Writing In the First Person

I just read a nice article by Mia Botha The Pros and Cons of Writing in First Person at Writers Write. Mia feels there is no right or wrong in this question, but there are pros and cons, which depend on the writer.

I agree: full responsibility for deciding how to write the book lies on the writer.


On the one hand, it gives you as an author unlimited access to the character’s thoughts and feelings, but it also limits you in describing thoughts and feelings of other characters. Writing in the first person sets out the main character, opposes him/her to everyone else. It is up to the author to decide whether to allow this to happen or not.

In her article Mia notes, and this is a great observation, that writing in first person gives the author a deeper insight into the main characters’ thinking process, but at the same time, it limits the writer in a few other things: “your character can’t be everywhere and he can’t hear everything” and “your character shouldn’t be alone for too long,” and also it is necessary to “be careful of starting every sentence with I.”

I agree with every word of the article, I just want to add a few more. It must be the scientist inside me that is making me write this now, but- well, here is what I think.

As every other element of fiction writing, the choice of the story’s narrator must be reasoned. The one who tells the story shows the reader his/her world in a unique, individual way.

When an author finds a bright individual who can see the world in a very attractive (unusual) manner, plus if there is an event which causes a change in this person’s life, then it makes perfect sense to tell the story in the first person (remember Holden Caulfield from The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger?). in such case, the whole book aims to show development of one personality; all the world around this person exists to make these changes possible. Every scene takes place in this person’s mind, and the author must see with this character’s eyes as if they were his own. This is a very hard task, unless the author is telling a story from his own life.

If a story has many solutions and it looks like it makes full sense to show how different people (creatures) see the same chain of events, then the author sets a different goal: to show the world in its development, where people are just observers of its dynamics. Their visions are different, their lives move on, but the world remains unchanged. In such stories, the protagonist is still in focus of attention; his vision seems the most important, but the author would rather write in third person, because other characters’ opinions matter, too. The protagonist cannot be opposed to them, because he is on their side, he is one of them, and all of them are struggling against the antagonist’s power (take Neil Gaiman’s The American Gods, for example).

Well, this is the way I see it. The point is, there must be a reason for everything. Once you have decided to write in the first of in the third person, this is dictated by the core idea of your book, by the book’s mission.

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1 Comment

  1. Reblogged this on Golden and Gray.



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