Many people think that it’s wrong to use the first-person perspective in fiction. When in fact, a first-person perspective is a great way to engage the reader by having them experience the story through your characters’ eyes.
What is a Point of View?
There are three different types of points of view:
- First Person Singular This is when you use the words “I” or “me” as the narrator in your story.
- First Person Plural The use of “We” and “Us” in your story happens when you write in first-person plural.
- First Person Objective If you don’t penetrate into anyone’s thoughts and feelings, but only report what can be seen, heard, smelled, tasted, or touched, then you are writing in objective first person.
The second-person point of view uses the pronoun “you.” There are two types of second person: limited and omniscient.
- In a limited second-person point of view, one character tells the story using “you,” while also using third-person singular pronouns such as he/she/it/they to refer to other characters.
- In omniscient second-person POV one character tells the story using “you,” while also using second-person plural pronouns such as y’all to refer to other characters.
First and second person writing tends to make your reader feel like they are right there with the character watching the event happen, whereas third person puts them in control but still gives them some element of choice.
The third-person POV is the classic perspective used by most authors and in most works of fiction.
- It uses he/she/they as the principal pronouns and allows more scope for easily shifting scenes and layers of understanding inside a story.
- It also allows more room for digging into the motivations and mindsets of other characters than the main character.
What Is a Narrative Perspective?
In fiction writing, the narrative voice is the format through which a story is communicated by an author to a reader. The concept of narrative voice has two different aspects:
- The narrator’s position in (or relationship to) the story.
- How much information about characters and events that the narrator provides for readers.
Tips For Writing in First Person
The first-person point of view is when you’re inside the head of one character. Here, the storyteller’s voice guides your thoughts and emotions, making them more real and relatable.
In this way, a first-person narrator can be an effective tool for creating vivid imagery and conveying a sense of immediacy and sincerity.
We can apply this technique to our own writing by being mindful of how we characterize ourselves as narrators.
By doing this well, we’ll show readers that our voices are distinct from our actual selves; moreover, they’ll feel more connected with us because they know what it feels like to be inside our heads. I know this sounds weird, but that’s the nature of fiction writing when you need to get into multiple heads in order to develop characters!
How Do You Write Dialogue in First Person?
If you’re writing a scene where your character is venting out loud, or if the character has a habit of talking to himself, it’s not unusual for him to talk out loud in the 1st person.
Dialogue in the first person can be tricky because your character can’t narrate what someone else is saying without breaking the point of view.
To avoid this problem, use indirect speech: “She said she has no idea,” Ben said instead of “She said ‘I have no idea,” he said.
It’s All About Empathy
The first-person perspective is so effective because the reader can identify with the narrator and feel empathy for the character
The question is, “How do you know when to write an entire story from a first-person perspective? The answer, of course, is that you don’t always have to. You can use first-person throughout the story or just on parts of it.
If it’s natural for your main character or narrator to speak or think in the first person, you should try it.
The rest of this post looks at the things an author needs to keep in mind when writing in the first person:
- Why does first-person narration work?
- What does it offer your narrative?
- And how to use it?
Gives Specific Detail
First-person narration allows the author to highlight and detail a character’s thoughts and feelings.
When a character is depressed or has an epiphany, we can vividly witness their inner turmoil or revelation.
First-person narration provides an intimate perspective on the main character’s life, including his or her thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
Readers can often relate to this point of view better than others because they can imagine how it feels to see things through another person’s eyes.
This is why the first-person perspective is very effective when used properly.
A Limited Perspective
The first-person point of view allows the author to share one experience from a single, limited perspective.
This is because the reader sees things through one character’s eyes.
- You cannot share the thoughts and feelings of other characters unless these are explicitly revealed somehow to your main character.
- You cannot share information that the main character does not know.
- It’s tricky to write from the viewpoint of another character, even for a short section.
The advantage of this perspective is that you get to see the story unfiltered by any other characters or outside observers. The challenge is that you are limited to what is actually experienced by the narrator, and what they say about themselves and others may not be objective.
Building Suspense and Tension
The reader only experiences or knows what the narrator tells them. The narrator limits the readers’ understanding of the plot by sharing only their perspective on events.
This limited awareness can help build suspense if the narrator doesn’t realize that someone is pursuing them until it’s almost too late to escape.
