great story, full stop. But what makes it even better is that it’s written in the second person and the author really makes it work. She uses it to wonderful effect to introduce her characters, and tell the reader all they need to know to empathise with them. It’s not an easy choice but if you’re looking for something a little bit different that you might try with your writing, then read it. It’ll certainly get you thinking about the mechanics of the short story.

Next week we have another post from Elyse Harwood who will be providing advice on how to avoid being drawn into a bad publishing deal and giving some tips on how to set up your own independent publishing company instead.

In the meantime, don’t forget our Limerick Competition – it’s open until 31st July. The winner will received £100 and a Writers Bureau Course of their choice. Two runners up will each receive £50 and a year’s membership to the Association of Freelance Writers.

And finally, if you’ve always wanted to learn how to write your memoirs now’s your chance. If you enrol on our Biographies, Memoirs and Family Histories Course by 10th June, you can save yourself £25!

Author: Diana Nadin




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About The Author: Diana Nadin

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