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Monday, April 14, 2008

Basic Point of View, part four

First person point of view is from only one person’s point of view, and it’s as if the reader is really inside the person’s head. You can use past tense or present tense.

Past tense:
Eat and leave. That’s all I had to do. If Grandma didn’t kill me first for being late. I raced through the open doorway to the Chinese restaurant and was immediately immersed in conversation, babies’ wails, clashing perfumes, and stale sesame oil. I tripped over the threshold and almost turned my ankle. Stupid pumps. Man, I hated wearing heels.

Present tense:
Eat and leave. That’s all I have to do. If Grandma doesn’t kill me first for being late. I race through the open doorway to the Chinese restaurant and am immediately immersed in conversation, babies’ wails, clashing perfumes, and stale sesame oil. I trip over the threshold and almost turn my ankle. Stupid pumps. Man, I hate wearing heels.

Many writers like using first person point of view because it feels more immediate, but it’s actually more difficult than it seems.

Writers need to master deep point of view when they use first person. Often, I see first person manuscripts that seem very distant from the reader, when it should be very intimate because the point of view is first person.

The manuscript also can’t simply be a long monologue of what the character is thinking—that’s boring. Too often, writers fall into the habit of too much narrative when they write first person and not enough dialogue and action.

Sometimes first person is also a bit limiting because the reader is never privy to any other character’s thoughts or feelings. A manuscript in first person has to be really well done to make the reader feel the other characters’ emotions without ever being in their points of view.

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