To continue with my series on Point of Point-of-View, I thought I’d explore the pros and cons of writing your novel using the first person perspective. In this post I’ll lay out the strengths of using the first person point of view, and reasons why you might want to choose it for your book.
Again, using the first person point-of-view means the story is told directly through the eyes (and thoughts) of the protagonist. Whatever your main character sees, thinks, and feels, the audience is a part of. The first person perspective will use the pronoun of “I” and it will give the audience the experience of being inside the character’s head.
Five Pro’s to using the First Person Point-of-View:
1) Immediacy and Connection with the Protagonist. Because the audience is given the experience of being “inside” the protagonist’s head, there is a direct link between protagonist and the audience. Emotions don’t become filtered through the distance of a third person narrator, instead the emotions happen in the moment, as the protagonist feels them. As the protagonist reveals his/her thoughts and fears to the reader an intimacy and connection is created. It is as if the protagonist is confiding in the reader, telling them their innermost secrets like they would a best friend. A lot of young adult novels use first person for this exact reason, it creates an immediate connection with the reader.
2) Believably. Due to the connection created with the reader mentioned above, there is an inherent believability that is created through the first person perspective. In addition, a story told in the third person has a “narrator” and the audience (on some level) will always be aware that they are being “told a story.” The first person perspective breaks down that barrier and the reader has a sense that they are getting a direct account of the events from a primary source. Readers have a tendency to give a first person voice more authority when they hear it.
3) Helps to Develop Character. Since the only view-point of the novel is the protagonist’s the reader is able to spend a lot of time with one character and get to know them. The protagonist is directly telling the story, therefore the “voice” of the book is directly related to the voice of the character. The first person perspective allows for opportunities to show if the protagonist is funny, or philosophical, hyper, or laid back? The author has the choice to share these traits through word choice, sentence structure, and diction. In a way, the first person perspective allows the reader to see how the character thinks and experiences the world around them.
4) It’s “Easy” to Write. “Easy” is a misleading word. What I mean to say is that writing in the first person can seem very natural. Often it is the first instinct a writer has. After all, saying “I went to a movie. I thought it was good,” and using “I” statements relates to how we communicate every day of our lives. As one starts a novel, the first person perspective can also simplify the choices available. For example: it is usually easier for most authors to wrap his/her head around one character’s point-of-view than many. It is also a simpler way for the author to get “inside” the character’s head, and convey thoughts and emotions.
5) Creates a Clear Perspective or Filter For the Story: The choice for a first person point of view immediately tells the reader whose story this is. This establishes quickly who the reader should care about and root for. As every event of the story is told through the protagonist’s filter, the reader is able to create a context for events and evaluate the weight of those events and how they impact the character’s life.
It could be a good choice to tell your story in the first person point-of-view if…
- Your novel is an intimate character study.
- You want the reader to really understand the protagonist’s motivations/actions.
- You want a clear hero for your story.
- You want to create intimacy between the reader and the protagonist.
- This is your first novel, as it allows you to focus the story on one character.
- There are hundreds of other reasons to use the first person perspective!
Have you written a novel in the first person? Why did you choose that POV? What advantages did you find in using this perspective?