Writing in first-person point of view (POV) can be a powerful narrative technique that lets readers experience a story directly through the protagonist’s thoughts and emotions. Here are key ideas and techniques to master this narrative style.

Synchronize Information Revelation

First-person POV confines the information flow to what the protagonist knows, presenting a unique challenge for writers.

Tip

Synchronize the revelation of new information with the protagonist’s discovery. This ensures readers experience the same surprise, confusion, or realization, making the narrative more engaging and cohesive.

Example

In Premeditated Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce, the narrator’s surprise is shared with the reader, enhancing tension and engagement.

“FPG (First Person Gaming)” by Luke Hayfield Photography is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.

Integrate the Character’s Voice in Every Line

Maintaining a distinct and strong voice throughout both dialogue and internal thoughts can be challenging.

Tip

Ensure the character’s personality and perspective shine through in every line, whether they’re describing the environment or their internal monologue.

Example

Dan Stout’s Titanshade uses unique phrases and perspectives that keep the narrative tightly tied to the protagonist’s viewpoint, making the world come alive through their eyes.

Vary Sentence Structure

Avoiding monotony in sentence beginnings, especially those starting with “I”, is crucial.

Tip

Mix up sentence structures by referencing time, place, or actions without heavily relying on “I saw” or “I heard”.

Example

Winter Loon by Susan Bernhard effectively varies sentence structure, creating a narrative that flows naturally and remains dynamic.

Balance Internal Reflection

While internal thoughts add depth, they can also slow down the story’s pace if overused.

Tip

Make internal reflections relevant and concise, ensuring they add depth without pausing the action for too long.

Example

In An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, thoughts are brief and italicized, providing necessary context without halting the story’s momentum.

Begin with a Protagonist’s Belief or Opinion

Jumping into action or dialogue can sometimes feel abrupt.

Tip

Start your narrative with a protagonist’s belief or opinion to introduce their voice and frame their worldview, smoothing the transition into the story and grounding the reader in the character’s perspective.

Example

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby starts with Nick Carraway reflecting on his father’s advice, immediately giving readers insight into his worldview and setting the tone for the story.

Considerations and Pitfalls to Avoid

Limited Perspective

Only reveal what the protagonist knows or observes. Readers can’t be privy to external information that the protagonist wouldn’t realistically know.

Character Consistency

Maintain a consistent narrative voice for believability. Character depth and development should be clear and progressive.

Engagement and Pace

Balance reflection with action to maintain reader interest, avoiding overindulgence in internal monologues.

By employing these tips and avoiding common pitfalls, writers can craft compelling first-person narratives that captivate readers with an intimate and immersive storytelling experience.

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