In writing fiction, when to you prefer using first person - and why?
I have noticed that some writers on HubPages write in first person narrative, and this can be effective. If you have done so, why, and what are your experiences with that?
First Person is great for short stories, particularly when you want the reader to feel very close to the action. First Person is much more intimate -- it is one person imparting a secret to another. It doesn't always work, though. Sometimes, a story just plain NEEDS an outside narrator, an omniscient observer who can help to guide the reader, and possibly mislead for effect. In First Person, you are stuck in a single perspective, and you can only tell the truth. It's challenging, but when done right, makes for a great read.
I actually just finished a novel in First Person, one of the most challenging projects I've ever done, but well worth the time and effort in the end. I originally did it because the book was a NOir piece, and I felt that anything but First Person would not be true to the genre, but the rewards I discovered in writing it, along with the sheer challenge, were so plentiful that I enjoyed every painstaking moment of producing this book.
First person narrative is great for shorter pieces, because it makes it easier to draw in the reader, and character identification is instant. For a novel, there are some limitations that can be difficult to work around. Especially, it is hard to describe what is going on with other characters and events that the main character couldn't possibly know about. I have tried changing novel manuscripts to first person, but always ended up reverting back to third person, which I find more flexible.
Personally, I think that the 'limitations' to first person are just an excuse people use when they don't want to put forth the extra effort involved, or can't write in such a challenging style. It's possible to write in first person and have an unreliable narrator. Your character just has to be highly opinionated or not have all the facts. And even though it can add serious length to a book, you can simply choose to do first person with multiple characters' view points so you aren't 'stuck' in a single perspective. You can show whatever you want to show as long as you are willing to head jump and can pull it off effectively. And personally, I find that the most entertaining books to read are the ones that allow me to do my own thinking. As a reader, I don't need a guide to tell me what to think. And as a writer, I can use my characters thoughts and actions to show people what I'm trying to say.
I agree with Marturion. Writing in first person is extremely challenging and extremely rewarding. I love the intimacy you can get with first person, and I believe my current project would seriously suffer from a change to third person. The change might make it easier to write, but writing isn't supposed to be easy.
I chose to write my current project in first person because I wanted to show on a very intimate level what it's like to live with epilepsy. I will always consider writing a new project in first person. It makes writing more entertaining for me, it improves the quality of my writing (because I can get in touch with my characters more easily), and it helps me grow as a writer, which is my top priority right now.
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