Their Voices

I think all writers hear voices in their heads… the voices of their characters. It happens to me quite often. I’ll be going through life normally and all of a sudden I’ll think of some awesome line I’d want to have a character say. Or I’ll hear someone say something that sounds like one of my characters’ voices. I try to commit these lines to memory or write them down on paper when I can. Sometimes I can’t, and even when I can’t remember exactly what a character said, it’s good to know that at least they are alive in my mind and that ideas are growing in my subconscious mind.

That brings me to another thing I wanted to write about: first person versus third person. To me, some characters sound better in first person. Their voices and points of view might be easier to relate to without the distance of third person. I have a few characters that I’m writing about in one particular story, and whenever I write, I keep writing them in first person, even though the story is supposed to be in third.

And I have another story where I can’t stand the main character’s first-person voice. Before I started rewriting, I thought it might be interesting to get into her head… but now that I’m actually writing, I realized that I don’t want to be there. I don’t like the way she thinks. She irritates me. I may have to switch back into third person – just to get more distance from her rather abrasive point of view. Maybe what happens in the story will change her thought process, make her more of a person I could actually like. I despise her, but at the same time I find her fascinating.

If you write, how do you choose whether to use first or third person?

9 thoughts on “Their Voices

  1. I’ve never wanted to use first prson for a novel, because my novels tend to cover a lot of geography and very little time — so there’s never any one character who’s present for every important scene (even apart from the question of suitability as a narrator). For example, in my current story (Stevie One), Stevie One is the protagonist, but there’s a whole major subplot that she’s not present for and that she’s only slightly aware of.

    Also, I agree, with some characters you want to stay out of their minds. With me that’s usually the ones with a lot of secrets. I like to bring the secrets out slowly, indirectly, and often incompletely — because that’s usually the way it is in life.


  2. Interesting point (about POV)

    Clearly you get a closer look at the personality of the character in first person. For an omniscient 3rd person narrator to reveal the same information, you would resort a great deal to telling over showing.

    That said, your problem with having a character insist on 1st person narrative with the book itself is in 3rd doesn’t have to be so serious an issue. Why not have both? There is clear precedent for the use of sections of 1st interspersed with sections of 3rd. That is to say, general narration when looking at characters other than the main, or in the description of things the main does not or can not know, and switching to 1st in those intense, up-close scenes.

    Something to think about.


  3. I think it depends on how much you want the reader to have an in-depth knowledge about the character. Personally, I find it easier writing is first person but then when I write in third person it looks better. But if the story is based around the specific character who needs to express opinions, I’d write in first person (even though most books follow one specific character).


    • I’ve always found it easier to write in third, but some characters seem to demand to have their voices written in first. Strange… one of those writer things, I guess.


  4. My one and only special boy (sorry, it amuses me to call him that) Julian, always talks to me, in his own unique voice, but I am writing his novel in 3rd person for I need the distance to paint a particular picture of the rockstar he becomes. I tried having him tell his own story, and whilst his voice was great, it simply took away some of his “mystery” which spoiled things. I have however, decided to let him lose for various short stories, which I will probably publish on my blog, but his novel takes precedence…


    • I guess it depends on what is necessary for the novel… if it needs a whole lot of “voice” or if it needs more of an objective sound.


  5. I tend to write in first person, because it feels like I can get into the main character’s head better that way. But at the same time, it’s hard to tell any part of the story that the main character isn’t involved in.


    • That’s one reason I don’t like first person as much… I like to be able to get into the heads of a bunch of different characters, and that’s easier with third person.


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