You Gotta Be You!

Miss Snark:

I am currently starting my third book and for the first time am in a quandry over point of view. My first two books are in first person, because the stories needed the intimacy of it and it just 'felt' right. I have noticed that many more books seem to be written in first person than in the past and I'm wondering what your personal opinion is on first person versus the more traditional third. Is either more marketable in your opinion? or does it really matter at all.

Does it impact the selling of books or how they are perceived? After asking my agent, my editor and several other writers there seems to be no real consensus. I thought i'd add your learned opinion to the pile. Perhaps as usual it is just how damn good the writing is not whether I am talking about it, or she is.... much thanks.

You wake up to the smell of wet poodle and hot coffee and the next thing you know someone asks about point of view. You know there's probably a good artistic reason to say "do what the story demands" but you've had one too many conversations with editors that involved threats of violence concerning omniscient first point of view to just brush the question off idly. What you do know however, (and you know this for a fact) you know there should be more second person POV narrative. You know this in your heart and soul. You know this cause of the bright lights, big city. You know this cause You are you.


Anonymous said...

You are freaking you out.

Stop that immediately.

domynoe said...


Anonymous said...


I'm feeling dense. I think I understood the question, sort of. But Miss Snark, your reply just zoomed right by me.


P.S. Thank you for removing the verification to post.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

This was confusing. Since I've sworn off authorhood, I don't suppose it matters. But it was confusing.

Anonymous said...

Nevermind--I get it now. I had to read it a couple of times before it penetrated.

The funny thing is I've read published books in second person narrative.

The officially dense anon-y-mouse

NL Gassert said...

I think I'd read more second person POV (nicely done, Miss Snark), before I read another first person POV. I dislike first person POV with a passion.

bonniers said...

You rock, Miss Snark. Thank you for getting my weekend off to the right start :)

Lady M said...

In my Humble... Stoooooopid Opinion, methinks the Miss Snark of venereable wit and humor answered the question perfectly.

She said:

Authors think with artistic reason and want to write what the story demands (any style of POV)

Editors have threatened death and destruction with the 1st Godlike POV.

That 3rd person is what is mostly used...

And she offers up the idea that 2nd person POV is what should be used more often. LMAO!

You know - you should really read up on it, since you are asking about the 2nd person point of view - so for you, I have provided a description taken directly from an interesting resource to explain to you - the reason for you having a 2nd point of view.

ROFLMAO - this was one of the wittiest comebacks I've ever heard... or read yet.

from: HERE

Point of View
Point of view depends upon who the narrator is and how much he or she knows.

Point of view may be:

First person - uses "I" - A character is telling the story.
Second person - uses "you" - The author speaks directly to the reader. Second person is seldom used; it is found most often in nonfiction today.
Third person - uses "he," "she," or "it" - The author is telling about the characters. There are three third person points of view:
Limited omniscient - We are told the thoughts and feelings of only one character (sometimes, but very seldom, of two or three characters).
Omniscient - We are told everything about the story, including the thoughts and feelings of all the characters, and even information in the author's mind which no character knows.
Dramatic or objective - We are told only what happens and what is said; we do not know any thoughts or feelings of the characters. It is called "dramatic" because it includes the words and actions, just what you would see and hear if it were in a play or film.

Lady M said...

Although I have yet to see 1st person omniscient... *giggles* that would be interesting. The author would have to be the first person... I need to see it to know if it exists. LMAO! Oh I've got ideas now... ROFLMAO!

Glenda Larke said...

I have written in both first and third PoV. And I have received enough feedback to be fairly confident that I write well in the first PoV. And yet I will never do it again.

Why not? Because I have now had too many people say to me, "Well, I loved your book, which was odd because I usually hate the first person and I don't buy books written in it..." or simply, "Written in the the first person? Oh, I won't read it then," or something along those lines.

People don't accept each book on its own merits. They bring along their prejudices with them. And selling well in an overcrowded market is too difficult without adding another layer to the reasons someone won't buy your book.

My advice: build your readership, and when you have scads of fans - then you can do what you want.

kaytie said...

Oh, what a "laugh out loud" moment. I laughed so loudly I had to spell it out instead of acronym it.

Thank you for that.

Anon #2, Miss Snark's reply is in the 2nd person. 2nd person is a tough sell (and can be a tough read, imho) but has been done to acclaim, such as in the novel, Bright Lights, Big City.

Also, Half Asleep in Frog Pyjamas by Tom Robbins.

(2nd person is not to be mistaken for first person accusatory, in which there is an "I" implicit or otherwise.)

M. G. Tarquini said...

...and he is he and I am me and we are the walrus.

