I’ve heard it said that there seems to be an extraordinary amount of first person POV fiction written these days. I’ve heard students in writing classes say that first person is the easiest to write. Personally, it took a while for me to accept liking to read first person, since my stubborn streak insisted that No, that’s not what I did. I always found writing in the first person more difficult as well, for the same stubborn problem.
For me, it was easier to watch and write down in third person what a character was doing. This is the clearest way to get yourself out of a story and allow the characters to do what they would do, not what you want them to do (although of course, this isn’t quite so simple for a control freak to accomplish readily). While you need to get into the head of the character written in third person, it’s more of an understanding of him, more of, once having created the creature, knowing him well enough to expect how he will act and react to whatever is thrown at him, allowing him to surprise you if possible.
First person demands a different mindset. The writer needs to think like the character he’s created, not just understand him. In fact, he may not need to understand him at all–if the channeling is complete without author interference.
Sounds like much ado about nothing, I’m sure, but voice of the narrator and the complexity of the character has a lot to do with how the story will proceed. Even when the character is not the main thrust of the story, what he does in it is, whether he is a metaphor for the human race, the human condition, or just a particular strain of it, his thinking and actions must be his own.
I’ve just left a third person story and am tackling a rewrite of a first person. As I read it to reacquaint myself, I need to slip inside her mind. I need to see who she is; I need to assure myself that it isn’t just me in a different setting. Then I’ll find out where she ends up.