Let’s talk POVs: 1st Person

All stories are told by someone and the POV or Point of View, is the perspective from which the story is seen and experienced by the reader. How the reader understands and engages in a story, is primarily determined by the point of view the writer chooses.

TYPES OF POV.s

There are three types of POVs. In this article, the 1st person POV will be featured. Look out for future articles which will feature the 2nd and 3rd person POVs

  1. The First Person POV

The first-person POV, told from the perspective of the narrator, brings the reader into an immediate and intimate connection to the story. Pronouns such as ‘I’, ‘Me’, ‘We’ or ‘Us’ are used. There are two kinds of first-person POV character: one that participates in the story and one that observes the story.

First Person Participant

The narrator in this instance, is the protagonist, the leading character in his story. He reveals his thoughts, but can only speculate as to what other characters are thinking or feeling. Examples of such 1st person participants can be found in:

  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  • Green Days by the River by Michael Anthony
  • A Tell-tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe

Advantages of 1st person participant:

  • Readers become intimate with the protagonist
  • Presence of being there in the story is strongly felt

Disadvantages of 1st person participant:

  • The reader is limited to one perspective. Where the protagonist goes, the reader goes so the reader has access only to the information this character knows
  • Thoughts and intentions of secondary characters are only what the narrator perceives them to be

First Person Observer

Unlike the first-person participant, the narrator is not the protagonist, but someone else on the outside, looking in – observing. Examples of such 1st person observers can be found in:

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Miguel Street by V.S Naipaul
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Advantages of 1st person observer:

  • This character can give the reader insight into the protagonist’s life and personality from a different angle, one that may help the reader to empathize with a protagonist who is not easily liked
  • Like the first-person participant, readers experience that intimacy with the narrator and the presence of being there in the story, is felt strongly

Disadvantages of the 1st person observer:

  • The perspective is limited to what the narrator sees or experiences
  • Readers can only know what the protagonist is doing when this character (1st person observer) is in the scene

Tips for using 1st person POV:

  • Work on character development. Whether you choose first-person participant or first-person observer, remember this is the character who connects readers to your story so create a character who is interesting. Do not over use pronouns. If most of the sentences, start with, ‘I did this’, ‘I felt this’, ‘I thought it should be this’, your character can appear egotistical which may be annoying to the reader. How can this be avoided?
Work on character development. Over use of pronouns can make your character appear egotistical.
  1. The character does not need to soliloquize everything he or she thinks, feels or hears. Find the right balance between character description and setting description. Use sounds or scents to create setting. Example:

Instead of: ‘As I stepped outside, I could smell the pungent scent of the Marigolds that grew nearby.’

Try: ‘The pungent scent of Marigolds filled the air outside.

2. Use body language to convey how this first-person narrator feels. Maybe the character is angry. He does not have to voice, ‘I felt angry.’ Instead use actions or body language: ‘slamming a door’,’ hitting a wall’, ‘eyes bulged with fury’… etc.

3. Allow another character to voice an opinion of the narrator. Example:

Instead of: I looked gorgeous in the red dress. The sleek cut accentuated my shapely legs.

Makes your character sound a bit vain, yeah?

Try: “Oh that red dress! You look gorgeous. Showing off those killer legs, eh?” Julie complimented as she joined me on the balcony.

  • Another tip is, use more dialogue and/or body language to convey the thoughts and feelings of secondary characters in the story, if you want readers to understand how secondary characters feel. Remember, first-person POV is limited so using dialogue or body language will help readers to connect with your secondary characters.

What other POVs are there? Look out for my next post where I write about 2nd and 3rd person POVs.

I’m Sherell Bernard… writer, editor here at Idle Sky. I’m also a book-collector, book-nerd, grammar-nerd and coffee-lover. I have been working with indie writers/authors since 2016 and I have a background in Accounting and 10+ years in Education. I love the English language and enjoy learning the etymology of words. I wish to use my knowledge, and my passion for English to help indie writers understand how to use words appropriately in fiction writing so that they will be able to create stories that are not only entertaining, but also well-edited.

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