Saturday, September 15, 2012

Saturday So What: 1st Person POV Pitfalls

So for this week I have been cleaning up and tweaking my YA Fractured Oz fairy tale, House of Emerald. An agent requested a full manuscript, so I wanted to make sure it's my best. But one of my beta readers noticed I had fallen into the 1st person trap. Now I have to go back through and dig myself out of it.

One of the reasons that YA and mass market adult fiction has turned to 1st person POV writing (telling the story from the I point of view) is the ability to really get into your character's head. But there is such a problem of too much of a good thing. If you live in your head most of the time, the story can be slow. Or have difficulty progressing. Thoughts and feelings are great, but sometimes we rely on them to fill the book and nothing is there to push the action forward except thought. I thought today might be a good day to go to the market. It is much stronger if some outside force pushed your character along. Like her mom asking her to go. If your characters thoughts read as half of your written material, you're in trouble.

That leads me to another pitfall. It is closely tied to the above problem, and is often a cause. One is the loneliest number. If your character has no one to react to, to bounce off of, they have nowhere else to go but in their own head. You need sidekicks, or a lot of action happening to your character. If your MC is in their room lamenting, it won't be all that interesting.

The next pitfall is tricky. It's really tough to get around and one that many new writer's fall into. The narcissist. Since your writing all from one person's point of view, it's easy to structure a lot of your sentences with I verb ___. I felt sorry for her so I took her a loaf of bread. If you have a lot of I sentences in a row, it get super obnoxious. Try changing up the structure. Feeling sorry for her, I took her a loaf of bread.

The last pitfall to avoid is being likable. If we are spending a good amount of time with you MC and in their head, they can't drive us nuts. There needs to be character growth, but if you MC is whiny we may want to shut the book on her. They don't have to be good, just not annoying or somebody we can't stand. This is true in any POV, but especially true in 1st person. If you want a good example of an interesting likably unlikable MC, check out Dan Wells, I am not a Serial Killer.


  1. Really good advice! Those were things I hadn’t considered. I changed my WIP from third-person to first-person because I felt like I was having a hard time getting my MC to connect with the reader. I will definitely keep these pitfalls in mind as I continue. :-)

  2. I am just now starting to rewrite a 1st person novel. Thank you for the advice.

  3. I love writing in first person. It's writing in third person that I have a difficult time with anymore. Weird. I hope you get that contract!

  4. There are a HUGE number of problems with 1st person. My favorite is "I looked in the mirror. I have brown hair and blue eyes."

  5. Thats good advise... thanks for posting and for your help.
    ~Joyce P.



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