How to Write Point of View, Part 2, First Person

Pictures of single eyes scattered atop one another and ringed by purple, red, or yellow eye shadow. From Pixabay.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Hi SErs! Harmony here 🙂 Today, I’d like to talk about how to write Point of View (POV) in the First Person perspective.

First Person narrative is almost as up close and personal as your writing gets.

What is First Person POV?

First Person POV is told from the viewpoint of the character. That is, from inside their head. The reader sees and hears and senses and learns everything via that character’s perception. First Person POV is written using I, Me, My, Mine, Myself, and We. See below for an example of first person prose …

By the time I get home, my husband will be dead. It’s hard to not smile at the thought. I have the best alibi an abused and beaten wife could ask for, sitting here having dinner and drinks with three of my oldest friends. It won’t matter how strong the police believe my motive to be. Not when I have all these people, and my credit-card bill, putting me right here from 7 until 11 pm. By the time I get home, at around 11:30 pm or so, it will all be over.

In First Person POV, the narrator can be the protagonist or simply a narrator telling the story. An example of a book with the narrator as the protagonist is The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger. In this book, the main character Holden Caulfield tells his own story.

An example of a book where the narrator is not the protagonist is The Great Gatsby by  F Scott Fitzgerald. In this book, Nick Carraway narrates the story, but Jay Gatsby is the protagonist. With this First Person narrator, both the story and the reader’s knowledge are limited to only what Nick sees or hears or observes.

The Pros of First Person POV:

  1. You can dive deep into the mind of your character.
  2. Your story is told through one person’s perspective.
  3. Your reader can connect with your character immediately due to the level of closeness.
  4. If also written using the present tense construction, your reader has no clue what might happen as this story is not being told from a survivor looking back but as events unfold. No guarantees!

The Cons of First Person POV:

  1. You have limited access to the thoughts and feelings of other characters.
  2. Your story is told through one person’s perspective.
  3. Your character cannot be everywhere or know everything.
  4. You run a high risk of starting too many sentences with the ‘I’ construction.
  5. First Person perspective runs the risk of overdone interior monologue.

Why is the ‘told through one person’s perspective’ in both the Pros and the Cons?

On the one hand, such limitation can can restrict your story-telling options. For instance, your main character may have limited vocabulary and/or intelligence. However, on the other hand, such limitation can also be used for creative purposes such as unreliable narrators and other unique perspectives (more on unreliable narrators in later posts).

Top Tip: You can use anything, as long as you do it well.

In Summary: First Person narrative can be told from the POV of the characters or from the perspective of an observer who then narrates the story. The First Person perspective can bring an immediacy to the story that other lenses may dilute. When using this construct, you need to take great care with your sentences and avoid starting with ‘I’ too much. If your writing is active rather than passive, this tendency will get weeded out to a greater degree. For example: I hear/heard the phone ring wants to be The phone rings/The phone rang. (See Part 6 on ‘Common Pitfalls’ later in this post series.) ~You can choose to keep the First Person narrative in one character’s POV or switch between characters. If you choose to switch, take care how you do this (again, Part 6 will cover this).

That’s it from me today. I hope you’ve found this post useful. I’ll see you again on Friday 27th August, when we’ll take a look at Second Person POV 🙂

Bio Box for Harmony Kent that links to her website

Part 1, Overview can be found HERE.

©2021 Harmony Kent

71 thoughts on “How to Write Point of View, Part 2, First Person

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  11. Great explanation of some of the cons of writing in the first person, Harmony. In my limited experience, it’s my favorite point of view. One of the hardest parts for me is not coming across like an egotistical know-it-all.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Great and clear explanation, Harmony. I wrote my first book in First Person POV because I wanted to share what it’s like to be trapped in a poorly-managed care home. The ‘I’ word was an issue but several rigorous edits removed many of them! Despite starting in the Third Person, my next two novels have reverted back to First. I seem to be stuck with that perspective for the time being! Looking forward to the next in this series. x

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I like first person narration very much. I never stick to one POV though, I always have a few MC’s who all tell their bit through their own perspective. I had 4 POV in A Ghost and His Gold. I have 2 in The Soldier and the Radium Girl and 4 in The Creeping Change. I also like to read books told in the first person.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I use to dislike first person, but I’ve come to really enjoy it within the last few years, also when combined with present tense. Decades ago, I wrote a novel in first, and just last year I did a short story in first . My preference will always be third or omniscient, but there is a lot to be said for first person, especially when based on genre. As an example, I think it works great in psychological suspense!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I enjoy writing in first person. It can add a sense of immediacy. Since the narrator can only see and know so much, the reader’s limited, too–which can work well in mysteries or when you want tension. It has some of the qualities of writing in deep third POV. Enjoyed this post, Harmony!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. A deep look into first person POV, Harmony. I’ve written in first person POV and find it to be both rewarding and challenging. Since the reader can only know what the one character is seeing, hearing and thinking, it’s a challenge to keep it engaging while at the same time, a great single lens look. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Great explanation, Harmony! The book I’m preparing to release later this month is told in first-person POV. It’s my only book in that perspective. It is definitely more challenging because I’m used to being able to switch POVs and show others thoughts/feelings. Luckily, I had a great critique group who caught me when I attempted to have my main character think for the other characters. Lol! There are plenty of ways to show how the other characters are feeling; the author just needs to write it through those character’s actions and reactions. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I write in multiple POVs, with my protagonist in first and other POV characters in deep third. I had an editor early on who used to circle the sentences that started with a pronoun if I had several in a row. Getting your hand slapped cures you of the habit real quick. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Your first-person pros and cons are on point, Harmony. My first three books were first-person present tense, and the struggle to keep the “I” situation under control was big. The lure in this form is to write a story that the reader is closely involved in from the get-go. Enjoyed this. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. When I started to write, I didn’t plan on writing each story in a specific perspective. Usually my idea starts with a first or last line, so whatever that perspective is, I roll with it. Most of my stories are first person, though.

    I like the two examples you gave. Both excellent.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Pingback: How to Write Point of View, Part 2, First Person | Legends of Windemere

  22. I always default to third-person past, in both reading and writing preferences. But I have dabbled in first (and second, actually) and just published a first person story. It really does give a story a totally different feel. Great job explaining this POV.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Confession: I used to hate reading books written in first person POV. I thought it was a sign of weakness that the author couldn’t pull off multiple points of view. But I’ve read and and enjoyed first-person narrative books and short stories. I’ve only tried it once with an unfinished short story, but somehow I can’t see writing it any other way.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Great insight and suggestions for writing in first person, Harmony. Short stories are fun through first person telling, I find it harder for longer stories, but some do need this perspective. Wonderful example of how well it works and gets deep into the characters mind 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I’ve never written a book in first person, but I did write a short story, in the present tense, too. The story seemed to ask for it.
    Thank you for pointing out the pitfalls as well as the positives. I look forward to the next post.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Pingback: How to Write Point of View, Part 2, First Person by Harmony Kent – DEEZ – News about Art, Books & more

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