Yesterday, I gave you an overview of POV types, today I’m going to go through some of the considerations for each type.
In the professional publishing world, 3rd Person and 1st Person rule together, generally in harmony.
In the fanfic world, 3rd person is King/Queen and 1st person is the younger sibling that occasionally gets to do something cool.
New writers often start with 1st Person, because it’s easier to develop an engaging voice in 1st Person. It’s very intimate by nature, and so you don’t have to work as hard to develop a relationship with the reader. It also allows you to establish a lot of character through just voice. However…
For the purposes of fanfic, I would strongly, strongly suggest you stick with 3rd Person. Writing in 1st Person is a lot more personal, and incorporates a good deal of your own personality into whatever you’re writing. The problem you then run into with fanfic, is that these aren’t your characters, but someone else’s, and they have that person’s voice already injected into them. It’s very hard to adopt someone else’s voice in such an intimate POV, and readers are well aware of this. This is why 1st Person POV stories don’t get as many hits or reviews on them, because readers have difficulty associating their favorite characters with a foreign voice.
At least, that’s my theory.
I won’t tell you not to use 1st Person in fanfic though, but I will tell you to weary using it with one of the characters from the source material. I’ve used 1st Person for a few fics, but I always wrote from the perspective of an original character or a character mentioned, but never seen (and in one case, a character only seen as an infant). This allows you to get around the issue mentioned above, while still exploring writing through another point-of-view.
As for 2nd Person POV, I actually prefer this with fanfic, rather than original fiction. The only place I’ve ever seen it used in original fiction is Choose Your Own Adventure novels, which are probably no longer around, but were awesome when I was 12. Seriously, I loved them.
I will throw out a few cautionary words when using 2nd Person with fanfic, because while I can appreciate its use, there are limits to it’s utility. First, use it only in one-shots. I don’t like to strict anyone’s creativity, but this is a challenging POV to follow, especially, when it puts the reader in the position of a character that isn’t the reader. The reader is not Buffy, Mulder or Scully, Luke Skywalker or Batman, yet the story is written as if they are the character. Second, and I’m going to try and say this in the nicest, most supportive way I can: make sure it’s obvious which character you’re using. I’ve seen a few stories that leave me wondering who the hell I just read about, and end with an author’s note saying something like, “I like to think it’s so and so, but you can insert whoever you want.”
Leave that mentality for song lyrics. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. I understand people want to keep these stories open to people who ship different characters, but you don’t have a story without characters. Fiction writing demands character building, even in a story that’s only 800 words. The characters are a massive part of the story, and they need to be included, otherwise you’re only writing about pronouns.
As for third person, use whichever type you like. Limited obviously, limits perspectives, and restricts you to one character’s actions and thoughts. If you use it well, this can be very effective (I will allude again to Harry Potter). I tend to use Limited Omniscient most often, because I find Omniscient to be a bit difficult to organize my thoughts around. I think the idea that I can jump into anyone’s head whenever I want is a bit overwhelming. But that’s just me.
I will caution those who choose to use Omniscient only jump between two heads or three at the very most per scene. There are two good reasons for this. The first is that it becomes difficult for the reader to follow that much jumping around (think about how you’d feel reading a novel like that). The other reason is that it becomes difficult for the reader to build a relationship with any of the characters when they aren’t with one for more than five minutes. Granted, the readers of fanfic already have a relationship with the characters, but the reader can still love a character but feel disconnected from them when reading a story.
Now that I’ve rambled on for so long…I’ve got two questions for you all.
First, if anyone as good examples of fanfic written in either 1st or 2nd Person POVs, please post a link or the story title and author name in the comments.
Second, which POV to you prefer to read in fanfiction? In regular fiction? Why?