Sometimes, I say advice with some authority.
This is not one of those times.
I came across an article recently that said third person, past tense, was the best option.
Now, I have a bit of a problem with this because I happen to like writing in the first person.
Sure, you can jump into the head of a character with other techniques—but there is no “deeper” way than having their entire perspective at your fingertips.
But that doesn’t make the other options bad. In fact, I think they all are best treated as tools, with different uses for each.
So, instead of an argument, I thought I’d just go over the main factors that help me decide.
I’ll use the third person if I need:
- The reader not knowing what a character is thinking.
- To have a larger cast of characters all interacting with each other at once.
- To be able to do more detailed descriptions.
- To be able to kill the main character without ending the story.
I’ll use the first person if I need:
- The story to have a heavier cerebral aspect.
- To make a personal story to only one character.
- To not let the readers know how a character looks.
And as to time, here’s where I stand on the past or present.
- Makes the story feel more like a story.
- Adds a sense of an unchanging outcome.
- It’s standard and what readers expect, which makes it easier to read.
- Makes the story feel more immediate.
- Makes the fate of the narrator more questionable.
And those are just some of the things I think about when I choose. And they don’t always even fit in with what I said.
It’s an odd duck this. But a decision we all have to make.
I always think that past tense is better for conveying events, but present tense is more emotionally immersive. Both definitely have their places.
Yeah, exactly. Different tools. Though I’ll admit I have a preference.