Get Into Their Head
Using the first-person point of view allows readers to connect with a character more than other points of view do because readers can get into their heads.
- You can have readers connect with the narrator and feel empathy for them. From a first-person point of view, the reader is able to get inside the narrator’s head more than from any other perspective. The reader will understand how that character feels and knows their thoughts and feelings
- This isn’t possible with a third-person limited point of view, where we get only the external narrator’s or narrators’ (if more than one) perspective.
- It can be easier to limit yourself to sharing one experience from a single, limited perspective. You aren’t writing about all characters or in the omniscient voice; you are putting yourself into your character’s shoes and seeing what they see, hearing what they hear, feeling what they feel, thinking what they think.
- You can emphasize and give specific detail about the thoughts and emotions of a character better in the first-person point of view than in any other POV because you’re already deep inside their head as a narrator. You don’t have to wander too far away from them or abandon them for another viewpoint because you are that viewpoint!
First-person POV also allows the writer a deeper characterization of the narrator.
- It allows you to completely immerse the reader in a character’s thoughts and feelings.
- It can make it easier for the reader to empathize with your character.
- It helps make your story more personal, allowing the reader to feel closer to your character and relate with them more easily.
Captivating the Audience
- The first-person narration can make readers see things from a different perspective and draw them into the story. You will have a powerful hold over your audience because you’re compelling them with an original voice that is not theirs.
- It can be easier for first-time authors. First-person narration is often used by new writers as it’s a great way to introduce the world of fiction writing and storytelling. Its simplicity makes it easy to learn how to write in this style without having too many factors or influences in place while learning how to craft stories using this method of storytelling.
- The bias of the Narrator: When writing in the first-person present tense, you should be comfortable with using biased opinions and anecdotes as some people tend to exaggerate things but since one really knows apart from them if what they are saying is true or not, there isn’t much room for questioning the narrator’s words so long as they seem credible enough for those reading it at that moment when everything happened in real-time (present). This could help readers understand where the character comes from better than an omniscient point of view might allow!
- Writing in a Unique Voice: Try writing each character differently so everyone has his/her own opinion about events happening around them or within their circles of influence and perception; this will give readers insight into who these people are based on what kind of language choices they make when talking about certain situations.
Part of the Story
First-person narration allows readers to feel as if they’re part of the story. No matter what your genre, storytelling is all about connection.
In some works of fiction, the connection may be less emotional, but the reader still wants to be immersed in that world.
In first-person narration, the reader experiences everything along with the characters. They’re right there with them through joys and heartbreaks, witnessing their mistakes and learning from them just like they would if they were living those events themselves.
When you use first-person POV well, you create something akin to an emotional roller coaster ride; as readers experience emotions similar to your characters’ emotions, they become more invested in your story.
It’s Easier for First Time Authors
The first-person point of view allows you to tell a more personal story. It’s easier to write in the first person than it is to write in the third person, because it gives an immediacy and intimacy that puts the reader directly into your protagonist’s head, rather than having the reader observe from afar.
If you are writing your novel for the first time, trust us when we say that it is much easier to write from one perspective than from multiple perspectives.
If you’re trying to juggle multiple voices and personalities simultaneously, it can get confusing very quickly!
Bias of Narrator
The first-person point of view is a biased viewpoint.
Because the narrator is only revealing thoughts and experiences specific to them, the reader’s knowledge is limited to what they know and see. This can be advantageous in encouraging readers to identify with the narrator or protagonist.
The first-person narration also allows you to show your readers what your character thinks about events as they unfold, rather than having your readers guess at their motivations based on action alone.
For example, let’s say your main character’s best friend did something horrible but they didn’t realize it until later when they found themselves thinking back on all the times their friend said something that might have been a sign of what was coming.
Writing in a Unique Voice
Every writer has a unique voice, but some struggle to find it. This could be because they want to sound like their favorite author. Or maybe they’re afraid their voice won’t be “good enough.”
So what can you do? You can try writing from different points of view, using different tenses, but the most important thing is not to force it. If it takes time for your unique voice to emerge naturally, that’s okay because it will eventually come out on its own if given time.
When writing first-person narratives, let the character tell the story in their own words rather than yours (as an author).
The goal is not only to develop a narrative style that feels right for this particular story and point of view but also to create something distinctly yours-a way of telling stories that are encompassing yet still stay true to who you are as both a writer!
