Writing In The First Person

When Fiction Gets Real!

What Scars Does Your Character Have?

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Full Member
Sep 25, 2014
'When one is writing a novel in first person, one must be that person,' - Daphne du Maurier.

du maurier.jpg

I wrote a MS in third person past tense.
I obtained feedback, re- wrote it in the first person, present tense.
I obtained feedback, re-wrote it first person past tense. Occasional present tense - eg dream sequences.
Aha. I like this best and I'm sticking with no, no matter what the feedback.
It's limiting in some ways but liberating in others.
'You' may be an unreliable narrator, but that's for the reader to decide.
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I've written four books in first person present tense now and I loved it. SO intimate and immediate. The trick is to be careful with "I" statements, but then it's the same concern when writing in third person past tense. You need to be careful not to start every sentence or paragraph with a pronoun. Some stories simply work better in certain tenses.

I never thought I'd enjoy reading first person present tense until I started reading The Hunger Games trilogy. I was pulled right in. When it's done well, it's just as engaging as any third person story.

One of the craft challenges I enjoyed while writing the books in first person (and all four were written from the heroine's POV) was to make sure my readers knew the hero just as well, through the eyes of the heroine. More difficult to do when we only have one half of the couple's POV, but that's part of what I loved so much about writing it. :)
I'd never dismiss a book on the basis of tense or POV. I'm hard to please, getting harder to please I think, as a reader, but I'll read novels written in any person, any tense, if the writing's strong and the story interests me enough.

'Call me Ishmael.'

And with first person, It's perfectly easy to avoid the 'I, I, I, effect' isn't it? Just as with he,he,he,he, or she,she,she (I'm not doing 'ze'. Not, not, not)
No need to have them look in the mirror either, to find out what they look like. So much can be inferred through interaction and response.
There was a time when I would actively hunt books written in the first person. I love the escapism of it. Now I'm not so picky - I'll read anything that hooks me in.

That said, I used to find first person present (I walk down the street vs I walked down the street) quite jarring, especially in novels. However, I've recently read a couple of books that have done it exceptionally well - so I've been inspired to use it more often.

I've also realised while writing this that almost all of my short stories are written in the first person.
I wrote my trilogy in the first person, past tense, but recently while editing the second book, and not feeling it was moving and flowing the way I wanted it to, started to rewrite it in first person present tense. I love it; I love the immediacy, the sense of really *being* there, it's punchier and faster. I am seriously considering rewriting the first in this tense too. It really fits, I feel. And like you @Katie-Ellen Hazeldine , I have the occasional change of tenses (memories/dreams) and like how that works, changes the pace and rhythm, makes it interesting.
I'm nearing the end of my current WIP (written in close third) and thinking it would be better in first person. I switch POV between two characters, alternating chapters in alternating voices, and I'm thinking that those changes would have more impact if it were first person. I'm not always a fan of first person, but certain stories call for it.
Anyone ever written in second person, beyond short stories?

There's a pretty famous essay/short story you can find on the internet written in 2nd person. It's about how to be a writer. You can find it if you dig a little. It was written by Laurie or Laur... something.

Second person sounds accusatory to me. I don't think it's sustainable or useful for anything longer than a short story. I don't think it's that useful for a short story most of the time.
P.S. I like the use of the word Become in the title. Usually ... not such a good idea to use become or starting or beginning ... but it communicates the theme of the story pretty well. The writer in the story is always becoming a writer.
I dipped into it, more than once and it's got plenty of rave reviews so I feel I should, if only to find out more. But something repels. Or the absence of something repels. I just haven't been able to work myself up to dive in there @Amber

'It is a fabulous fin-de-siecle feast for the senses, and a life affirming love story.'

Maybe it's the circus. Maybe it's the fin- de- siecle setting. Or maybe I'm the living dead and don't want life affirmed.
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When Fiction Gets Real!

What Scars Does Your Character Have?