Posted by on 25th January 2018

Do You Prefer Your Romance Written in First Person or Third?

For pretty much ever, most fiction, romance in particular, was written in the third person point of view (POV) using “he” and “she”. Most readers like third person POV. God knows we’re used to it since it’s been the accepted standard. A lot of readers don’t like first person POV, or claim not to, especially when it comes to romance.

The main argument against first person POV in romance has long been that you only get to see inside one character’s head. Yet there is absolutely no reason why a writer can’t switch POV characters from chapter to chapter or scene to scene in first person—just like you’d do in third person. That’s what many authors do, including me. Problem solved.

In fact, every argument I’ve run across for not liking first person POV in romance would also apply to third person POV, if it’s not well written. Let me repeat that… It won’t matter what POV is used if the book is not well written.

It also won’t matter if it IS well written. Because a great book is a great book, and things like POV disappear from view once you’re sucked in by the characters and the author’s world.

Why I Love Reading—and Writing—Romance in First Person Dual POV

When I started reading contemporary romance, I fell in LOVE with the immediacy of first person POV. Of being right there, in the characters’ heads, having them tell me their story firsthand. It sounded fresh and modern to my ear, and it built all kinds of yummy tension and emotion.

Without really making a conscious decision, I sat down to write my first romance and it came out in first person, past tense. I’ve since written a novella in first person, present tense as well. I find it easier to build both empathy and momentum when the character is detailing their own thoughts and feelings and goals and plans.

These days, unless it’s incredibly well-written, a romance in third person feels too far removed from the characters, too formal and staid, for my taste. I crave the freshness and immediacy of first person.

Here’s an example of the difference, using a snippet from my upcoming contemporary ski novella, In Deep

The excerpt, rewritten in third person:

…his fingers alternated between caressing and pinching while he nipped and sucked down her neck. That combination of hard and soft drove her fucking crazy, and he knew it.

Her skin was hot and desperate for his next touch. His next kiss. His next bite.

With his free hand, he ripped open the button of her jeans and fumbled at the zipper. “Stand up.”

She did as she was told.

The original, in first person:

…his fingers alternated between caressing and pinching while he nipped and sucked down my neck. That combination of hard and soft drove me fucking crazy, and he knew it.

My skin was hot and desperate for his next touch. His next kiss. His next bite.

With his free hand, he ripped open the button of my jeans and fumbled at the zipper. “Stand up.”

I did as I was told.

Can you feel a difference in the emotion and immediacy of these two examples?

I can. For me, in first person, the last line especially has more energy, more forward motion leading me to find out what happens next. In the second example, the last line feels flatter. More like an ending than a continuation. But maybe that’s just me.

What do you think about first person vs third? Do you have a preference, and why?

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