Point of View: First Person

Although I have no statistics to back up my claim, I would rate first person as one of the two most popular narrative styles. Especially in contemporary fiction. Why is this? What about this style of voice makes it so appealing? To explain the draw of first person, you first have to know what first person is.

According to Wikipedia: First-person point of view is a narrative mode where a story is narrated by one character at a time, speaking for and about themselves.

This is the least distant of all narrative voices. By using personal pronouns like I and we, the author creates a direct connection to the character telling the story. In this case, the narrator is a direct participant in the action and usually, though not always, the protagonist. through this style, readers see the world as the narrator does. The clip is an example of first person narrative and the opening paragraph of my Prince Charming project (for now, anyway…):

I suddenly decided that the status of teenager was the worst punishment ever inflicted on mankind. No other state of being was so completely able to take care of themselves yet kept entirely dependent on their elders. One of my father’s favorite phrases was “Just wait until you have a daughter,” but if it were up to him I’d be strapped into a chastity belt and locked in a tower guarded by a fire-breathing dragon until I died. Sometimes I thought that would be a better fate than being so close to freedom I could touch it from the end of my six-inch leash.

Using this voice allows you to directly incorporate the narrator’s thought, feelings, reactions, and desires into the story, but it also entails dramatic restrictions. not only are you limited to the point of view of a single character, you are limited to their biases, prejudices, level of intelligence, physical capabilities, and everything else that makes them unique. You can only tell the reader things that this particular character knows or chooses to recognize.

Still, first person is a wonderful point of view and (obviously) one I use extensively. The ability to tell someone’s story in their own words is a powerful tool. It can help cruel character appear sympathetic, bring out the insights of an observant character, and employ the emotional magnetism of a character struggling through adversity. It can eliminate the need for direct, italicized thoughts and give the book a perspective it wouldn’t have had with an impartial, distant narrator. At the same time, you must be wary of the pitfalls and realize that not all characters make good storytellers, even if their tales are worth hearing. Luckily, that’s where the other points of view come into play…

See also: 
POV Overview
Second Person
Third Person Objective
Third Person Limited Omniscient
Third Person Omniscient

Excerpt copyright Erica Cameron

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.