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Me, Myself, and I-Writing in the First Person

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Raise your hand if you write (or want to write) stories in the first person?

It’s hard for me to guess the exact percentage of you who are holding your hand high in the air.

I have lots of students who tell me they’d love to give it a try but feel it’s too difficult.

Well, I have a secret…it’s my favorite way to tell a story. In fact, the first two books I wrote were told in the first person and here’s why I think you should give it a try-

You, the writer gets to know the character a lot faster. You’re in their head all the time so it’s perfect for finding out more about the person whose story you’re telling. Believe me when I say, told from their point of view and only their point of view, they reveal things you, their creator never knew.

The reader gets to know the character a lot faster. If you want your reader to bond with your characer ASAP (and yes, that should be your goal), first person enables you to make the reader privy to information and thoughts straight away.

It gives the story almost a life like quality to it. Imagine sitting down with someone and having them tell you their life story…something they actually lived through and experienced.  Now imagine that same story told from someone else who didn’t get to live that life. I like to think of it as reading an autobiography versus a biography. No one knows their own life story better than the person who’s lived it and it’s the same for characters in a story.

Which sort of connects with this…it comes across as more believable.  And who doesn’t want to get immersed in a story that feels like it actually happended.

Your characters are more likeable (even if they’re doing something wrong). I know there are exceptions to the rule but think of the character Dexter. We’re in his head and we get inside information as to why he’s killing people. No, he doesn’t do it for fun. He’s doing it as their punishment. Without knowing that we’d just consider him a serial killer. It might not make him likeable but at least it offers some justification about his behavior.

It allows your reader to know the characters reaction to everything. Sometimes you can turn that into something sad, something funny or something in between, but the bottom line it makes you feel an emotion and that’s what good writing is all about.

It can help you figure out what’s wrong with your story. Something not quite right but you’ve no idea why? Here’s something I often do and that’s switch to first person and sometimes the story cries out to be told in that tense and sometimes it doesn’t but it’s always worth a try.

Do you write in first person and do you enjoy or find it an uphill battle? I’d love to hear your views on the topic.

Writing How Tos Writing Tips

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2 Comments Leave a comment

    • Hi Lori, great question. It’s one of the limitations of first person. The only way your reader gets to know your secondary characters is through your main character’s POV. Yes, that’s a problem if you want to go more in depth with their development but then again if you’re choosing to go that deep then they probably shouldn’t be secondary characters but main ones. If you’re okay with having readers know everything about other characters through just one person’s POV in your story then go with first person…it’s great if you want to show your readers how the characters views everything and everyone, especially if you’re developing a series character. However, if you need to get into the head of another character for the story to work then just don’t go this route. My advice would be to write one scene using your main character and these secondary characters using first person and then use the very same scene and switch to third person and see what works best. Another idea would be to use multiple first person narrations. It’s something I’ve done and love it. Hope this helps.

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