How To Decide between 1st-Person, 3rd-Person, or a mixture?


I’m already into my first draft, constantly expanding my cast for the first book, and there’s a lot to tell. Not all characters have arcs, but I’m curious how I would decide whether to keep the book in 1st Person, change it to 3rd-Person, or use a mixture.

I would be forever grateful if any insight or help is given.

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What is the most natural for you to write in?

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1st-person narrative, but with that, I wouldn’t be able to pick a single narrator. I’m already cutting characters to make this easier on myself. I feel like both would suffice; certain characters could have their story told in the third-person narrative. Like, I want this to be extremely experimental.

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You could mix third person limited and omniscent

Your POV should be consistent throughout the entire book, no matter what character’s perspective you are writing from. Otherwise it reads as sloppy and confusing. You should either pick first person or third person, not mix both. If you plan to switch between character perspectives throughout the book, I highly suggest third person, as it it less confusing. Doing it in first person can be done if you have very strong, distinct voices for your characters so it is easy for the reader to tell who is narrating each chapter, but I still suggest third person instead. I’m also a little biased because I don’t particularly like first person (I’ve read too many fanfics in first person where the MC is just a self insert and it’s cringy to me, which has ruined first person altogether for me, but that’s a personaly opinion, not a hard set rule to follow).

Overall, I suggest third person.

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It really depends on the story, particularly whose story you’re trying to tell. Multiple characters can have arcs, but they don’t have to be the main-main character where the reader follows them around. Some stories are better off with us following a single character, others are better off with us following multiple. Single character stories tend to be written in first person, but there are, of course, many written in third. However, stories with multiple characters tend to be written in third because it is often written best in third as many who write multi-POV in first person don’t do it correctly and make it confusing or badly written (considering you have to make sure each person has a clear voice, and the majority don’t master this).

First decide what you’re going for as that can lead you into the next stage of picking.

When it comes to choosing how to tell your story, the next hurdle to jump over is figuring out what you focus on the most when it comes to distancing the character from the reader, or in other words, if your story is heavy with internal or external descriptions. Internal descriptions are where you pay closer attention to the thoughts and feelings of your main character, especially when it’s typical within the genre. For example, a lot of romances or contemporaries feature stories in first person because they often show more internal details. External descriptions, on the other hand, are the opposite; they showcase more of the settings, action, and so on, and even if they do feature snippets of the internal descriptions, it’s not the main focus. An example of this would be in fantasy and science fiction, where you tend to see a lot of stories with third person point of view because they’re focused on the external details.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to follow that. There are fantasies and science fictions in first person, and there are romances and contemporaries in third. However, there’s a reason why most follow the formula: some books just aren’t made for certain perspectives. I tried writing my YA sci-fi fantasy in first person the first time I tried to write it. Now yes, I was new to the genre and still improving on many aspects of my writing, but it didn’t work whatsoever. When I tried it the second time, many years later, I used third person, and that helped greatly. I can’t ever see it in first person now as third is best for it.

And finally, the next thing to think about is preference. Most writers tend to write their stories based on preference as some aren’t fans of first person, and some aren’t fans of third. But if you’re like me, whereas I don’t have a preference, you can either:

  1. Base it off your stories needs. If you have a story with multiple characters and it’s within the historical fiction, action, fantasy, sci-fi, etc. type genres, you may want to go with third. If you have a story with a single character and it’s written within contemporary, romance, etc. type genres, you may want to go with first. If your story features a lot of internal descriptions, go with first person. If your story features a lot of external descriptions, go with third.

  2. Pick from a hat. If you can’t make up your mind, maybe it’s best to write it down, place it in a bowl, and then choose with your eyes closed to see which you got. Whatever you get, you do.

  3. Or you experiment. You can write a scene from the book in third and the same scene in first and see which you prefer the most. If you can’t make up your mind by then, it might be best to just choose a random one and go for it.

Another thing to think of, especially as you mention a mixture of each perspective, is how to sprinkle it in if it becomes needed. Adding first person to a predominantly third person story may seem a little weird, though it isn’t unheard of. But you may want to figure a reason why you choose to do that, like perhaps you only write first person when it comes to the villain or to an important side character that has a story-altering arc.

However, the popular choice is writing in first person for the main character the story follows and using third person for other characters.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide, and how to do that depends on your story.


This is what I was going to say. This is as valid an approach as all PoVs being 3rd or all PoVs being 1st and each set up works well.

@shakespearian1 I would not recommend mixing third limited and omniscient, as someone who’s read and written in mainly third person.

Both POVs use third person pronouns (…obviously) and as such, it’ll be harder to distinguish between limited and omniscient if you mix them in the same book. People could mistake your switch to omniscient as “head-hopping” since omniscient gives the advantage of following multiple characters and knowing everything, whereas third person limited does not.

You may want to look into third person multiple, which is what I typically use in my portal fantasy series. It’s like third person limited, except you can switch between POV characters after scene breaks or chapter breaks (not in the middle of a scene, as that would be head-hopping).

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And as for a mixture between first and third, I’ve read one book where it was done really well: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Basically the narrator, Death, switches between speaking in first person and narrating the story in third person.

However, this is a very rare case and it must be done exceptionally for it to work. And well, in most cases I’d suggest you either stick to third person all the way or first person all the way.

If your really want to try a mixture though, you may also want to look into setting aside some chapters completely in first and other chapters completely in third. That may be more acceptable than mixing them in the same chapters.


I have only seen it in surreal literary fiction set in Alaska, so I do not recommend it but it is possible to do.

the rule of thumb i’ve always used is switch to 3rd person for 3 or more POV characters.

this mainly applies if you’re going to stick to those characters for all or most of the book though.

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