Tuesday, August 16, 2011

16 Why I (We) Love First Person Point of View

Okay, I lied on Friday. Inadvertently, but still. The blog isn't going to be completely back to normal for a bit. Marissa needs to take a break from the Monday posts, and it may be a while before I get up to speed to help her out. We'll get back on that as soon as we can.

In the meantime, I'm swamped with STUFF. Writing stuff, work stuff, kid stuff. The stuff we all juggle, so no excuses really. But it turns out that's good stuff for you, because it means you get a guest post from the amazing Lisa Gail Green of Paranormal Point of View. If you don't follow her blog, um, WHY NOT? It's excellent. And catch her on twitter too at, you guessed it, @LisaGailGreen.

And while you are bouncing around the blogosphere, jump by Cam's blog too, and leave her some get well wishes for whatever excruciatingly painful thing she did to her neck. Feel better soon, Cam! We love you!


Why I Love First Person

by Lisa Gail Green

I write mainly in first person. There are many amazing books out there written in third. I’m certainly not trying to dismiss it as a valid format. I’ve used it myself on occasion. However, when I started writing in first the difference in my manuscript was amazing. Why? What is it about first that I love so much? Allow me to sing its praises:

  1. First person forces us to delve inside the mind of our MC. If we don’t know that character inside and out, we will never be able to pull it off and sound authentic. As an actress, I was used to regularly getting “into character.” When I tried first person, something magical happened. I became the character, and expressed myself as that person. Now, when someone is having trouble with voice, I often recommend they try rewriting a page, or even a chapter, in first person. It’s a great exercise whether you decide to stick with it or not.
  2. First person allows us to present information from a in a skewed perspective. That’s right. The protagonist’scharacter’s viewpoint may not be an accurate view of reality, but that allows us, as writers, to take a few more liberties with our writing. Do your character’s internal thoughts contradict the evidence the reader receives from the dialogue? That's not a bad thing. It can add an extra layer of depth to your story. 
  3. First person constrains the information available to the reader. Particularly if there’s a mystery aspect to your story, it might benefit you to stay within the limitations of a first-person narrative. That way when clues are revealed, the audience discovers them along with the MC. Either way the reader can learn and explore vicariously along with your protag.
  4. First person allows us more freedom with the writing itself. Does your MC have a particular way of speaking? Does she think in sentence fragments? Does she use incorrect grammar? First person lets us explore these possibilities and gives us an additional way to reveal character through the words they use to tell their story.
  5. First person can make it easier to use unique description. The way your character interacts with and views her surroundings can be a far more interesting way for the reader to explore your world. And it’s a great vehicle for voice. You know, voice? That thing agents and editors always talk about. Voice is all about perspective, so dig deep and let your MC’s viewpoint shine.

There you have it! Five reasons I think first person rocks. Are you ready to dive in? Have you tried it already, as an exercise or as a whole novel? Share your thoughts. Which do you prefer to write? Which do you prefer to read?


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  2. Honestly, I prefer third. Maybe I prefer it because it took me much longer to learn, whereas first person came pretty easily. It seems only natural to prefer something you worked harder to obtain.

    I also tend to like 'bigger' stories so to speak, where the scale of the world is larger than just this one person's view of it. Even a close third person POV (just a single perspective) seems to capture such 'big'
    narratives more effectively than one or multiple first person POVs.

    Also, I think I gravitate to third because it's not so widely used in the genres I read now (especially YA).

    But hey, everyone's got their own preference. Good writers can blow away either POV, bad writers can bungle either POV. It's all in the execution, and different stories have their own demands.

    For example, I cannot imagine Hunger Games in anything other than first person POV. Same for Twilight. I also can't imagine The Lord of the Rings in first person perspective. The POV really just has to suit the story.

  3. First person is what helped me to connect with VOICE, and I am ever so greatful I made the switch. Occasionally I'll write in third, but the book has to want to write itself that way, you know? I def prefer 1st!

    Great post! I'm a huge Lisa fan, and of you guys, too! AICP Rocks!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  4. I've played around with both. I've rewritten whole chapters in 3rd and then back into 1st person and I still can't decide which I prefer. I enjoy writing in 1st person but I know that writing in 3rd person can widen your world.


  5. I totally agree! I just finished my first draft of my first novel ever and it's all in first person! First person rocks! I also don't really care what POV I READ in, as long as the book is good. But First Person makes me feel like I'm the main character.

  6. Great post, Lisa! I second what Angela said about first person helping connect me to my voice as a writer. I write in both 1st and 3rd and tend to ramble less in 3rd person. But even when I write in 3rd, it's a limited perspective, which is great for some of the reasons you listed above - most key: mystery.

  7. I tend to write more first person POV. Great post, it was very interesting. I loved your points.
    Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

  8. First person does have its merits! I prefer to read and write in third person though. But I do like writing in first when I'm doing character development before writing the actual story.

  9. Excellent points! I don't mind reading either first or third, but I think I'm realizing I like writing in 3rd more. Who knows, I'll probably change my mind in about 1 hour. :D

  10. Great post, Lisa! You make really great points about the benefit of 1st and I love writing in it. I also agree with S.J. in that certain stories need certain POVs, and I try to match the POV to that particular story.

  11. I don't write, but as a reader I have noticed that I gravitate towards stories written in the first person. That is not to say I won't read books written in third person, but I just love getting into the head of a character the way you do with first person narration. I think with first person you feel like you are a bigger part of the story instead of merely an observer. Great post. Thanks!

  12. Love this post, Lisa! I personally love 1st POV since it really helps me to get in touch with the voice of my MC. If the story calls for a change to 3rd, then I at least know and have established my voice. :)

  13. Never tried using 1st person; I use a deep 3rd limited. That constrains info too. And I've never found myself restrained by using 3rd--I feel REALLY free. Love it. Never have problem getting my voice in either. All interesting to ponder...

  14. Very, very few good novels are written in first person, save for like, all quiet on the western front. Just saying! See link for anecdotal evidence lol http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2011/04/13/james-salters-acceptance-speech/

  15. First person is a challenge but a rewarding one. A lot of the genre writing is done in first lately, which I love. The two novels I've writting, both mystery, were in first. I played with other POVs before I decided I wanted to story to come direct from my MC.

  16. I'm still fiddling with my narrator's "filter", but once I get it down, it should be entertaining.


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