I have always found it interesting what narrative writers chose for their stories. As a child, I steered away from anything that was first person. I would look inside, see “I” and put it back. Why? To be honest, I still can’t even tell you. And I’ve really thought about it long and hard. Why would I not want to read a book in first person? Especially since I lean toward it in my own writing style? Was it too personal? Too limited? Too emotional? I don’t know.
But it does open up a bigger question that isn’t far off: Why write first person? Why write third person? What makes that choice? (I’ll leave out present vs past for now, since that’s a whole other topic).
As a younger writer, I stuck to third exclusively. I wanted to be able to dip into other characters, perhaps even other moments. Seeing everything through one character was daunting, intimidating, and I felt trapped. This, of course, was my fear as a writer. What if my point of view character wasn’t fully developed? What if I hated them? What if they were boring? Yep. All of that is fear.
I don’t know when it changed. I just began writing in first person. Perhaps, as I grew as a performer developing narratives for characters in my head to give better performances, I grew as a writer as well. I like to think they go hand-in-hand. Perhaps, it was a professor that told me to “show, not tell.” It became easier to avoid that “tell” crutch if I was in someone else’s head. Limiting me meant that the storytelling became tighter, more active, and less passive, relying on being the all-knowing writer to “tell” the story.
This doesn’t, however, mean that I don’t write in third person. Focusing so much on one, as I have recently, has made my third person storytelling lazy, sloppy. It’s important to do both. Granted, I like to keep it centered on one character or another instead off the all-knowing third person narrator, but all the same… suddenly, third person is hard. I feel disconnected, and if I disconnect, being an ENFP, I lose focus. Third person has become, for me, short story format. And that’s okay.
Because I read first, and third, present and past, active and passive. I’ve grown to appreciate and respect each way of telling a story, and that one is not better than the other. If the story is good, the story tells you how it needs to be told, and a reader will accept how it needs to be told. Force it? And it falls apart, like any art.
But it still fascinates me what writers chose to write. There’s always a moment, either in the very beginning or at the very end where I sit there and wonder: why did they make that choice? It’s purposeful, even if we don’t know we do it. The key to this answer helps me be a better writer: analyzing, asking questions, and enjoying the crap out of stories.