Strong Consistent Character Voice
One important thing to keep in mind when writing in the first person is that the voice of the character and narrator should be consistent. The voice of your character can also be the voice of your story and the voice of your protagonist, but it should always be the same consistent one.
This will help prevent confusion from a narrative voice that is inconsistent throughout your story.
Creating a Specific World
When you are writing in the first person, the reader wants to know who is telling them the story. The reader will want to know:
- Who is the narrator?
- What do they look like?
- How old are they?
- What is their job? etc.
You should get all this information in as soon as possible so that the reader has a clear and concise view of the world that your character lives in. As you write from their perspective, make sure to describe what they see and hear around them. This way, your readers can create a specific image of the world in their minds.
The Narrator’s Motives Will Move the Story Along
The first-person narrator’s motives will move the story along. Your reader will be invested in the narrator’s story and want to see what happens to him or her.
An added benefit is that as your readers identify with the narrator, they will also get a glimpse into his or her personality and psyche, which makes for a compelling story.
To write an effective first-person narrative, you must ensure that your narrator has a strong voice; he or she should be interesting and a good storyteller in order to keep your readers engaged.
If Your Character Can’t See It How Do You Tell the Reader?
As a writer, you want to describe the setting, secondary characters, and even your protagonist so that the reader can get a clear sense of who they are. However, it is not always possible for your character to be able to see or hear everything you need him to and still stay in first person POV.
So what do you do when this happens?
The answer: You cheat! If you need your character to see something or hear something important and he wouldn’t really be able to see it or hear it in that situation then, by all means, have him look up at “just the right moment” or have someone whisper just loud enough for your protagonist to overhear them.
This may seem like cheating and many times it is but remember, this is fiction writing and we can bend rules.
Does the First-Person Point of View Make People Care?
The first-person point of view gives the characters room to tell their own stories.
It’s easy for readers to identify with a character when they are allowed into the character’s head. You can hear their thoughts and feel their feelings, and this is as close as you can get to being inside someone else’s skin. It makes it easier for readers to care about what happens if they have been invited into the lives of the characters in this intimate way.
As well as learning about their present circumstances, you also find out more about their past, and why they are like they are. You can learn about their secrets and see how these affect them today.
Using the first-person point of view helps you evoke empathy in your reader because it feels more personal than other points of view do. Readers love being invited into a character’s inner world.
Does Your Main Character or Narrator Have a Unique Perspective or Worldview?
Does your main character or narrator have a unique perspective or worldview? Maybe you’re writing about someone with an unusual job, or perhaps they’ve had some interesting life experiences that set them apart from most people.
If you’re writing about a more ordinary character, it may not work as well to use the first-person point of view because it’s harder for those kinds of characters to have a strong voice.
However, sometimes something as simple as including a unique turn of phrase or saying things in unusual ways can make any character feel more interesting and memorable to read about.
Multiple Points of View
Though each character’s motivation might be different, being able to experience multiple viewpoints of a story gives it depth and makes the reader feel involved in what’s going on.
For example, you might use the first person in a loved one’s point of view when they recall important moments in their life or in a friend’s POV when they recall events from their best friend’s life.
You are not confined to having only one narrator in your story, using first-person. But if you have multiple first-person narrators, you will need to find a way to transition from one character to another so that the readers understand what is going on!
Changing Points of View
A common technique for shifting points of view is to simply change who is narrating each chapter or scene; if you have three main characters at different times narrating in first-person point of view it could get confusing for your readers if there aren’t clear markers for where one ends and another begins (like a chapter break).
You’ll sometimes encounter authors naming chapters after the character who is speaking, in order to make the character shift crystal clear.
How Would a Story Change if It Went From Third Person to First Person?
How would a story change if it went from third-person to first-person?
The reader would experience a more intimate relationship with the main character because they have access to that character’s thoughts and feelings. The reader would understand the main character better since they get most of their information about this character from his or her perspective.
The story itself would be more personal because it comes on a deeper level from one individual, rather than being told by someone who knows everything that happens in general terms.
How Does First-Person Point of View Affect a Story?
The first-person point of view is a very effective way to tell a story. Readers can empathize with the narrator, learn what it’s like to live from their perspective, and experience emotions vicariously through them.
Readers are able to develop a bond with the main character that they might not otherwise have in the third person or second person.