POV talk: 1st 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 1st person POV.

1st person

1st 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 1st 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?

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 1st 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 standout. 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 1st person is done well, it works. Don’t change because a beta or two dislikes the POV you wrote in. I’ve changed my 1st person novel before because a beta advised 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!

This was originally posted on my writing blog.

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