Detailed article on the advantages and negatives of writing in the first person.
If you are reading this article, you are probably aware that there are three styles of writing: 1st Person, 2nd Person and 3rd Person. Each, has their own advantages and weaknesses, and some are more commonly used than others. While many people are aware of what each type entails, some do not. So we’ll begin with a brief overview of what each style is.
This is the style we’ll be covering in this article. In this style the author is also the narrator, and they are writing about the adventure as though they were the character, not about their character.
Second person is probably the hardest of them. This is the author talking directly to the reader using terms such as “you.” While the most popular of this style are RPG style books, there are books that feature this way of writing.
The most common way of writing. This is writing about the character using names, as well as “he” and “she.” It is probably the easiest of the ways to write although there are varying types.
Some more detail about writing in first person
This way of writing is most certainly nothing like third person. You are not all-knowing, you can not say what other characters are thinking and you can only describe the world through that one character. Unless of course your main character is a telepathic mutant or God.
There are different ways of writing in first person. Dean Koontz writes as Odd Thomas who is writing a manuscript, while other authors don’t chose to do this. They just write as the character. Various advice has been given about writing as a character but the most popular advice is not to be clever with your words. You are writing as a character now, so if they (the character) are a ten year old boy they most probably wouldn’t use very difficult words. Darren Shan is a good example of how one would write.
The advantages and disadvantages
You can get away with a lot while writing in the first person that wouldn’t be possible in any other style. Mistakes are more acceptable, or variations of writing – especially if you were writing the diary of a young teen with dyslexia for example.
It is far easier to inject personality and emotion through the first person style, since you are writing as that person – unless you happen to be writing as an emotionless psychopath, which probably wouldn’t be a good idea – not if you want anyone to empathise with them.
It is more acceptable to write the thoughts of your character since you are them. This can be harder to do in third person, it might even make your writing lose its flow. You can weave flashbacks and memories and thought waves into your writing, in a more natural way.
As such it can be easier to develop a character this way and really get to know them (more personal) – as opposed to third person writing where you can easily be more detached. This can be useful in long and short stories. Mentioning short stories, using the first person in one of these can give it a more emotional and intense burst than third person would.
As the narrator you not only can tell a story and reveal emotions and the like but you can also lie directly. This can work its way into an extremely interesting story line, and an exciting character. This can produce amazing effects, especially when the lie is ridiculously obvious – adding much colour to a story.
This style is an immediate one, giving us a first-hand experience of the events. We are lead to believe this events since we only have that person to base our understanding on, rather than a multitude of characters. This makes the story more focuses, since it is from one direct point of view.
It is often perceived as harder to write in the first person than the third, and gives the perspecticive on one characters view of the world. As said before you are not all knowing and can’t delve into other characters minds – that is unless you’re writing as more than one person. This means there is little room to see another characters perspective. And this can lead to bias and an unreliable account.
One of the issues of writing in the first person is that “I” is used too much, and this lack of variation can make a piece feel over-bearing and dry and a picture not painted properly.
Due to the limited perspective the narrator is only able to say things they see, and hear. They can’t know anything for certain except what they see first hand, so the character must take an active part in the story if they are to be a reliable narrator.
Possibly one of the most important disadvantages of writing in first person is that it depends on the narrators/characters ability to speak and/or write.
Lastly because of the narrow view, and being unable to see other characters minds and reactions they can never find out how other people really view the narrator. They have only the narrators word and they could well be lying.
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