POV talk: first person

There are many POVs with questions surrounding them. I want to break them all down and discuss the biggest concerns in different posts. Today, I’ll talk about first person POV.

FIRST person

First person is intimate between the reader and the main character (MC). You get front row seats through the MC’s eyes. It also brings up a lot of questions too about how self-aware, trustworthy, and reliable the MC is.

Growing up, I found this POV to be the most common one, but now that I’m older, I find it hated at times. I’ve seen writers—even myself—weary about writing in it.

Most of the time, the hate is from all the I statements though.

How to write in FIRST person without so many i statEments?

This is hard to do, but I’ve found the best way is to use actions—but not the MC’s actions. Use the actions of what moves around the MC.

For example:

I bend down as I walk into the next room. The chandelier hangs a few feet above a long, curved table. The homeowners should replace it though since not much light pours out from it. Probably why it’s so close to the table to begin with.

Darkness surrounds everything else that isn’t the crooked table. I can’t tell how huge the room is, but it doesn’t feel too big. The hardwood floors creak underneath me.

My mind screams that I should leave, but my feet take a step forward instead.

So, it’s framed as the chandelier is hanging low rather than the MC looking at a low chandelier. It pulls movement from everything else and leaves the I statements for the MC’s actions and thoughts.

What books are usually in first person?

The first one that comes to mind is young adult, which is filled with first person. Middle grade, picture books, and other children’s genres also use first person often. Younger audiences enjoy connecting with the MCs this way.

Does this mean that only those genres can be in first person? I don’t think so.

Books break barriers and rules all the time. It’s all a part of experimentation and the creative process.

How do I spice up FIRST POV to make my character interesting or stand out?

A lot of characters—especially in YA that I’ve seen—are almost cookie cutter. I could take XXX from one series, change their name, and pop them in another book, and ta-da! They’re the same.

These stereotypical characters are popular but not necessary. You can develop your character in many ways.

Is your MC self-aware of what’s going on? Perhaps they only see half of what’s going on or only through a small lens. Does your MC not trust many people, so they don’t trust the reader as well? Is the MC reliable or a liar?

One big tip is to make your MC have a weird quirk that makes them stand out. What are they addicted to? Cleaning? Video games? Do they have a specific type of tea every morning? Do they always bring the conversation back to salamanders?

If first person is done well, it works. Don’t change because a beta or two dislikes the POV you wrote in. I’ve changed my first person novel before because a beta advised me to, and it’s my biggest writing regret. A couple years later, I changed it all back.

Hope this helps! If you have any questions, leave a comment below!

Click here for POV talk: SECOND person.
Click here for POV Talk: THIRD Person.

7 thoughts on “POV talk: first person

    1. Yes! I’ll be doing a longer post on it soon. I don’t have a specific date for it yet.

      For third person, I recommend having a strong voice in your writing. It’s true that you want to stay neutral in all POVs—if there is multiple—but readers get more immersed the stronger the voice. So, having moments like: “Lucy’s phone buzzed. Ugh. It was Trevor.” comes across well instead of: “Lucy’s phone buzzed. It was Trevor.”

      If you do third person subjective omniscient, which is a fancy term for telling multiple characters’ thoughts, be careful about head hopping. Head hopping back-to-back can confuse the reader. If you do head hop, it’s better to have one character per paragraph and stay in their bubble for a moment before hoping to another character’s POV.

      Do you have any specific questions about third person? I can answer those in the third person POV post.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Robin! I like your sample above, I can feel the difference. If you could include more samples in our post, that would be great! My main struggle is how to make strong voice and how to differentiate the characteristics of each character if someone else is narrating. Like how to give justice on each character.

        I’ll be waiting for your next post! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Gotcha! I’ll make sure I go over that! I might make two parts for the 3rd POV one since there are different types of 3rd POV, and the draft I already have is getting pretty long.

          I’ll let you know when it posts!

          Liked by 1 person

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