Writer Poll: 1st Person POV Vs. 3rd

So I got into a lengthy chat last night with dear pal Claire Legrand, who’s currently writing her first, first person book.  Her prior work has always been in third.  She was having some concerns over the fact that this MG was slated to be in the neighborhood of 60-65k and she’s at around 43k and only halfway through her outline.  Apart from the fact that this is totally what revisions are for, I made the point that I always write significantly longer in first person than in third.  My Mirus books (all third) are very, very tight prose.  My average scene usually runs from 1200-1800.  My first person scenes tend to run more on par with anywhere from 1800-3000, depending on lots of stuff.

So I got to wondering: is this a thing?  If you write both first and third person works, does one tend to be longer than the other for you?  If so, why do you think that is?  Let us know in comments.  I’m curious.

7 thoughts on “Writer Poll: 1st Person POV Vs. 3rd

  1. I haven’t seen any significant difference in length. The only work I’ve ever written in first person was the Libby Fox trilogy. After that, I went back to third person. For some reason, Libby needed to be written in first person. I don’t know why.

    1. Some characters are just like that. I like third. I’m comfortable in third. I had intended for Red to be in third. Elodie had other ideas. And so does Bree. It’s looking like most of my YA stuff is probably going to be in first. Which is fine. It’s typical of the genre. And it’s nice to have a change of pace.

  2. I am extremely comfy in third. My Flash Fiction is in First. First freaks me out because I feel like “how the heck would my protag know what was going on in another part of the story?”
    Maybe I am naive.. pht. I dunno.
    Right now I am working on a Zombie thingy in third person limited.
    So many POV’s!!!
    Great post, Kait.

  3. I’ve got two books with both – odd chapters are first and even are third person. (As an aside, have you ever seen anything in ‘second’?)

    I break scenes with a white space and the first letter bolded and a couple of points larger (for the paperback version). I was doing some final checks on the second of the two books before sending files to createspace and noticed that the 1st person chapters are invariably single scenes and the third person chapters are multiple scenes, so yeah, the 1st person scenes are longer.

    I think first person allows a lot more legitimate internal dialogue and leads itself to more descriptive actions. That’s just my gut talking, though, I’ve never really given it much thought before. And I’m glad you asked this AFTER I was finished or I’d be obsessing over it while I wrote.

  4. I’m also writing my first…first person project, and I’m experiencing the same thing. I think the difference is that in first person, part of the action is the thought process occurring in the person’s head, in addition to the external scene. In contrast, in third person, you usually don’t want to show *too* much of the internal thought process or you run the risk of telling instead of showing. I’m pretty sure that some of my current first person scenes would be half the size in third person. (Although I agree that revision will take care of some of the problem.)

  5. Most of my writing is in intimate third person. In TE I have alternated POV between two characters, switching back and forth every chapter or two, but what you see-hear-feel-know is all from one character throughout his/her entire chapter.

    Recently, I started experimenting with rewriting parts of HOTJ in first person, just to see how it would flow. (It was also in intimate third person.) Glimpses of the MC’s life are scattered throughout the ongoing story of her connection to a fantasy realm. My new idea was to tell the MC’s side of things in first person to give her part of the story more impact, and also to distinguish it more from the fantasy… as if the MC then relates what she sees in the other world.

    To answer your question, I think my first person work may be just a little “wordier” too. But in order to be sure, how about I try to reply in third person as well, so folks can compare my answers, and see for themselves:

    ***Laura read Kaitlin’s blog post. After considering the topic at length, and taking a look at her own manuscripts, she decided her work also showed the tendency to be longer when written in first person.***

    Yup… first person is definitely longer! 🙂


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