First Person POV Definition: The main character narrates the story, using “I” and “we” pronouns.
Just about every writer knows what first person point of view is, and if you’re an avid reader, then you have read many books in this POV.
First person allows the protagonist to speak directly to the reader. The reader can enter the protagonist’s head, and the relationship between the character and the reader (and the writer) is quite personal.
Many writers are drawn to this POV, though before picking it for your novel, there are some considerations.
First person is the most personal, intimate POV. After all, we’re right inside the main character’s head. First person allows us to build a connection with the character and a desire to follow his or her story. The reader always knows the protagonist’s feelings, even if the protagonist doesn’t reveal them to the other characters. Readers experience unfiltered emotions.
First person is the best if you want the reader to have an intimate connection with your protagonist, though in order for first person to be successful, your protagonist must be fully DEVELOPED and FLESHED OUT. If the character is boring and flat, the reader won’t care.
This POV is also the best at getting the reader right into the story. Many readers pick up a book to escape reality, and with all those “I” pronouns, it’s easy for the readers to pretend they’re the protagonist facing the story.
First person is also the easiest to experiment (note, I said experiment, not write). If you’re a new writer, writing in first person and focusing on only one character will help you discover your voice and style.
The protagonist cannot reveal anything that happens without his or her presence, so first person limits the story. If the protagonist can’t see, hear, touch, smell, or taste it, it can’t be included. Your main character also can’t know or reveal the unspoken thoughts and feelings of other characters.
You also can’t always trust that the protagonist’s account is 100 percent accurate. The main character could misinterpret another person’s intentions or an important detail, though there are some stories where the protagonist is NOT suppose to be a reliable narrator (which can make for an interesting story).
Problems That Occur When Writing in First Person:
A problem that arises when people write in first person is the tendency to tell rather than show. Writers fall into the trap of info-dumping and analyzing everything to explain what is happening instead of showing what is happening.
Too much inner monologue can be a problem also, as it slows down or stops the story. The protagonist can trail off, focusing too much on emotions or details rather than plot and conflict.
Another problem that occurs in first person manuscripts, and this is a problem for memoir writers too, is unvaried sentence subjects, particularly repeating the subject “I”. Too many “I” and “me” will make the story redundant, dry, and make your protagonist sound narcissist.
Describing your main character’s appearance is tricky in first person too. Many writers result to describing their character through a mirror (don’t do this! It’s clichéd!). Some also don’t establish who the “I” is within the first few pages of the first chapter. I have seen too many manuscripts where I don’t know who “I” is until much later.