I think it’s safe to say that first person is pretty dominant in YA. Which is fine—first person is great. But I’ve heard people say some things about third person that scare me. Misguided things. So this post is going to be all about why you should love third person. Because you should. It’s awesome.
You have options with third person. You can write in third person omniscient, where you are, well, all-knowing. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien is an example of this. With omniscient, you have the benefit of not having to stay within one character’s head at a time. But you lose the intimacy. This seems to be what first comes to people’s minds when you mention third person, and one of the main reasons I’ve heard for not liking third is that you’re “not inside the character’s head as much”. But you can’t forget about third person limited! Recent examples would be books like Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr, or The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan. You don’t know things the characters don’t know. You know how they feel. You are inside their heads.
It’s also much easier to have more than one POV character in third than in first person. If you don’t do it right, multiple POVs in first person can be really horrifying. Especially if you go beyond two, because it just gets to be so many I’s to keep track of. You really, truly can still have that intimacy in third person, minus the confusion. If you’re going to write multiple POVs in first person, I would want to know why it was necessary to do so, why it couldn’t be in third. If you don’t have a good reason, you probably shouldn’t do it. It’s the biggest strength of third.
There also seems to be this perception where you can’t get romance across in third. Where on earth did this come from? Has no one read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy? One of the best romances of all time, in my opinion, and written in third (and kind of in third omniscient, even).
I think maybe there’s just this irrational fear of writing in third (“but I’m better at first!”) but there’s no need to be afraid. How will you ever know you aren’t good at writing in third if you don’t give it a try? How will you know you don’t like reading it if you’ve only read two books written in third? Branch out, give it a chance. You’re missing out on some really amazing stuff if you won’t leave your first person safety zone.