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This has been a difficulty for me for a bit. I'm writing a story about an alien character alone in a post-apocalyptic world. Them being alone makes me think it'd be easier and better to chose 1st person to show an internal monologue and to show how they see the world but I've had difficulty with 1st person. This character does die at the end, so that's another point for 3rd, but given that I've thought of this story in terms of 1st person for several years it's hard to change.

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Have you considered the third person limited perspective? That's the perspective in which the narrator sits in the protagonist's head as a passenger and shows us everything through the protagonist's eyes and gives us access to their inner monologue (most commonly rendered as semidirect speech), all while narrating in third person. These days it's even the most common perspective in which fiction is written.

Some authors like to switch the point-of-view character around (especially if there are more storylines), some like to keep one as much as possible. And even if virtually the whole novel is from the point of view of one character, it's still very easy (though not impossible in first person either) and (unlike in first person) inconspicuous to switch for one chapter at the beginning or end.

See for instance the Harry Potter series for an example of fiction that's written largely from Harry's point of view, but occasionally changes for a chapter (e. g. beginning of fourth or sixth book) it if it wants to show a scene where Harry isn't present.

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    +1. My idea too. A 3PL can even tell the reader about the character's death, their last thoughts. 3PL often strays from the character to describe scenes, landscapes, other characters. The 3PL can do the same, to close the story, even after their character has expired.
    – Amadeus
    Nov 16, 2023 at 22:28
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In first person narrative the reader encounters a person.

First person narrative is

  • more directly emotional
  • more conversational
  • more subjective
  • less reliable

Here is the beginning of Andy Weir's The Martian:

I'm fucked.
That's my considered opinion.
Fucked.
Six days into what should be the greatest month of my life, and it's turned into a nightmare.

Use first person narrative if you want to let the reader "meet that person" like you meet and get to know people in real life: through the way they talk, think, act etc.

Personally, I find the protagonist of The Martian unlikeable and haven't read the book because of that.

 

In third person limited narrative the reader observes a person.

Third person limited narrative is

  • more analytical
  • more objective

Here is the beginning of William Golding's Pincher Martin:

He was struggling in every direction, he was the centre of the writhing and kicking knot of his own body. There was no up or down, no light and no air. He felt his mouth open of itself and the shrieked word burst out.
"Help!"

Use third person limited narrative if you want the reader to observe and think about, or even judge, the protagonist.


If you struggle with first person narrative, take a few days and try and write (not rewrite!) a passage in third person then let it rest for a few more days. See how it feels to write in third person compared to first, and how what you have written reads.

If third person writes itself more fluently and if it reads better, rewrite what you have already written. But do so from scratch, because otherwise the first person language will influence and possibly hinder the natural flow of the third person language.


By the way, the first person narrator can die and continue to narrate. There are books where the narrator continues the narration from the afterlife, but you don't need that pretext because the narrator is not a person, but a function of your narration. It is no more than a narrative perspective. But for a specific narrative effect you might want to stop the narration with or immediately before the protagonist's imminent death.

Here is a forum discussion with examples of books where the first person narrator dies: https://boards.straightdope.com/t/first-person-novels-stories-where-the-narrator-dies-spoilers/317931

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