A Writer Questions: First Person or Not

Today my guest is Jan Scarbrough, a longtime friend. We were both published by Kensington in "another lifetime."

Jan is a professional technical writer by day, but by night, she is a romance author. She's a member of Novelist, Inc., Romance Writers of America, and the Kentucky Romance Writers, where she manages their award-winning web site.

Jan is the mother of two grown children and is, as she describes it, a very "young" grandmother. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky, and rides American Saddlebred horses for fun and recreation.

You can find Jan on Facebook and Jan on Twitter @romancerider. Now, she's going to discuss the "person" one uses to write a book. Writers, you'll find this discussion relevant, and, Readers, you'll find it interesting to discover how a writer goes about determining how a story will be told.

First or Not to First: A Writer’s Question
by Jan Scarbrough

While first person is regularly used in mysteries and "chicklit," it's not the most common POV in the romance genre. Point of View, or POV, is the perspective from which the story is told. As Christine Danse pointed out in a Carina Press blog called The Challenges of Writing Romance in First Person, "A lot of tension in love stories is built around experiencing both characters' feelings."

So if you’re writing from the heroine's POV in a first person romance, you lose the perspective of the hero. This means that the heroine will have to be present in every scene. Hailey Edwards commented on Christine Danse's blog, "Now that I think about it, my favorite heroes are the ones I’ve read in first person novels, where the heroine’s observations are all I have to build my own impression of the hero."

What Do You Think?

How about you? Do you like to read first person romance?

I’ve enjoyed reading it because of my attraction to the Gothic romance of the 1960's popularized by Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt. As noted on Infoplease.com: "Seemingly modeled on Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre and Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, these novels usually concern spirited young women, either governesses or new brides, who go to live in large gloomy mansions populated by peculiar servants and precocious children and presided over by darkly handsome men with mysterious pasts."

Today Phillipa Gregory uses first person, present tense, to write her popular historical novels about English queens.

As Christie Craig and Faye Hughes note (http://www.netplaces.com/): "First-person POV creates an intimate bond between the reader and the character. This bond is definitely seen as an advantage. Most first-person writers also find their ability to get into deep characterization easier than some third-person writers."

I like writing in first person, and with the explosion of eBooks, I have enjoyed the freedom to indulge my POV preference. Are you a writer? Have you ever written in first person? [Joan asks: If you're a reader, what do you think about stories in first person?]

Jan's first person, Gothic romance Tangled Memories is on sale until August at Smashwords for the promotional price of $2.24 when purchased with Coupon Code: XJ73J. This offer expires August 6, 2012. So get it today.

Takeaway Truth

Thanks, Jan, for stopping by SlingWords today. You're given writers and readers alike a good analysis of using first person as a narrative technique.


  1. Jan, I wanted to thank you again for being my guest today.

    Best wishes,
    Joan Reeves

  2. The first story I wrote was originally in 1st person, but as I was coming along, learning about writing "dos & don'ts" I always got the feedback that first time authors should never write in 1st person until they've had more experience with it because it takes a skilled writer to pull it off. Of course, I now know those rules bend and change just as much as authors themselves, but I have yet to write another story in 1st person, but that's not to say I won't at some point. Right now, most of my stories are told back and forth between the hero and heroine.

    Great interview Jan and I must say, Tangled Memories is a must read in my book! Definitely a keeper!

  3. Great interview Jan!

    The first novel I wrote started out in 1st person, but I kept reading so many writing books that said a first time author should NEVER use 1st person, that I went back and changed it to 3rd. I'm not sure I've written anything else in 1st in a long time, but I do enjoy reading books that are written in 1st because it's like tagging along, sitting beside the hero or heroine and you have a front row seat to what they're experiencing.

    I have to say, Tangled Memories is a must-read in my book. I love it.

  4. Oh, dear, I guess Blogger burped yesterday where comments were concerned. I apologize to anyone who visited and wanted to comment on Jan's excellent blog post.

    Jan, I'm sorry. I think the problem is fixed now.

  5. Taryn, I too look forward to reading Jan's book.

  6. Now I have to read some of your first person work. ^_^
    "In the Shadow of a Hero" was written in first person during Maxwell's scenes and third for Nicky, but my editor said Resplendence wouldn't publish first person and asked me to rewrite those scenes. That's why the book was so long in coming. It was my first big veto in the romance genre. Sadness.

  7. I remember reading once that 1rst person should never be used except in the case of Chick Lit. The article made Chick Lit sound like a bad word. I happen to love Chick Lit! Likewise, I love to read novels written in first person.

  8. Hi, Anna. Thanks for visiting. I don't know why most editors are against first person. I guess it's because more books are written in third person, and they don't give readers enough credit to enjoy a book in first.

    Also, it is more difficult to write in first and stay true to its conventions.

  9. Suzanne, anyone who says first is for Chick Lit only must not be widely read. Look at all the mysteries from decades ago to present day for examples of first. I like books in first person if the author did a good job with the voice.

    Of course, that can be said of any book can't it? *g*

  10. I've read first person in just about every genre I can think of. I say use whatever works best for the story you want to tell. i, myself, have used both, thoughI haven't yet been published in first person. That story is still in progress. :)

  11. Hi, Crystal. Better write faster on that first person story. *g*

  12. Loved TANGLED MEMORIES and enjoy first person narrative. I wrote my first novel in first person, but it didn't work for me. I reworked it several times until I got it right (it evolved into RUNNING SCARED, told in third person from both the hero and heroine viewpoint. So I guess it depends on the writer and the story.

  13. Cheryl, I think you're right. One can't make a blanket statement about narrative choices. The chemistry between story and writer is unique and varies from story to story and writer to writer.