This week’s video talks about one very important qualification that must be present in every first-person narration—and without which your story is doomed.
Video Transcript: First-person is a popular narrative perspective, among both authors and readers, since it allows the narrating character to directly address the reader by funneling the entire story through his head, using the pronoun “I”—as in, “I went dragon slaying that fateful day”—versus the third-person pronouns “he” or “she”—as in, “she went dragon slaying that fateful day.” First-person has the ability to pull readers directly into the story and create an unprecedented amount of intimacy between them and the character. It’s a great narrative technique, but it’s not without its pitfalls. In fact, I would go so far as to say authors should never use first-person—unless they’re able to meet one very important qualification.
So what is that qualification? Simply this: first-person narrative voices have to be special. They have to be unique. They have to dazzle. First-person narration is not just someone telling the story. It’s your main character telling the story. If your main character’s voice is flat or clichéd or lacking in oomph, readers will have no reason to think your character isn’t flat, clichéd, or oomphless—and why should they want to read a book about such a boring character? Third-person narration can get away with a much more generic voice, so if you find that your main character just doesn’t have an interesting voice, third is the way to go.
Of course, the next question is: How do you make your first-person voice interesting? Aside from creating a spunky, snarky, and generally opinionated character, here are a few things you can try. #1: Make sure you’re showing and not telling. “I went to store” is nowhere near as interesting as actually showing the reader the narrator’s experiences at the store. #2: Don’t fall into the trap of beginning every sentence with “I.” Mix things up, search for varied sentence structures, and find the phrasings that are unique to your character’s personality and lifestyle. Used wrong, first-person can ruin your story. Used right, it can take it to a whole new level.
Tell me your opinion: Do you prefer writing from first- or third-person?
Related Posts: Bring Your POV Characters' Voices to Life
Is Your First-Person Narrator Overpowering Your Story?
The #1 Factor to Consider When Choosing POV Characters
Story by K.M. Weiland