First Person Writing


When we talk about point of view (POV) in a novel, we’re usually talking about narration and perspective.  There is a difference between writing in the first, second, and third person narration. Good writers will choose one or another of these perspectives for good reasons. So long as you consider your options and have a good reason, your choice can be valid. Once the choice is made though; it is important to then stay conscious and consistent as you write.

When we think about point of view, we must consider:

  • Who is telling the story?
  • Why is the story told from this perspective?
  • What does this particular narrator offer the reader?

First person perspective (I, we) is the most commonly used viewpoint in modern novels. It has several benefits:

  1. Immediacy
  2. Easier to create reader empathy/sympathy
  3. Often easier to write
  4. Makes it easier to keep things from the reader – limited perspective is useful for genres like mystery or romance
  5. Easy to show deep emotion, introspection

Many writers also draw on their personal experiences and memories when writing and using first person can make this easier. In first person, the writer can have a main character who questions his or her thought processes and feelings; who is introspective or reflective. This is a particularly useful tool for many genres, but especially romance, mystery, and fantasy.

Tips for Writing in the first Person

  • Don't over use words like I and me
  • Don't over use quotes (too much reporting of direct quotations from the writer can become monotonous)
  • Maintain consistency in the narrators language. The character, personality, background and education of a person will dictate the type of language they use. If you are writing as a person with a background different to your own, your sentence structures and choice of words need to match that different background
  • Stimulate the Senses.Think about varied emotions and feelings and how these can be manipulated. When the reader feels like they are in the writers shoes, they should be feeling the writers journey through varied emotive states.
  • Study how successful writers have used the "first person" and learn from what they did.

The writing should take the reader on a journey of twists and turns, perhaps making the heart race, then slow, evoking different moods and feelings at different points.