Third to First

Person, that is, not bases or gears. I’m not going to talk about what you should use third or first person voice for – you make your own rules on that. These are just a few thoughts on why I decided to change from third person to first for the new Drakenfeld series, which will be out next Summer.

I spent four books (and the stuff before that) writing in third person. Most of my writerly life was spent doing that, jumping around from character to character, giving a different perspective of things. I made the switch for a few reasons. It was not to create a hard-boiled or noir style – I think those are among the most incorrectly used words to describe a certain post-Hemingway style, but that’s not my issue today. I chose first person because:

1) I wanted a sense of intimacy that I’ve not used before. I’m writing about a character who is sensitive, who would rather preserve a life than remove one without a second thought, and who views the world in a way that would be best expressed through such intimacy with the reader.

2) A challenge. I was well aware that I’d filled previous novels up with characters, perhaps too many, and I wanted to restrict myself utterly to one point of view. If you choose first person, there’s no escaping that.

3) I can express my ideas in a much more subtle way in a first person narrative. Ideas become rather blunt in the third person format, but they can be approached far more gently and deceptively in first person. (Writing’s largely about deception, right?)

4) First person worked better with respect to the locked-room mystery. The character could never be aware of the full orchestration of the murder and, therefore, neither could the reader. If I was writing in third person, there would always be the chance that I could reveal something to the reader that I hadn’t to the character. Where’s the fun in that?

5) Reinvention. I wanted to start afresh – pretty self-expanitory, since it’s a new series and a chance to reach to a new audience.

The thing that surprised me more than anything was how much I preferred to write in first person. I mean, I had to settle into the style – I rewrote the start several times because I wasn’t happy with it (in fact, I scrapped the original first chapters and started afresh twice) – but I found that it was far more rewarding, far more interesting, and far more immersive. Hopefully readers will think the same.

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About Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.


  1. I like first-person novels as well, although I personally tend to prefer third-person POVs. I think third-person is better for creating a perception of how different character points of view lead to different possible interpretations of events and other characters. You get some of that with the use of unreliable narration in a 1st person POV, but it’s harder.

  2. For me, it pretty much depends upon the book. I’ve seen similar plots done in both first and third person, and they each lend an interesting perspective, a different slant.

    It’s certainly tougher writing first person. I’ve not found it easier. But then again, writing isn’t meant to be easy.