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when I'd use 1st person : Editor's Notes #129
August 31, 2012

First-person narrators
is the way I know how to write a book
with the greatest power and chance of artistic success.

--Ann Rice

In this issue:

1. First person POV
2. Tickled my funnybone
3. Interesting Web site

1. First person POV
Today we start our closer look at each of the three main narrative modes or points of view (POV) with first person.

In first person narration, the story is told using the pronouns I, me, my, we, us, and our. The narrator is a character in the story. The story is often told as a stream of consciousness and shows the narrator's thought process.

First person is used a great deal in young adult (YA) fiction as well as in memoir, autobiography, and travelog, and when the writer wants to focus on the internal life of the narrator. Some writers capitalize on the fact that the narrator knows things that no one else in the story knows.

Strengths of first person POV
  • Lends itself to present tense
  • Shows the inner view of the narrator
  • Gives a sense of total access to the narrator
  • Can sound like a friend telling a personal story

Weaknesses of first person POV
  • Telling rather than showing
  • Difficult to give a physical description of the narrator
  • Cannot tell what is inside anyone other than the narrator
  • Cannot show the actions of others unless the narrator has witnessed or heard about them

Examples of first person POV
  • The Sun Also Rises (Hemmingway)
  • A Rose for Emily (Faulkner)
  • Gulliver's Travels (Swift)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
  • The Lovely Bones (Sebold)
Note that in The Lovely Bones, Susie is something of an omnipotent third person narrator who can see everything from Heaven. This is a twist on what readers expect from first person stories.

Many thanks to Pam Harris who sent in the results she got when she took the challenge of switching POVs from first to third person in a section of a Stephen King novel. She says, "My feeling on this particular book [is that] the ability to feel the main character would be lessened by writing in third person POV."

The POV challenge continues throughout this series. Let me know what you learn from making the switch. See


2.Tickled my funnybone
Osteopornosis : A degenerate disease.


3. Interesting Web site
This one is for the Canadian writers among us.

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