I is for I: The First Person Point of View


Let’s take a quick glimpse at the options available if you’re considering writing in the First Person.

First person singular – I. This can be the main character or a secondary character close to the main character who tells the main character’s story. One of the best known examples of this is Nick in The Great Gatsby.

First person plural – We. The first person narrator is speaking on behalf of one or more other people.

Multiple first person – First person narrators all giving their own accounts of the same event. Each provides a different perspective including information the other characters might or might not have.

There are pros and cons to writing in the First Person. In the short story, it can be quite effective. In the novel, it may be harder to sustain due to the needs of the plot.

PROS:

Immediacy

Better reader sympathy

Greater depth of characterization through the similarities and differences between the internal narration and the external behavior and dialogue.

The opportunity to use the “unreliable narrator” technique.

CONS:

The strict limitations of what that character sees, hears, smells, tastes, and feels.

The challenge of consistency in terms of the character’s culture, education, speech patterns, basic personality traits, etc. (All the more so with multiple first person.)

The necessity of plotting the story around the limitations of the first person point of view.

Making sure the character is an active participant in the plot and not just a passive viewer/commentator.

Reader confusion about who’s telling what part of the story.

Who can tell your story best? Who has the most to win and lose? Who sees that critical moment that makes all the difference to which way the story problem gets resolved?

Take some time to weigh your options here. Your characters may surprise you with their willingness to work within the intimacy of their first person points of view.

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10 Comments

Filed under Blog challenges, Fiction, Writing

10 responses to “I is for I: The First Person Point of View

  1. Thank you, Lillian. As a writer who looks forward to being published some day, I am always on the lookout for ways to improve my craft. I intend to keep coming back to your blog.
    Cynthia Rodrigues Manchekar at Cynthology

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  2. It’s interesting when I get a story idea. Right away, the characters speak to me in the tense the story usually ends up being in – which is usually first. I really like first POV because it gets me right into the head of my MC.

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    • Wow, you get that right away? That’s so great! Most of the time I start out with one or two characters and the situation in mind. Sometimes I do get lucky enough to have a character pull up a chair, so to speak, and start telling me his or her story.

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  3. I pretty much always write in the first person. I find it so much easier than third (and second). I like to live my stories along with my characters, and first person is the best way to do it.

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  4. I prefer third person for the all the cons listed above, but sometimes first person works better. It really does depend on what the characters are up to and what the story is about.

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    • That’s true, Sopphey. Every story is different, and each character has his or her own wants and needs. I’m trying to write a short story now alternating scenes between the heroine’s and hero’s points of view. Not sure it will work, but I want to give it a try!

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  5. celticrob

    I’ve never tried first person story-telling. Perhaps I need to rethink that.

    Blessings and Bear hugs!
    Bears Noting

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  6. Pingback: Narrator No-No | Writing Is Hard Work

  7. Pingback: “Point of View and Head Hopping” ~ Stefan Vucak | Authors Helping Authors Resource Site

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