Hello everyone and welcome to the fourth installment of my Writing Styles Segment (Yay! I finally came up with an official name for it! WHOOT! 😀 ).
Today I thought it’d be fun to delve into First Person.
Out of all the styles, I think this is the simplest in that the rules are clearly defined and relatively easy to follow. Sort of. By that I mean there are two types.
The first is what is widely known and used Limited style that’s generally referred to simply as First Person. In this style, the narrator is the main character or focus of a chapter by using the pronouns I or we instead of he or she for the main character. We see and know only what they do (Similar to Third Person Limited). By narrowing the world view down to its simplest form, it allows us to become one with the character as they try to deal with whatever difficulties the author throws at them.
The biggest difference, in my opinion, from Third Limited is that we’re the character. In Third Limited, I look at it like we’re watching a TV show or movie, but in First Person, we are the character. Make sense?
Some fantastic examples of using this style are Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone Mysteries and Christopher Pike’s The Last Vampire or Thirst series. In those, we experience the world through a single character’s POV (Points of View) from start to finish.
Many feel that this style allows us to better explain our character’s emotions and thoughts while making the story more engaging.
It’s easy to understand how when we read something like:
I came to a stop at the corner at seeing Joe getting into the black sedan. What’s he up to? I wondered, before deciding to follow.
In this example, the character’s angst is felt right away, but we may gain the same feeling using other styles as well. It’s all about what we feel a connection to and what works best for us.
The downside is this can be frustrating if we want to use other characters’ POVs. In that case, the POVs are often switched by using chapter breaks. To signify the POV changing to a different character, each chapter is often titled with the character’s name. It’s a simple, yet effective way we can let the reader know what we’re up to. All we have to do is keep the voices unique and the POVs locked inside their heads. Not a problem, right? If it is, we then have…
First Person Omniscient.
Yep, there is an actual First Person Omniscient style, though it’s rarer than Third Omniscient.
In this style, the narrator continues to use the pronouns I and we to signify the main character, but he/she also knows everything that’s happening around them, including other character’s thoughts, feelings, etc.
The best way I’ve seen to describe this is by using the campfire story analogy. In this instance, the narrator often breaks through the third wall to tell us something we wouldn’t know.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Did she lose her mind?
If she had, it wouldn’t be the first time. Remember when I mentioned that time she ate her pet frog? Yeah, that was a banner day for sure.
Notice how the narrator addresses us? Just by putting that little bit in here and there is all it takes. The trick is not to do this to the point it becomes a distraction and takes our readers out of the story.
How much is too much? It’s a personal choice. As with everything we do, the final decision comes down to us as to what we feel does the story justice, but it’s important we work to hone our skill as much as possible and listen to our beta readers and editors when it comes to our usage.
When using any Omniscient style, it’s easy to become caught up in adding little tidbits like these every time we finish a scene of even a paragraph. More than with any other style, I think, it’s important for us to be able to step back and look at what we’ve written with an objective view. If breaking the third wall does nothing to develop our characters and move the story forward, we need to take it out.
Remember, keeping an open mind will serve us better than building a wall around us ignoring what others have to say if they’re trying to help.
Well, that about does it this week. Next week, we’ll close out this series by discussing writing in Second Person.
As always, if you have any thoughts or tips you’d like to share, please do so. I love to hear what’s on your minds. Also, if there’s something you would like to see a blog post about, let me know. I’ll see what I can do.
Until next time, my friends, let your imaginations fly!