Writing From the First Person Perspective

By Nicholas Klacsanzky

Hi everyone.

Regardless of whether you are a novelist, or major in short stories, you have probably at least once thought about which writing perspective would be better to choose for your narration–a classical third-person perspective, or a first-person one. Although both definitely have their advantages, today I’d like to quickly review the benefits of writing on behalf of a story-teller.

At first glance, the first-person perspective might seem to be slightly limited in capabilities (for example, you cannot describe thoughts and inner motives of other characters, if only your protagonist does not know about them); however, this perspective has its own merits.

  1. Strong connection with the main character. When you tell a story straight from a character’s mind, you make the audience feel more compassion for your protagonist and make readers feel the events described in your story are related to them as well.
  2. Character development. Writing the story from the perspective of your main character helps you feel them better. Both you and your audience have a chance to get to know the main protagonist better and make him or her more credible.
  3. Simplicity. It does not mean writing from the first-person perspective is easier; on the contrary, you are limited with what your character knows about his or her environment. However, this perspective also allows you to focus just on one character instead of many, and develop a more detailed and logical storyline.

Now, what you should be aware of when writing on behalf of the main protagonist:

  1. It may be tempting to start “analyzing” everything your characters gets involved in, or everyone he or she interacts with. Sometimes it can be necessary; however, if your protagonists reflects on the world around them too often, the story can become boring.
  2. You cannot make decisions for other characters. For example, you cannot say, “Doris did not want to go with me, but my charm and charisma did their job, and she agreed” (I know it’s an awful sentence). The motives and decisions of other characters should remain hidden to you, unless they decide to unveil them.
  3. Pay attention to your character’s behavior. Writing from the first-person perspective gives your audience a better understanding of your character, so readers will immediately feel when the protagonist acts in the way they shouldn’t, or cannot (like, when a regular office worker taken hostage in a robbed bank suddenly disarms a bandit and rescues everyone on his or her own).
  4. Not all genres are suitable for a first-person story. A romantic story, a drama, a detective story, a thriller, or simply writing about everyday life works great; however, action-packed narration with a lot of combat scenes should be written in a more “traditional,” third-person way.

There is much more to learn about first-person perspective writing, so I’ll definitely return to this subject again. So far, consider this post an introduction to an awesome topic.

Good luck!

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