Me, Myself and I: Writing First Person
Point of View
© Cheryl Wright –
All Rights Reserved
want to write first person - its easy,
right? Anyone can do it; at least thats
what everyone tells you.
person narration is becoming more and more
popular, and this is being recognised by many
publishers, including some romance publishers,
who are now open to submissions using this point
of view (POV). Silhouette Bombshell are one such
trick is to eliminate most of those nasty
I words that sneak into your prose
unnoticed. Just because the story is being told
in first person, does not forgive starting every
(or every other) sentence with I. The
alternatives are endless.
example: I glanced at the clock.
My eyes darted to the clock.
The constant ticking drew my glance toward the
the meaning is not lost, but that repetitive
I is gone.
time you start a sentence with I,
cross it out in red, circle it, or underline it.
Do this every time I appears on the
page. You will quickly tire of this no-win game.
(Heres your new mantra: nasty, nasty,
shortfall many authors of first person have, is
to make the reader privy to information not
possessed by the narrator. As with most forms of
writing, this unforgivable (and annoying) habit
can definitely be perfected with practice.
example of this could be:
as I entered the room, I landed heavily on my
knees. His gentle touch was beyond anything
Id experienced before, but all eyes looked
my way. I was blushing so profusely, he must have
thought me insane.
you pick the error? The narrator cannot see
herself blushing, so she cant describe it
to the reader.
yourself stepping into a room. It could be a
ballroom built in 1820. Notice the beautifully
carved ceiling. What about those magnificent
paintings, hung perfectly straight on the wall?
of course, you would have admired the chandelier;
it takes centre stage above all else, with its
two hundred tiny lamps and fifty crystal
did see the light bouncing off them, didnt
you? Of course you did!
you also notice the masked man coming up behind
you, a gun in his left hand, and a black bag in
you did, you must be my mother. As far as I know,
shes the only person in the entire universe
to have eyes in the back of her head.
lesson here, is that a first person narrator
cannot see what she cannot see.
Ive still not made it clear?
most important thing (or rule, if you prefer)
with writing in first person, is to visualise yourself
as the narrator.
in that doorway to the ballroom. Look down at
your Cinderella dress (if youre a guy, you
just became a transvestite sorry!), look
toward the ceiling, to your left, your right,
straight ahead. If you dont see it
through your human eyes, then my friend, it dont
exist. (Please excuse the grammar!)
writers love this POV, simply because if the
protagonist cant see it, then neither can
the reader. Its a legitimate way to hide
clues without actually concealing them. Until the
protagonist finds them, the writer need not have
any qualms about concealment.
some ways, writing first person is akin to
writing dialogue. By this I mean you dont
necessarily write dialogue as it sounds in real
life. First person, typically, is not written as
we speak it. If we did, most sentences would
start with I. Therefore, the trick is
to learn to turn the sentence about.
of: I am the happiest today that I have been for
Today I am happy, more than I have been for ages.
of: I leaned down and picked up a perfectly
The stone was perfectly rounded, and I leaned
down to pick it up.
Leaning down, I picked up a perfectly rounded
of: I was so hot, and the sweat trickled down my
Sweat tricked down my face, because it was so
Sweat trickled down my face.
The heat affected me so much that sweat trickled
down my face.
can be seen from the above examples, substitutes
use first person? It can evoke a stronger
emotional attachment with readers; from the first
instance, the reader connects with the main
protagonist. It is his/her voice, thoughts and
feelings being portrayed, therefore, this is the
person the reader is most likely to bond with.
person can be an extremely powerful tool. Below
are two excerpts both are the same story,
but written in two different
spun around as movement behind her disturbed the
silence. Her hands were sweaty, and her heart was
beating abnormally fast as she peered into the
dark interior of the room.
didnt mean to startle you. It was
Mason's voice. Kareena wiped her damp hands on
her track pants.
turned her back to him, staring out at the ocean
again. You have a beautiful view,
somewhere? he asked casually, glancing at
the bag slung over her shoulder. Mason slowly
stepped toward her. Kareena?
turned to face him, her bottom lip pulled in as
go -- please. He towered over her, and
looked down into her sparkling eyes.
Person POV (from Mason's POV):
stood at the window, staring out across the sea.
forward, my footsteps echoed across the room.
I didnt mean to startle you, I
told her, as she turned to face me.
rubbed her hands against her clothes. Anyone else
would have realised shed be nervous, but it
was the last thing on my mind.
turned toward the water again, then spoke.
You have a beautiful view, Mason, she
talk - she was just making small talk. Did
she think it would make the problem go away?
next to her, I noticed her eyes sparkled with
unshed tears. Kareena, dont go.
second piece is much more potent. The connection
between reader and narrator (in this case, Mason)
is substantially better than when it was told in
With only one side of the story being told,
Masons inner thoughts come through
stronger, more commanding. It elicits an emotion
that the first version does not. Its more
compelling, more gripping and convincing.
time you sit down to write, consider first person
POV, and whether it might strengthen the story
you are trying to tell. ©
author: Cheryl Wright
is an award-winning Australian author and freelance journalist. In
addition to an array of other projects, she is the owner of the
Writer2Writer.com website and the Writer to Writer monthly ezine for
writers. Her publications include novels, non-fiction books,
short stories, and articles. To keep up to date with her
publications and new releases, visit Cheryl’s website