I was chatting with a writing buddy the other day about the merits of third person versus first person storytelling points of view. For those not in the know, first person storytelling is considered amateurish by the writing elite, while third person is far preferred.
For those writers (like me) who cut their writing teeth via blogging, this poses a problem. Basically, we’re told that our natural writing style, in which we are proficient and comfortable, will all but scream THIS PERSON DOESN’T KNOW WHAT THEY’RE DOING to anyone who reads it.
Having written books in both third person and first person, and read successful NYT bestselling books in both styles, I’ve decided it doesn’t really matter. Maybe some people will always think first person is lame, but whatever. Someone will always find something wrong with your writing, and that’s a bummer for them because they’re dismissing so many wonderful books out of hand just because they use “I” instead of “he” or “she.”
I think it really depends on the story you’re telling. When I wrote Blood Money, I told it in third person because I was writing it from multiple perspectives and my main character, Azzam, was always a bit of a mystery to me. He’s a closed book, so to speak, and I felt like writing him from the outside looking in was the most natural way to write him.
My most recent draft, Bai Tide, however, is written from first person because I’m in Bai’s head. I know him really well, so I felt comfortable letting him run the whole show.
I guess this all goes to show you that adverbs, first person point of view, prologues, epilogues, and starting books with dialogue (these are all considered No No’s for the most part) be darned. You either tell the story you have to tell, in the way that seems most natural to you, or you falter with awkwardness because you’re trying to write like a cat walking on its hind legs.
That’s not to say that you can’t ever try to grow as a writer and try new things. That would be terrible advice. What I’m trying to say is, write what makes you happy. Fix it later if you must. Trust that if the story and storytelling are strong enough, your readers will enjoy just about anything you can think up.
Even, yes, first person.