Jeffe Kennedy Blog
RITA ® Award-Winning Author of Fantasy Romance
I think the main problem is that 1st person feels really easy to do, despite the fact that it’s really hard to do well. Therefore, it’s often the tool of choice for people who have the least amount of skill. This leads to a circumstance where it’s easier to just avoid 1st person, for the most part, in order to avoid bad writing.
As for myself, I find most 1st person POVs somewhat claustrophic. In particular, when authors treat it as an excuse for stream-of-consciousness style prose. It feels like having someone talking AT me, rather than as if I’m in their head (which deep 3rd often delivers), and I just don’t enjoy that kind of conversation, particularly when it’s maintained for the length of a book. I’m not sure if I’m explaining what I mean very well… The way I see it, there are multiple ways to tell a story in first person. The one I see most often is as if it’s in the middle of a conversation between friends, and they’re telling me this story as the details occur to them. I HATE this. On the other hand, you can have a first person story that sounds like a carefully thought-out version of events, like how one might describe their experience to a crowd of people, or at a trial. This is much more palatable to me. It’s like the difference between a hasty facebook post written in 5 minutes, versus a thoughtful blog post written over several hours. On the other hand, head-hopping is the worst thing a 3rd-person POV can do, and as annoying as that can be, it doesn’t bother me as much. It’s far easier for me to just avoid 1st person in general, than try to determine if an unknown author has written it well enough and in a style that I can tolerate.
A secondary problem is a lack of fear for the main character. The Hunger Games is probably the first series I ever read in 1st person present where the writing was so well done that I didn’t notice/mind it (and the only thing I like less is 2nd person). However, I didn’t for an instant believe she was actually going to die at the end of the first book (how could she, if she’s telling me the story?). That’s probably less of an issue in romance, where you have the mandated HEA anyways (which, to be clear, I like), but it can undercut an urban fantasy, where the tension often hinges on whether or not I believe the main character is in mortal peril.
FWIW, I have a shelf where I keep the first book of my favorite series, mainly for research purposes. I went and double-checked, and the only ones that are 1st person are either urban fantasy or Mark of the Tala. My favorite of the UF’s is still 3rd person (Alpha and Omega – and I’m not counting the Anne Bishop series, which is also 3rd, because I loved her through fantasy first). Meanwhile, I’ve been searching for new authors/series for … a while, to fill a particular void in my book heart. Tried lots and lots of books and was beginning to despair a bit about it. And the first book I found which meets what I’m looking for is Phoenix Unbound, which also happens to be 3rd person (and found it thanks to you, btw). The closest runner-up was Enchanted by Alethea Kontis, which, though YA, is also 3rd. It’s not so much that i’m actively looking for 3rd vs. 1st (I rarely think to check before I buy and/or start reading), but the ones that I really LOVE, 9/10 are 3rd person. I don’t think that’s a coincidence, and I’m getting to the point where I *may* start to actually filter books by new authors based solely on POV.
(sorry for the super-long comment)
Never be sorry for posting a long and thoughtful comment! I think you’re spot on about it feeling easy but actually taking a LOT of skill. 3rd person is a lot more forgiving of various skill levels, as you note with head-hopping. Interesting about lack of fear for the main character.
I know what you mean about finding really good female-driven fantasy with satisfying romance. So glad you liked Phoenix Unbound!
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