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What is Writing in First Person?

Updated on February 29, 2020

From the eyes of the author...

First person writing occurs when the document/story is constructed to be read from the author's perspective. This writing style differs slightly from a narrative in the way that a narrative is not always given from the author's perspective, but we'll go into that in another hub.

The most vital aspect of first person writing is to present your story in a realistic fashion. Let's say I am writing a short story about training for a marathon from the first person perspective. I could successfully incorporate numerous details regarding how the training made me feel, my inner monologue regarding training, emotional trials and troubles, etcetera. It would be inappropriate for me to attach in this story things that I did not experience or perceive personally.

The most common mistake found within first person stories is overuse of the word "I." 'I ran to the door when the doorbell rang.' 'I picked up the phone and dialed the number for my best friend who I hadn't seen in weeks.' These phrases work within a first person context, however if you fill passages with I, I, I, you allow creativity to lapse and for your reader to get lost.

Turning a phrase, changing the format in which a first person view is given to incorporate other first person words (me and my, for example) you enable the reader to envision, from a near-omniscient point of view, the entire chemistry and composition of the character's world, life, and brain wave.

A first person shooter.  You see how the camera shows only what you, the guy with the gun, would see?
A first person shooter. You see how the camera shows only what you, the guy with the gun, would see?

Gulliver's Travels


The most consistent example of first person writing in literary history is Jonathan Swift's novel ‘Gulliver's Travels'. This novel is written from the point of view of the title character, and follows him through a four-part journey through fantastic lands and situations.

The novel gives the reader a close, intimate view in the personality and experiences of Gulliver, while at the same time spreading a powerful message of the author's satirical views on many subjects relating to the time. Through Swift's writing, we become one with Gulliver. This story was expertly written, and is the single most classic example of first person writing.

Dan Poynter gives some pointers


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