It’s all about perspective

Choosing what perspective to write a novel is a difficult decision. It can make your writing flow seamlessly or have you banging your head against the wall.

Usually for first-time novelists, it’s recommended to use third person narrative. It’s easier to visualize for most writers/readers and helps to describe a scene. That said, first person narrative is also a popular choice, especially when you want to mislead the audience with an unreliable narrator or plan a big reveal that will surprise both your protagonist and your readers. These two perspectives really make up the majority of how most contemporary novels are written.

That said, trying to force your work into the wrong perspective can make it come apart at the seams. When I was workshopping my Pikes Peak novel last year, one respondent told me that it would read much better in the first person, and tried to correct all the areas where this happened in the piece. When I asked why they thought that my action-adventure novel that featured a werewolf detective protagonist should be written in first person, they simply thought it would flow better. In a way it can come down to preference. If you adore first person perspective books, it might be easier for you to imagine your world from that perspective. As an author though, you have to also decide what is best for the reader. Of the 20+ people who took a look at that chapter, I had only one person say they thought it needed to be in first person perspective. That tells me that it’s probably okay to leave as-is.

Celeste Ng found that trying to fit her novel into close third person perspective only butchered her narrative. She talks in her article about Writing the (Quiet) Omniscient Narrator and how dramatically it helped her tell the story that she wanted.

So I’d written in the close third person, moving from character to character: the point-of-view equivalent of sitting in a cozy corner with each and letting them spill their secrets.

What I ended up with was a very fractured narrative: five point-of-view characters, three timelines, innumerable flashbacks. Important information got buried in the barrage of confession.

In short, don’t just rely on what is the easiest perspective for you to write in, but figure out what fits best for you, your story, and your audience. Even if it requires an entirely new draft, it may be easier than trying to force your story to fit that mold. If the story flows better for you, it’ll also flow better for your readers.

Click here to read her full discussion.

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