Topic: 1st vs. 3rd Person Perspective

I am currently writing a piece that began in 1st person and run into a number of problems.

Full disclosure: I normally write in 3rd person, almost exclusively.

Some of the problems I've run up against:

1.  I am not supposed to describe my character AT ALL (actual critique received) when writing from her perspective. The only exception to this appears to be the cliche of allowing the character a look into the mirror/other reflective surface. While I'm not saying I'm Stephen King where scene descriptions are concerned, I like to set the stage and let readers know through facial expressions, posture, etc. how the character is feeling. That just seems impossible in first person, as far as people who have critiqued the work seem to believe.

2.  It's apparently not allowed to switch to another character? I had a critique from one person that said I should stick exclusively with the main character. While I appreciate all feedback, I disagree. I think that limiting the perspective to a single character can be extremely claustrophobic and sells all the other characters short.

While there are other issues, I think these are the two main ones. So, do you think that maybe 1st person just isn't for me (I am kind of leaning that way already)? How do you feel about it in general?

Re: 1st vs. 3rd Person Perspective

I disagree with your reviewers.

For issue 1, consider this sentence: His eyes were an even darker brown than mine. You've just told the reader that your POV character has brown eyes, although not as dark as the other character. Or: My black dress made my alabaster skin really stand out. You've just told the reader what the character's skin color is and what she's wearing. Neither case required a peek in the mirror, although I use that (e.g., my character adjusts his uniform in the mirror and thinks his emerald-green eyes and auburn hair give him a dreamy look). Also: I could feel the heat rise into my face, I was so embarrassed. That tells the reader the POV character is blushing.

Don Chambers here on this site writes in first person quite a bit. He frequently alternates between characters (usually two), but generally puts the name of the POV character at the beginning of the scene, so you know whose POV you're in.

Re: 1st vs. 3rd Person Perspective

My current book series mixes it up between 1st person and 3rd. There are somethings in the story I want the readers to know before my character. It is perfectly acceptable to use however many POV's you want, if you can make it work. I've seen multiple POV treatment in many mainstream books. However I disagree about writing in first person being claustrophobic. 1st person gives you the opportunity to write in a different voice- with the attitude and moxie of your character. And describing other characters while you put yourself in the persona of your main character can be a blast. I've also had reviewers say stick to one or the other, but their not writing my book, and they only know about the plot as far as they had read it, not what is coming and the reason I had for writing it with the multiple POVs. You should do whatever you need to tell your story.

Re: 1st vs. 3rd Person Perspective

I am not supposed to describe my character AT ALL ...
I like to set the stage and let readers know through facial expressions, posture, etc. how the character is feeling.

This is interesting. We had a parallel discussion in another group, and here are my take-aways from it.

1) I don't overly need a description of the POV character beyond gender and eccentricities. Shakespeare never described Juliette, yet she's framed in my head as a certain look. She's framed in your head with a slightly different (but no doubt similar) look. If a thousand people had to render her under  a paint brush you'd get a thousand variations, each personalized to that reader.

(Okay, R&J was a bad example because it's a play but I've often wondered how other people visualize them. I've never been able to mentally match them with the various film depictions through the years - they've always felt "off" to me. I also concede that trendy writers (JK Rowlings) have had great success describing their characters into the minutae)

2) I don't need the POV character's facial expression. If it's there, okay. If it's not, I'll assign one mentally. You're better off if I'm assigning it because I'll always assign the most favourable expression. If I'm doing this, I can ease into the POV character like it's a second skin. If it's there too much, it's a little intrusive - I'd want the story to keep rolling rather than the writer catch me up on what I'm supposed to be feeling for the MC.

Here's an excerpt from South of the Border, West of the Sun:

As soon as I saw her, everything around me froze. A lump of air forced its way up from my chest to my throat. Shimamoto, I thought. I drove past her to check her out in the rearview mirror, but her face was hidden in the crowd. I slammed on my brakes, getting an earful of horn from the car behind me.
Murakami, Haruki. South of the Border, West of the Sun: A Novel (Vintage International) (p. 201). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Now, let's stomp all over it with what the writer (pretend that's me) wants the reader to feel:

Kdot makes a mess of this wrote:

As soon as I saw her, my eyes lit up and my eyebrows raised. Shimamoto, I thought, grinning. I drove past her to check her out in the rearview mirror, but her face was hidden in the crowd. I narrowed my eyes to get a better look. No luck. My face fell. I slammed on my brakes, getting an earful of horn from the car behind me. Beads of sweat trickled down my face.

If you compare these, you'll see my inserts do little to advance the story. If anything, "grinning" spoils the reader experience for at least the portion of the market who would have been frowning.

So my advice is: when you go to make an expression on the POV character, ask yourself "Am I doing this because it's part of the story or because I need to tell the reader how to feel?"

Disclaimer: Ignore everything I just said and just tell your story the way you see fit.