The Ultimate Guide to Master Writing in First Person Point of View

What Point of View Should I Write My Story or Novel In?

“What point of view should I write my story in?”, is a question writers often struggle with when starting a story or novel. It’s an important and very common consideration. For writers, this dictates how events & emotions are described, how characters are introduced, how the story is structured, how dialogue is formed, etc. For readers, it dictates the proximity to the protagonist’s personal experience.

What does it mean to write in the first-person point of view?

The consistent use of first-person pronouns, such as “I” and “we”, is what makes a piece of written work in the first-person point of view. Most often indicating that the protagonist/narrator is speaking about and for themselves. Through this, a writer can directly share the protagonist’s/narrator’s thoughts, experiences, opinions, and perspectives with readers. For both works of nonfiction and fiction writing in the first-person point of view has its perks, downsides, and best practices.

First-Person Point of View Pronouns

  1. I
  2. My
  3. Me
  4. Myself
  5. Mine
  6. Ours
  7. Us
  8. We

The Benefits of Writing in The First-Person Point of View

The first-person point of view allows you to bond with your readers on so many levels. With the protagonist/narrator speaking directly to the readers, there is much opportunity to form trust and rapport.

Protagonists Speaking From Experience Build Credibility

In the first person point of view, the protagonist/narrator can easily establish authority topics and situations in the story: Actively going through story events, the protagonist speaks from vivid experience.

Closeness To The Protagonist Creates Emotional Resonance With Readers

Being privy to the motivations, struggles, inner thoughts, and inspiration of the protagonist/narrator helps readers empathize and sympathize with the protagonist’s experiences. Being so close to the protagonist allows readers to build emotional connections that in turn make story events that much more impactful and memorable.

Room to Create An Authentic Protagonist That Readers Want To Come Back For

The first-person point of view is usually chosen for stories surrounding a single protagonist. This leaves so much space to loop in everything needed to make their protagonist well-rounded, dynamic, and authentic.

The unique characteristics and tendencies of the protagonist are what make them attractive, loved, hated, respectable, and relatable. As readers get front-row seats to their every reaction, perspective, and personal, motivation, the protagonist can easily be perceived to be a real person worthy of their attention and time.

The Use of First-Person Pronouns: Singular vs Plural Pronouns

The Use of Singular First-Person Pronouns

Singular Pronouns: “I”, “me”, “my”, “mine”, & “myself”

With a first-person point of view and through the protagonist, it is the writer’s responsibility to thoroughly take the reader through every experience as if the reader themselves are right there in the story: going through every relevant feeling, thought, perception, conversation, meeting, adventure, lesson, struggle, triumph, etc. The use of these pronouns naturally makes novel and story experiences intimate, and the ultimate goal should be to make these “experiences” translate effectively. It’s not ideal for readers to empathize with experiences that they can’t make sense of.

The Use of Plural First-Person Pronouns

Plural Pronouns: “we”, “our”, & “us”,

A sense of community full of shared experiences emerges between the reader and story characters when using first-person plural pronouns: It’s easy for them to feel a part of the group.

This can be seen in two distinct ways. “We”, the group made up of individuals: We can simultaneously refer to each individual of a group during a shared experience. “We”, the collective: We can also refer to a collective (type of persons) that share the same feelings, thoughts, and perspective (i.e. representing the voice of a generation, race, community, company, team, struggle, triumphs, etc.)

6 Types of First-Person Narrators

Throughout this article, you’ve seen “narrator/protagonist” and that’s because these two things intermingle in the first-person point of view. Sometimes the narrator is not the protagonist and vice-versa: The narrator could be the protagonist’s friend telling the story of her friend’s life.

With narrators specifically, there are ways 6 ways to write your narrator in the first-person point of view. Split into two approaches, the first section types are based on the reliability of the narrator’s account. The second section is based on how much the narrator knows.

The Reliability Of The Narrator

The Unreliable Narrator

A protagonist/narrator whose account the reader cannot fully trust. This can be because of things like bias, or age/maturity

The Reliable Narrator

A protagonist/narrator that objectively tells an account of their own or someone else’s story: An account the can reader trust.

Infographic showing the 6 types of first-person point of view narrators for writers and authors..

How Much The Narrator Knows

1st Person Limited

The protagonist/narrator doesn’t know everything about all story events, all character’s thoughts, feelings, and motivations.

First Person Omniscient

The protagonist/narrator knows everything about story events and all character thoughts, feelings, and motivations.

Central First Person

The protagonist/narrator speaks from their point of view for their own situation or life story.

Peripheral First Person

The protagonist/narrator tells another person’s story from their perspective.

5 Tips for Writing in the First-Person Point of View

Choose a Perspective & Be Consistent

If the first-person perspective is what you want, then choose it and stick with it. A consistent perspective keeps the reader engaged and healthily loped into story events. An inconsistent point of view is an easy way to lose a reader.

Avoid Overusing First-Person Pronouns

Balance is key, use your first-person pronouns effectively and avoid “I”-ing every move. using first-person pronouns too much. Every sentence doesn’t have to start with or include “I”, or “my”. Instead, use sensory descriptions to describe scenery and events: get to the point.

For example, if it’s already mentioned that the protagonist is en route to the store, you may not need to start the next scene with “When I walked into the store”. Instead, you can just write, ” In the dairy aisle…” or “The clerk at the counter…”.

Avoid “I”-ing every move. (“I walked”, “I took a step”, “then I sat”, “I drank then I ate”, “I thought”, “I feel”, etc.). Balance is key, use your first-person pronouns effectively and avoid “I”-ing every move.

Write An Authentic & Transparent Protagonist/Narrator

When writing the voice of your protagonist/narrator be transparent and authentic, and allow your readers to see them vulnerable. Write a human.

Avoid writing a robotic, indigestible, and overly superficial sort of character with these considerations

  1. Is this something a human would notice? (or your special type of character)
  2. How many things does the protagonist need to notice before it’s too much? (information overload or unnatural)
  3. How much does the protagonist need to know?
  4. Why does the narrator/protagonist care about this?
  5. How much ( appropriately) should the protagonist/narrator react to this?
  6. Why is my narrator/protagonist, thinking, dialoguing, or narrating at this specific time?
  7. Why? Why? Why? Question if everything about your character naturally fits into their archetype and profile.

Create a Healthy Distance Between The Protagonist & Setting

First-person writing often makes it easy for one to get lost in the story of the protagonist. But when the protagonist’s perspective is really small, the story can get claustrophobic. Include elements outside of the protagonist’s daily life or immediate focus to expand the setting and broaden the context.

This can be done with

  • Distant setting details and elements
  • Tertiary and extra characters
  • The protagonist’s interaction with their community and setting
  • Have the protagonist move around

If your goal is to have a small/restricted setting, really develop the setting through other elements: emotion, seasons, other characters, changing sensory information, light/changing time, undiscovered/ restricted corners, etc.

Consider What Does the Character Know?

Even though your protagonist/narrator is telling the story, don’t forget to consider what they, themselves, are supposed to know. As information and scenes develop for the plot, your protagonist’s knowledge, actions, thoughts, and conversations should equally develop: All of your protagonist’s inner and external development should align with the plot events.

The Answer To Our Burning Question…

To answer the burning question: What point of view should I write my story in?

That depends…

How do you want to present your character’s story? Should the protagonists tell their own story or should someone else? Is your character’s story best told by a reliable narrator/protagonist or by an unreliable one for an emotional pull?

Really think about how you want your character to do everything. Then, consider if the first-person point of view is the best way to portray that.

Don’t just be a good writer, be a great one!
Until my next words (on here that is),

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