This week: First Person Viewpoint (I Prevail) Edited by: Dawn Embers
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|For Authors Newsletter by Dawn|
A look at the first person point of view. How writing with "I" in mind can be interpreted as fictional or even so realistic it must be from personal experience.
|I have to admit, I am not a big fan of first person point of view. As a reader or a writer, I definitely have a preference. Third person, limited viewpoint written in past tense with clear indications when there is a change, even done in separate chapters, so I know when there is a shift in focus. But that doesn't mean I never write in first person and I've read plenty of books, short stories and poems as well that are told with "I" instead of a character. Here are some of my thoughts and what I have observed when letting the I prevail in a story:|
1. Limited Viewpoint
It might be a little easier to avoid head hopping or jumping around between different character's thoughts, emotions or their situations because you most often can't do that in first person. You have the one character (in the moment at least) and you get the story in their view but nothing else. The story is written in a way so that "I do this" or there is dialogue but it's heard through the main character because we are full on in their heads as readers. However, it's also something that can be a challenge because we only get the one view. It's easy to make a slip, to show an emotion or have some fact come up that the main character doesn't really know. You have to think about what gets said, what gets interpreted and what is known when writing the story or even poem while keeping the writing strong. Too many "it seemed" or "I guess she thinks" will start to pull down on the quality of the sentences.
2. Up Close and Personal
Since the reader is very much into the main character's mind, this gives an up close and personal experience. For some readers, they feel more connected with the character and their story because of the point of view. Young adult books and middle grade are often done in first person, for example. Many of the young and older readers alike prefer the insight into the story, feeling that they are pulled into the world of the character through the text by the method of viewpoint. Not every reader feels that way. In fact, some feel less of a connection when reading first person compared to third with the characters/story. There is one books that I didn't finish that got put down after a few chapters because by that point I still didn't know the main character's first name. If it was mentioned in the first chapters, I missed it because I even skimmed back and couldn't figure it out. Even if I'm in the viewpoint, for a long story, I want to know the name. Poetry has its own allowance so that's a little different.
3. Writing What is Known
Because the character is giving a very specific perspective and the story (or even poem) is written through the use of I, it is often interpreted or expected to be something the writer really knows. The old adage or rule comes to mind that people often write what they know. It helps, when trying to follow that approach, to use first person because it gives that assumption of experience. If we are keeping it to the viewpoint, then we are seeing things the characters knows. Whether it's reliable or not, well that's a whole different ball game. However, as readers we have to also remember that just because it's in first person (and/or just because it's a poem) doesn't mean it's based off any personal experience. Some of my reviews over the years have interpreted poems and flash fiction pieces as some type of narrative or creative nonfiction. The comments come back about how they hope that I got out of the abusive relationship, or it's great my kids see their grandparents. Then there was the difficulty to make friends due to being intersex and struggling with emotional/social dynamics. And recently, how fun I must be as someone who makes terrible jokes that I over explain, listen to polka through speakers on a treadmill or stand too close at urinals.... So, I write poetry and flash fiction first person based on things I don't have experience but the readers seem to think other wise. I just am guessing it is proof the writing is good enough for them to think it's real. Yeah, we'll go with that.
Overall, first person point of view is a matter of personal taste and depends on what works best for each story or poem. However, whether it's your cup of tea or not, it doesn't hurt that much to try. If you don't often write first person, give it a go. Let the I prevail and see what you get. Then you can rewrite it in third if that's what you prefer. Have fun!
| ||Sentinels (E)|
Prologue to a modern day young adult fantasy from a first person perspective.
#2285236 by A. Young
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|What are your thoughts on first person? Does it come off more personal or make it difficult to connect with a character?|
A couple of months ago, I wrote about dialogue in the For Authors Newsletter. Here are some comments sent in response to the topic and/or the question posted at the end.
Comment by Queen NormaJean May God begood
I like to write dialogue. Write then read aloud. Think of who the character is, the quirks, the ethnicity. Then, always, read it out loud.
Comment by Monty
I appreciate this N/L recognizing Poets as Authors. Does not seem to do that often.
Comment by AmyJo -May's here already!!
Thank you for the encouragement. I've been working on some dialogue entries, and while I haven't gotten it down yet, I think I am getting better.
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