Points of view  for writers – first person singular

One of the first things an author has to do when setting up a story or novel is figure out the point of view.

Writing fuel!
Writing fuel!

There are all sorts – first person singular, third person locked (which is essentially the same thing, sort of), third person multi, and ‘eye of god’. Selection needs a good deal of care, because each lends themselves to slightly different styles of writing, and the author needs to figure out which of those styles is the one they want for the story.

Of all the possible viewpoints, first person singular is perhaps the easiest to use when it comes to creating a really distinctive voice. By nature, everything in it is the ‘stream of consciousness’ of the narrator – meaning the author can happily fill the text up with words typical of that character. You know:

Luigi pointed me out the back, and I wasn’t going to say no, so I pushed through that door at the end of his restaurant into an alleyway that stank of garbage, and I suppose it had always stunk that way even before Luigi began throwing his food scraps out there in protest at the city’s refuse charges. A cat scrammed. Just the other side of an old crate I found the body, some dame lying face-down and spread-eagled. I looked up into the rain and the dark. Four floors up there was a light and an open window, and that was when I figured she’d probably been on the roof. Sam, my boy, I told myself, Sam Shovel, it’s time to get climbing…

The fact that everything is the voice of the main character also makes it easy to deepen that character – to describe scenes in terms of how the character reacts to them (this is ‘deep point of view’).

The down side is that absolutely nothing can be said that the character wouldn’t have been able to see or perceive themselves. Although that can also be an up-side – especially when ‘hard boiling’ a detective story, because it’s a way of keeping the sense of mystery high.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015


2 thoughts on “Points of view  for writers – first person singular

  1. I enjoyed reading your comments on this, Matthew because point of view is something I always find difficult to keep to. A couple of years ago when I wrote in the third person a novel about the 1950s I kept getting the points of view mixed. I find 1st person narrative easier, but of course as you say, it can be difficult because you can’t say what other people are thinking … you can only show it in their actions. At the moment I’m working on an historical biography and I’m dying to show what the heroine is thinking. I can’t of course. I have to stick to the evidence which is a pain. Writing is not easy and people who say it is aren’t writers!

  2. As I may have said during an earlier discussion my current WIP is in first person. It has been an education as this is my first attempt using it As you stated, in some respects it is easier. But, it takes a little effort to make sure I don’t stray back to Eye of God views.

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