First Person Vs. Third

When I was a kid, everything I read was in the third person perspective. From those first Dick and Jane books to Animal Farm, I grew accustomed to the narrative–the distance, some might say–afforded there. Third person was my preference, though to be honest, I didn’t really know there were other options.

VC Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic served as my introduction to first person. It was weird for me. I read the initial chapter believing the narrative would eventually change. It didn’t. Three hundred (or so) pages of “I” and “Me,” “My” and “Mine.” I was almost uncomfortably close to the main character and it took quite a bit of getting used to.

Maybe because I was only twelve and had yet to become as stubborn as I am now, I did eventually grow to enjoy first person. Flowers and the Attic was the first of a five book series and I couldn’t stop with just one. I had to read them all. By the end of the last book, I didn’t care what perspective it was. VC Andrews had earned a lifelong fan. (Granted, I didn’t know then that she’d only written a few books, and her publisher/agent/whatever commissioned someone else to keep the money rolling in.)

As I grew up, I was not biased to any one narrative. I read what I wanted, without regard to style. Funny thing is, after I’d read everything VC Andrews, my choices seemed limited once again to third person. Everything I picked up put me back at a distance, and for more than fifteen years I didn’t venture from that perspective.

It wasn’t until I returned to what is now considered the YA genre that I rediscovered first person–and it was everywhere. Twilight, The Hunger Games, everything by Sarah Dessen. I could be wrong, but I think perhaps YA features more first person narrative than any other category. In fact, I’m not sure I can think of a single title (save my own) that ISN’T in first person…

Are “adult” books also converting primarily to this perspective? I may have to look that up. For now, I’m going to go with my own possibly inaccurate assumption and say no, which is interesting, but not the point of this post. My purpose here is only speculation, an open question, I suppose. I spent most of my life reading third person, and that’s how I frame my narrative. It wasn’t a decision for me, it was simply how I wrote that very first draft.

For others who write fiction, what drew you to your perspective? Do you write in third or first person? Why? What do you typically read? Which narrative do you prefer?

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