Writing First-Person, Second-Person or Third-Person in Fiction

When I write fictional stories, regardless of genre, I tend to write either from the third-person or third-person limited, perspective. While I naturally blog in first-person, I’ve never been comfortable writing fiction in first or second-person.

So what exactly does it mean to write in first-person, second-person or third-person? Writing from the first-person perspective means that you write using the word “I” and you are writing from your (or the protagonist’s) perspective. Second-person focuses on “you,” while third-person use he/she/they pronouns and is written from the point-of-view of a narrator. Here are some examples:

  • First Person: I woke up and rubbed the sleep from my eyes.
  • Second Person: You woke up and rubbed the sleep from your eyes.
  • Third Person: He woke up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

When writing fiction, I personally find it very unnerving to write in the first-person, as if I were the protagonist. Many popular fiction authors have written in first-person and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing so. It’s generally just a personal preference of the author. My preference has been towards writing third-person for the fiction stories I write, and I also occasionally write in third-person limited. Third-person limited keeps the narration focused on only one character throughout the story, rather than switching perspectives between characters (which means the one character is present in all scenes and any important action that happens away from that character must be explained to the character by some means).

Fiction written in second-person is the least common point-of-view. I think it’s very tricky to get right because it needs to pull the reader into the story. The mistake I’ve seen in some second-person works is that the writer inserts their own thoughts and personality into the “you” they are writing about. This can cause dissonance with the reader and pull them out of the story. However, it can be an interesting perspective to read when done well. It’s definitely not my forte.

When reading, do you have a preference? Do you lean more towards first, second or third-person stories, or do you not even notice?

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