Choosing Point of View

Though I know that many YA readers enjoy first-person stories—just look at such popular series as The Hunger Games, The Selection, and Divergent—and my novel Somewhere Only We Know is written in the first person, I don’t see myself using that point of view (POV) very often in the future. It felt completely natural to me to make the switch back to using third person when I started working on my new project.

I’ve noticed that with my writing, I definitely have a trend when choosing which POV to write in: in all of the stories I have written that are in the first person, the narrator is a child. All of these stories are still in the young adult genre because they feature teenage characters and deal with young adult themes, but the oldest of these narrators is twelve-year-old Frankie in Somewhere Only We Know.

I think that both first and third person have good qualities to them. First person allows you to really get inside the character’s head and experience the world from his or her perspective. And third person gives you the freedom to move around in your story, potentially using other narrators or being able to show readers things that your character cannot see or comprehend. And certainly third person can have a similar effect as first person if you limit yourself to the character’s head.

I have tried using second person before, but only used it successfully once. Second person is when you use “you” instead of “I” or “she”. This POV has a profound effect on readers as they can’t help but picture themselves as the main character because the book is basically talking to them, saying “you” do this or that. The one time second person worked out for me was when I wrote a short story for a class in college. I don’t think I could make second person work for a whole novel.

I like third person the most because I like to switch between narrators, usually using between two and four in my books. When the story belongs to more than one character, it feels right to stay in third person. Somewhere Only We Know does feature four characters, but because Frankie was so young, I chose to give her the single POV and for it to be in the first person.

Using first person when I have a child narrator feels natural to me because that way you can portray their innocence by staying in the limited worldview of a child. My favorite thing about writing about Frankie was that at times she was just a young girl who didn’t really understand what was happening to her and her sister, but at other times was able to display her intelligence and make startling observations that all but a child would overlook.

Maybe I’ll write another first person novel someday, or even give second person a shot, but for now I think I will stick to the freedom of third person as I write about the next two awesome girls I can’t wait for you all to meet.

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