Point of View – First-Person

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be discussing narrator point of views. This is also one of those decisions that need to be made when writing your first line of a prose. While you can lock down story beats and plot outlines, the point of view you decide on really fundamentally change how your story connects with readers. Entire books have been published that have simply been the same exact plot of an already-successful story, now told from a different viewpoint. And yes, they do sell!

So lets start with first-person point of views. Seems natural, I write this blog in first-person after all. This is when the narration takes place within a character’s mind. You see through their eyes and hear their thoughts. An easy indicator of this is the frequent use of “I” in the writing. Any autobiographical work will use this, or opinion pieces. As with third-person, there’s a plethora of first-person techniques to try out when writing.

Stream of consciousness, for example, is a type of first-person narration that attempts to translate how thoughts flow through a characters mind, rather than narrating a scene in a more traditional sense. Writers who employ a stream of consciousness often experiment heavily with syntax, grammar, association, and repetition to recreate a human brain. An example of all this could be something along the lines of, “I have not yet died, or rather, have managed to hang onto life for a little while longer. Alive, yes, alive as I once felt with a flu. Short of breath but still breathing. Damn, who could possibly find me here? My breath may not last long.”

Another way in which writers have uniquely employed the use of first-person is to have the readers follow along the thoughts of an unreliable narrator. While typically associated with insane or motivated characters out to prove their innocence, it can also be applied to anyone who views their actions other than what objectively occurred. The Telltale Heart, American Psycho, and A Clockwork Orange all make use of unreliable narrators to craft unique, layered storytelling.

Personally, I’ve really grown to enjoy the use of first-person, although its not my default setting. My story, Osprey, is done in first-person. It creates tension quite effectively as you can’t see any more than the character can, the narrator can only speculate what motivates others. Because of this, pieces, like novels, tend to swap narrators throughout in order to let the story breath a bit more.

Next week, I’ll write about the rarest point of view, second-person.

Keep turning the page,

Chris

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