The Pros and Cons of First Person Point of View in Fiction

The first person point of view in fiction is a very popular one, and with good reason.

Before I explain more about that, though, let me explain what fiction point of view means. (Or POV, as it’s often written, and even pronounced, i.e. like a word, pov, if you’re really cool!)

Every writer has to decide which character(s) is telling the story, and indeed if it’s a character at all who’s telling the story, or some invisible narrator. In other words, whose point of view is the reader ‘borrowing’ at any time? The reader will be ‘seeing’ the scenes and places described – well, through whose eyes does he/she do the seeing?

In first person point of view, the reader is ‘seeing’ the action through one character’s eyes, a character who describes what’s going on by saying “I”.

An example might be, I knew it was going to be a bad day when the dog got sick, the car got a puncture and my boss fired me.

In contrast, the same scene in third person point of view might be written as: Jane knew it was going to be a bad day when her dog got sick, the car got a puncture and her boss fired her.

The advantages of first person point of view are:

· It’s easy to write – we all live our lives in this viewpoint anyway, so it’s very natural.

· It’s very immediate for the reader. He or she finds it easy to get into this main character’s head and be absorbed in the action.

· It’s easy to get an intimate chatty tone.

The disadvantages are:

· It’s difficult to get the character to describe him/herself naturally, but yet it’s essential to do so, and early. And unfortunately getting the character to view him/herself in a mirror and comment on it has been done to death – it’s a real no-no these days. You’ll need to come up with someting more innovative than that.

· It’s too easy for your character to get overly contemplative and navel-gazing. By this I mean that he/she might well spend too long telling the reader what he/she thinks or feels about the situation, rather than narrating dialogue and action. Some of this is great – it’s what leads to the intimacy I listed under the advantages. But be careful not to overdo it.

· It’s difficult-to-impossible to include subplots. This means that the whole burden of the story rests on your main plot, which can be challenging.

· It’s impossible to include scenes that your character isn’t present for, and this limits what plot twists you can make, or means that you have to be very creative about giving your character a good reason to be at a scene he/she wouldn’t automatically be at.

Post time: 12-01-2017