Writing Do’s and Don’ts: First Person POV

wdd

Writing from First Person Point-of-View (POV)

Picture Source: serc.carleton.edu
Picture Source: serc.carleton.edu

Many people prefer to read and/or write in first person POV. I love both reading and writing in it because it makes me feel like I’m right in the character’s head. However, it only works well when the author knows their character well. Writing in first person can be a challenge. Here’s some tips to keep in mind if you want to write your story in this POV.

DO:

1. Write the story from the view of your main character(s). Use terms such as “I”, “me”, “us”, “we”, “my”, and the like. Below is an example of how first person is different from other point-of-views.

First person: I looked up.
Second person: You looked up.
Third person: She looked up.

2. Show More, Tell Less.

Instead of your character saying how they feel, describe it.

Telling: I’m so angry.
Showing: Letting out a scream of rage, I slammed my bedroom door.

3. Make sure other characters remain interesting.

Since first person limits your reader to your main character’s head (unless you are doing more than one character POV), sometimes you may forget that your other characters need to be likable, relatable, or at least interesting. It’s easy to get so involved with your main character that the rest of the cast seem dull.

DON’T:

1. Write outside the POV of your main character(s).

Unless your character(s) has the ability to read minds, they cannot know what other characters are thinking.

WRONG: I looked at Amy. She was thinking about Tanner.
RIGHT: I looked at Amy. From the way she sighed and smiled dreamily, I could tell she was probably thinking about Tanner.

2. Overuse “I”.

First person writing limits to how you can describe your character, but that doesn’t mean that you have to overuse “I” or start every sentence with it. Take a look at the below paragraph.

I woke up starving the next morning so I got up quickly and went downstairs to fix some breakfast. I made some scrambled eggs, sausage, and toast. I poured myself a glass of OJ and then I piled my plate with food before plopping down in front of the TV. I munched on a piece of toast as I turned on the TV and changed the channel.

Notice all the “I’s” yet? There’s seven. Now, I’m going to re-write this paragraph and try to cut down on some of the “I’s”.

As soon as my eyes opened the next morning, my stomach began to angrily grumble for food. I hurried downstairs and made myself a breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, and toast. After piling my plate with food, I poured myself a glass of OJ and plopped down in front of the TV. Munching on a piece of toast, I turned on the TV and changed the channel.

See how much better that sounds without all the “I’s”? Only three this time.

3. Write things from your character’s POV that they wouldn’t really know.

This kind of goes along with the first don’t, but isn’t just limited to characters.

What are your thoughts concerning first person? Do you like reading and/or writing in it?

jncahill_name

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4 thoughts on “Writing Do’s and Don’ts: First Person POV

  1. This is a great list for those who naturally gravitate toward first person POV. I know I do, but I am an emotionally expressive writer who really concentrates on the feelings of my characters.

  2. Thanks for posting this. One of my writing projects is a novella in first person, and I am really struggling with the overuse of “I”. First person is just not something I have a lot of experience with. Your example there is a good one, and it should help me quite a bit.

    1. I hope it helps! First person can definitely be a challenge if you’re not used to writing in it. Hope your writing project goes well. Grammar Girl is a great writing resource as well.

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