The Internet is full of champions for first person point-of-view, and a fair bit of insistence that no YA book in third person will ever get published*. To be clear, I get that first person has an immediacy to it that is particularly appealing to YA audiences and lends itself to “voice-y” writing. All of that is awesome, and I think it’s great to have all the POVs (even 3rd omniscient!) in books. Variety is a good thing. I just wanted to take a moment to share what I love about third person limited.
Third person provides by far the most immersive reading experience for me, personally. When reading in third, I can imagine myself in the narrative, seeing the story through the protagonist’s eyes. On the other hand, when the protagonist is “I”, it’s not me. It’s someone talking to me. The character is vividly themselves, and that unavoidable not-me-ness is itself a barrier for putting myself in the story. Along the same lines, I find an irritating or angsty character to be extra irritating in first person because the voice is so strong. My hypothesis is that third is more immersive into the world and/or external conflict, while first has the ability to really showcase a great character. Though if an entire cast of characters is fascinating, I think that also swings towards third person. POV says something about scope and focus, and I wonder if my preference was influenced by reading a ton of epic fantasy as a kind.
To be honest, I’m also not someone who sees a great divide between so-called character-driven and plot-driven fiction. I subscribe to the philosophy that character in conflict IS story. So perhaps the tradeoff between first and third person is more about where you fall on the spectrum of immediacy to immersivity.
Just thinking aloud here.
In other news, I finished watching season six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer this weekend. I was thrilled by the penultimate episode, and the promise that Giles was going to go postal on Willow. But what really struck me about the finale was Xander’s Samwise Gamgee moment, in which his loyalty superpower saves the day. And how not so many episodes ago, he left Anya at the alter–a loyalty low-point. Nice reversal. I had a lot of fun recasting this entire season in terms of Xander’s arc.
And finally, word count metrics!
I didn’t exactly hit my goal of 6k words this week, but I’m within 40 words, which I’m not going to sweat.
* Post updated with footnote for clarity: all the books I just linked are indeed YA told in 3rd person POV.