Koo Koo kachoo.

Kendall said...

anon-y-mouse: Check out Bright Lights, Big City, by Jay Mcinerney (but her answer's in the second sentence of her reply, methinks).

Miss Snark: ;-) ;-) ;-)

Debra Kemp said...

Brilliant, Miss S! A very obvious use of the rare and probably least understood POV--2nd person. I'm not brave enough to try it.


Stephen said...

Mouse - get hold of a copy of Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City and it will all make sense, sort of. BLBC is the best novel ever written entirely from the 2nd person POV*. The first chapter is one of the most exciting pieces of fiction I've ever read. Trouble is, the rest of the novel doesn't quite match the bravura opening.

Since McInerney's effort any attempt to write in the 2nd Person has tended to feel like a pastiche of BLBC rather than itself (as Miss Snark subtly admits).

* Italo Calvino starts and finishes Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore in the 2nd Person, but most of the middle is traditional 3rd person.

Ig said...

The Ig had set down her usual breakfast of cold buffalo wings and Trader Joe's organic cereal with rice milk to read Ms. Snark's latest nugget of advice. It took a while for her to digest what the mysterious agent and her snarklings were saying.

The Ig turned to Mathilda. "But I always write in first person," she said. "Have I been wrong to do so?"

I don't know why you talk to me, stoopid hoomon, Mathilda thought. I do not care for you and once I am finished licking my nether regions, I will destroy you. Also, you have barbeque sauce on your chin. Disgusting.

lorra laven said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who was confused by Miss Snark's answer; I thought my coffee fix had failed me.

Question to those in the know: Isn't "The Lovely Bones" written in 1st person omniscent? Or is it some odd mix of 1st and 3rd omniscent?

Anonymous said...

"Although I have yet to see 1st person omniscient... *giggles* that would be interesting."

Go read The Lovely Bones.

The narrator is dead.

Jenna Black said...

I'm going to have to rethink this "reading Miss Snark before my morning coffee" idea. I needed a few more working brain cells for this one. :)

I said...

I know what you're all thinking, but you know - deep inside you, you must know - that when Miss Snark said "there must be more second person POV narrative," she didn't mean you.

BuffySquirrel said...

When one of my friends had very kindly read my novel (about three drafts back from the current one), she and I were discussing it via Instant Messenger. I was bemoaning the irrational hatred some people have of first person narrative :D and she goes, but it's in third person.

No, it's not, I type (I think I know what person I wrote my novel in!).

Yes, it is, she insists. It's "he did this, he did that", not "I did this, I did that".

I politely point out that she's wrong.

Before she would believe me, she had to go and get her copy and look at it.

No idea what to make of that!

Laura(southernxyl) said...

Lady M's comment cleared up some things for me. I was thinking about Pride and Prejudice, in which the story is definitely told from Elizabeth's POV, but in third person.

(I think it's sweet of KY to bring you coffee, esp. since it's so hard for a poodle to handle a sink faucet. Er ... the water did come from the sink, didn't it?)

KillerYapp said...

I order it from the from the bodega.

Eva said...

I think Miss Snark hates second point of view and was saying so in a clever way.

Anonymous said...

I hope they deliver here. Looks like I'm in for a long night of re-tensing and trans-pronounising my 400 pages of first person narrative.

Tell me first person's OK; please, tell me it's OK...


Debby Garfinkle said...

Also, You Don't Know Me, a young adult novel by David Klass is told in second person. It's a phenomenal book.

Lady M said...

Lovely Bones? Really - Have never seen it. How very interesting - I will have to read it.

This is quite a lesson today.

Lady M

Anonymous said...

THAT did it. I will find you and I will marry you.

srchamberlain said...

There's an interesting example of 1st person omniscient (not offered by a dead person) in Perez-Reverte's literary thriller "The Club Dumas." I don't want to say anymore--it will spoil the ending--but the book in general is definitely worth a look: far more intelligent than Dan Brown but not quite as mind-boggling erudite as Eco. The English translation only came out in paperback a little while ago.

Miss Snark said...

Mr. Clooney?? Is that YOU??

1st POV fan said...

I think it depends on the genre a bit when it comes to first person. The paranormals I read are usually 1st person, but contemporary's are usually 3rd. Same with series, most series I read are 1st where individual ones are 3rd. I'm writing 1st because it comes naturally. I also think many tend to lose their voice in 3rd person. At least with me my voice is stronger in 1st. I'm writing in 1st until the point I have an agent or editor say - rewrite in 3rd before I consider it.

Anonymous said...

