When writing fiction, an author has to choose which point of view the story will be presented in. First person is the manner of telling the story from the view-point of one of the characters in the story. Interestingly, it is unnecessary for this character to be the protagonist or main character, it is only necessary that they are a participant in the action of the story line.
In First Person, the narrating character tells us the story in such a manner that it is strongly colored by their observances. We learn only what the narrator hears, sees and experiences. We would know nothing of the surrounding characters thoughts, and little of their motives beyond what can be deduced by our narrator based on observation. As an author, we would need to keep in mind that our narrator would not be privy to anyone’s thoughts unless the other characters voiced them aloud.
What is the advantage of writing in the First Person point of view?
There is an immediate connection to the story for the reader. Just as when we are listening to a person recount their experiences to us, the narrator puts us in the middle of the action as it happens. This tends to give a strong sense of life to the story.
The disadvantage to writing this way?
It can become very frustrating to the author because it limits the details that can be shared. The details that the narrator shares can only be things the reader would EXPECT the narrator to share. So the boundaries are set at what is within the mind of the narrator. We may only be allowed to experience that persons thought, pain, joy, anxiety and various other reactions to the full, while only learning the outside reactions of the other characters. This however, is a great tool to use when writing drama, mystery or suspense novels. It forces many secrets to be kept for greater length in the story, thereby preventing the reader from “figuring it out” by the halfway point of the plot. It allows for more twists and surprises, along with greater opportunity for discovery with regards to other characters within the story.
Popular stories written in first person include:
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
- Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (Told from horses point of view)
- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
- The Sherlock Holmes Collection by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was written from the perspective of Dr. Watson
- 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne
More modern writers who favor First Person include:
- Phyllis Whitney
- Mary Stewart
- Victoria Holt
Additional writers who have written some First Person stories are:
- Dean Koontz: The Odd Thomas Series and The Christopher Snow Series
- Wilkie Collins: The Woman In White and The Moonstone
- Ann Bronte: Agnes Grey and The Tenent of Wildfell Hall
So while perhaps more restrictive than Omniscient or Third Person, the point of view utilized in First Person can be highly effective and allow you to deliver your story in a way that absorbs your reader and keeps them guessing till the very end.