Finding Your Voice: Writing in First Person (or Third)
by Lindsey Pogue & Lindsey Fairleigh
Deciding which point-of-view to use when writing our first book, After The Ending, was probably one of the most difficult decisions we had to make...and the most time consuming. The POV is so immensely important to a storyline, allowing the readers to get into the characters’ heads and experience the story along with them, or to be omniscient and know things the characters themselves aren’t aware of. We knew that making the wrong decision would have devastated our goal to engross the reader, to make them care about what happened to Dani and Zoe as the young women learned to survive and thrive in their post-apocalyptic world. Although After The Ending is written in first person, it definitely didn’t start out that way, and making the decision to change it was a trying process.
After The Ending has gone through so many different stages that it’s become a completely different project from the one we initially set out to create. While the concept and storyline has essentially remained the same, the format of our work has gone through multiple revisions, transforming the original online blog version into the nearly 500-page book we finally published.
Because our initial idea was to start a blog where our two characters documented their apocalyptic survival experiences solely conveyed through emails, we started off writing in first person...and only in the format of emails between Zoe and Dani. It didn’t take us too long to realize that we were severely limiting the story that Dani and Zoe could tell. As the After The Ending developed, we were unable to convey the depth, dynamics, and true nature of our characters because we only allowed the reader to see them through their silly, realistic, and sometimes melodramatic emails.
Halfway into the storyline, we found ourselves wanting to share our characters in a way the emails wouldn’t allow, so we did a complete overhaul of everything we’d written, combining the emails with third person narration. The revisions not only allowed us to learn more about our characters, but also enable our readers to see beyond their quirky emails--to see Zoe and Dani as they truly are, including their fears, passions, and even their secrets.
As Zoe and Dani’s Abilities--what we call the extraordinary powers that some survivors develop early on in the book--began to develop during the writing process, we wondered if using the first person POV would be a better way to share what our characters were actually feeling and experiencing. We wanted there to be a personal connection between the reader and Dani and Zoe, and we felt that using first person could establish such a connection far more effectively than using third person. However, we also worried that by limiting the POV to first person, we were taking away from the development of the other important characters, somehow making them seem less important or relatable.
Conflicted, we asked fellow authors how they went about deciding which voice was best for their stories, in hopes they could help us make up our minds. As expected, all their advice was the same...what do the characters want? What does your gut tell you? We knew the answer, and it was then that we made the decision to do another huge overhaul and change everything to first person. Because Dani and Zoe are so essential to the story, we wanted them to be as alive as possible--for the readers to be able to connect with them and grow to love or hate the supporting characters as the women do. Since we made the change, we haven’t looked back.
Even though we decided to write the entire series in first person, we’ve come to realize that we don’t have to limit ourselves to Dani and Zoe’s perspectives. There’s still a lot of story left to tell and the two young women are only part of the world of The Ending.