I tend to write naturally in 1st person past tense -- I would guess that most do. I like to read 1st person, present tense.

I've looked into it -- a bit -- after reading agent's after agent's comments that POV is best in 3rd.

Honestly it confuses me. Ack! I often decide that I lack the wit and move on.

One of my favorite witers is Elizabeth Peters who writes (Amelia Peabody series see it here) in the first person present and often dips into 2nd with "And you, dear Reader, may not believe this but..."

Poohba said...

1st pov fan - I know exactly what you're saying. I started out my manuscript in third because of all the negative reactions to first. I DID NOT want to write a first person book. But I only got about two pages in before it became clear something was not working. I took a deep breath, began writing from my main character's point of view, and all of the sudden she was a living, breathing individual with a distinct voice and a story to tell.

I've often wondered if I should go back and try to do a rewrite in the third person, now that I know her character and probably could hold on to it in third, but I don't want to. And I haven't had a reader yet tell me it doesn't work the way it is - even though I've tried to fish for that suggestion on occasion.

Some books just want to be told in a certain way. Imagine starting out with "Call him Ishmael."

Anonymous said...

anon-y-mouse: Check out Bright Lights, Big City, by Jay McInerney --Thank you Kendall (any relation to Paul Murray Kendall?). I'd forgotten about that book as I read it many years ago and [incorrectly] remembered it being 1st person. I'll have to add it to my TBR pile to read again. I also remembered Carolivia Herron (Nappy Hair, Thereafter Johnnie) writes in second person narrative. That's really hard to do, and she does it so beautifully.

Interesting about series tending to be written in first person, as I'm just finishing the second book of a series written in 3rd person, POV. I chose 3rd person because my MC is a man, and I'm of the female persuasion. I couldn't put myself that far into a man's shoes, I guess.


Lady M said...

You just wish it was Mr. Clooney, don't you.

You think Mr. Clooney will ever recognize your wit and become so enamored that he decides to marry you?

You would hope so, as you know all your loyal Snarklings would love for you to find such happiness and utter Clooney-ness.


blaironaleash said...

What on EARTH is wrong with 1st person POV. If it's good enough for Elaine Dundy it should be good enough for anybody.

I generally hold to the view that you don't argue with editors, agents or charging bulls. But on this issue I might make an exception.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Clooney?? Is that YOU??

Wouldn't you love to know.

Sal said...

Back when, Patricia C. Wrede gave a sooper-dooper explanation of POV (with examples) in the Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.sf.composition.

Anonymous said...

Anon who's the Elizabeth Peters fan: isn't she delicious? I bought 'The Deeds of the Disturber' for my son who never read it. Then one day I picked it up and was hooked. The 1st person really does work for her.

Anonymous said...

I was planning to write my third book in first person POV, but then decided to split it up into two third person POVs. The present day would be the male protagonist's POV, and the back story set in the seventies would be the female protagonist's POV. They had gone to the same American high school in Spain thirty years previously and they meet again as mature individuals. As far as I can see, this will avoid the dreaded head hopping. It should be interesting to see how it turns out!

Anonymous said...

I *loathe* 2nd person.


Anonymous said...

I think I am in love with Ramses AND Emerson. Sorry, Miss Snark, for the sidebar but she (the author) and her work (the Amelia Peabody Mysteries) are quite noteworthy.

Just Purple enough to titlliate and just modern enough to inspire -- the humor is a bonus and phenomenally rich.

Interestingly enough -- in the context of another discussion -- she writes under at least one other pen-name.

I didn't realize there might more than one until yesterday when I posted the link. The Barbara Michaels books were the first I read. Gothic/Paranormal Romances, really. A librarian in a small Texas town hooked me up. Then I came across the Peters work via my mother.

My point? They are many. Mostly Pen-Names do seem to be relative to genre and because of them I know, without even reading the first page [or the first 100 or 200 words] I will *love* it. Another is that when you pick up "The Last Camel Died at Noon" you know that you are going be intimately *seated* with a lady (and her parasol/sword) who tells a fun story and that it isn't time wasted or, on the last page, regretted.


Anonymous said...

I can't stop myself - The audio books with Barbara Rosenblat are phenomenal. There was also a discussion on one of them with Elizabeth Peters herself and she comments that she had to assume pen names because her agent thought she was too prolific in some of the genres "Like it was a bad thing".

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little said...

Imagine starting out with "Call him Ishmael."

Now there's a pastiche waiting to happen.

(Don't look at me--I haven't read the beast.)

kathryn m said...

Whatever you do
avoid the second point of view
for if you do
you will know what you
do when you do what
you do
do,oh you.