“You can not live your life looking at yourself from someone else’s point of view.”
– Penelope Cruz
First person POV indicates that the author is using autobiographical writing. Readers mostly see this in personal essays and memoirs. This is because these genres are based on chronological events that took place in real-time. Take a look at this example:
I stood on the balcony and watched the parade pass on the street below me. We waved to the mayor as he passed by, riding on the back of a Corvette.
What do you notice? The personal pronouns should stand out the most. These are the personal pronouns that are used when writing in First Person POV:
Subjective Case: I, We. These sentences can be used as the subject of a sentence.
I climbed the tree to knock down a coconut.
Objective Case: Me, Us.
He gave an apple to each of us.
Possessive Case: My, Mine, Our, Ours.
That rental car is ours for the entire week.
Using this POV in fiction has to be written with skill. Many writers use it when they have multiple characters that will each have a point of view within the story. This is often the case in time traveler stories, where one character time travels and the other stays within their original timeline. When characters are assigned this POV, it means that they are seeing events happen in real time. They do not have any past or future knowledge beforehand. The character usually does not have superpowers where they can read thoughts of other characters. It’s just as you would speak in first person POV with a friend.
So why use it? First and foremost, it helps to connect your reader with your protagonist. Your character’s point of view is most likely that viewpoint of your audience. This helps your reader root for your protagonist from the beginning. Your reader wants them to succeed and is staying up all night going through all of your plot twists.
But, at the same time, it puts a lot on the shoulders of your character. They are the character that knows the most about your story. This character has to be at every turning point of your book. They have to be witness to every major (and minor) event. The reader only knows as much as your POV character. Your character hasn’t any knowledge what’s being discussed on the phone unless they pick up another phone connected to it or clone the person’s phone.
In essence, this POV is going to limit your character. The character is still bound by physical limitations. When the character is not present, the reader is left out of the loop. Another disadvantage is that first person lacks authentic description. It’s much harder to show readers what the character looks like because the character is writing about themselves. This bends the writer, forcing them to think more creativity outside the box in order to jump over this hurdle.
Before you consider writing a first person POV novel, take a few sentences of your current work in progress. Change the POV to the first person. Read it out loud or have your computer read it to you. Next, move to an area of your manuscript where you describe your main character. Change it to the first person. These two writing exercises are going to make you stronger as a writer. If you don’t feel the writing is as strong or authentic, leave your story in the original POV. What you have is a good thing, but never be afraid to try something new!