Character Creation 102: First Person

Welcome to the RADblog! I hope you all enjoyed the last two months with Tammy—I know I had a lot of fun finding out more about her and the many lives involved in writing.

Now, you’re stuck with me for the next two months. Mwahaha! No, but really, we’ll have fun.

For the month of September, I thought we should take some time to go back to those pesky characters we discussed back in May and June, only this time, I think we should discuss how to write from them, instead of from you.

Character Creation 102: Point of View

Point of view is one of those tricky things I know a lot of writers struggle with, especially early on in their writing careers. We tend to just pick a POV and stick with it as long as we possibly can, in the hopes that it’ll work perfectly for every story we write. Problem is, there are three unique points of view, and each one is used in specific circumstances. We can’t only be good at one, in this day and age. We need to be proficient in all three.

First Person:

In the Mind of the Hero

I know, I know, you can also do first person in the mind of the villain, or a minor character, but it’s usually better if you stick with first person through the mind of the hero. At least to start.

But what is first person?

You might be tempted to say that this blog post is written in first person, but in fact, you’d be wrong. This is written in a combination of first person and second person, and it’s not a point of view I’d recommend for the average novel. In fact, most readers really don’t like when novels slip into the sort of word use I’m using here.

No, first person is constant use of the words “I,” “me,” “my,” and any variants thereon. It’s a point of view that’s completely defined by the character you’ve chosen as your lead character. It’s also a very close point of view, focused entirely on the narrator, with no ability to find out what anyone else is thinking, or see anywhere beyond where our first person narrator is currently standing (sci-fi and fantasy have ways of bending these rules, yes, but we’re not getting into that today).

First person narration is one many writers stick to when they first start out, because it’s easy. It’s usually fairly easy to read, it’s easy to write because we usually write things in first person anyway, and that makes it a simple go-to.

That also makes it a crutch. If it’s the only point of view you write in, then next week I’m going to challenge you to change that.

For right now, however, let’s talk a little bit about how awesome first person narrations are.

This, of course, coming from someone who has written an entire sci-fi novel series in first person, and who currently has a fantasy series involving a character with first person narration.

I love first person.

I do.

I love being able to get inside my character’s head, to understand them inside and out, to get deeper than I ever possibly could just by using third person. Better still, many readers love it too! I know a great deal of readers who love to immerse themselves in story, and for whom doing so is easier with first person narration. It allows your readers to really see what’s going on in your story, to truly be a part of it, because now they get to embody the “I” character, the first person narrator, the hero.

They get to fight the battles your character fights, to see the story unfold through their eyes—and that can be a really beautiful thing.

If you’ve never written in first person, then I challenge you to do so. Write something in close first person narration. See what it’s like to really get inside your character’s head, to live as them for this story.

You’ll understand them far greater, because you won’t just be writing them—you’ll be them.

But how do you know if a story should be written in first person?

That’s easy. It should be written in first person if your narrator tells you it should be. More on that at the end of the month. ;-)

Rani Divine
Associate Editor, etc.