Choosing to write your novel from the first person point of view (POV) confines you to a singular perspective for the duration of the novel. That has its benefits and its challenges.
- First person, the “I” voice, is the most intimate voice. Your readers find it easy to connect with the protagonist. They’re in that person’s head for the entirety of the book, after all.
- It’s easiest to be consistent with your voice when you use a first person POV. It’s never “your” voice, the author’s voice that readers hear; it’s always the viewpoint character’s. That can keep you from jarring readers out of the story by dropping authorial comments into the narrative.
- Your POV character must be where the action is, all the time. That can create plotting difficulties. Yes, your character can hear about an important event from another character, but that’s not the same as drawing the reader into the scene with the viewpoint character.
- The reader is only privy to a single character’s thoughts. Readers can’t be inside any other character’s head, so details about their motivations or feelings must be tangible; i.e., they must be expressed via action or dialog. (PS: That’s hard and sometimes takes a lot of words.)
- It is notoriously hard to describe the appearance of your first person POV character. Having them study themselves in a mirror, window or chrome toaster is clunky and cliché.
- It is easy to fall into the habit of telling, rather than showing. In other words, your first person narrator merely relates what is happening, rather than showing it. That can lessen reader involvement.
- You can’t have your character notice something she wouldn’t notice. (Or say something not in keeping with who she is.) Confused? Consider this: As an author, you might want to describe the beautiful Bokhara rug in a secondary character’s home. You want to use it to show that the person is rich, has exquisite taste, or something similar. But if your narrator is an 11-year-old boy, you can’t mention the Bokhara rug. He’s not going to know what it is, or extrapolate from its presence to comments about the owner’s taste or wealth. He might wipe his feet on the rug in the hallway, or ponder how much better skateboarding in the house would be if the rug wasn’t in the way, or something like that, but unless he’s got a similar rug in his house (possible), you can’t use him to reveal details about the rug or drive home its significance.
Do you write in first person point of view? If so, why did you choose that POV? How have you overcome some of its challenges? Come on over to Facebook and tell us!