The Ins and Outs of First-Person POV

In his session “The Pros and Cons of the First-Person Viewpoint,” blockbuster novelist David Morrell took an intimate look at this hotly debated POV. by Jessica Strawser, reporting from ThrillerFest 2010 (New York City)
Author:
Publish date:

Blockbuster novelist David Morrell’s expert view, the biggest con of writing in first person is that it traps us in our own viewpoint (or our protagonist’s viewpoint). The reader can know only what we know as we come to know it, see only what we see. This can limit the means in which you can tell the story and have it still ring true for your readers.

Another con: When we select the first person we’re tempted to write as we speak. This can lead to undisciplined writing, potentially yielding rambling or flat, one-dimensional prose.

The tradeoff, though, can be authenticity. “There is no such thing as a third-person viewpoint in life,” Morrell explains. Which means you might say first person POV is the most true-to-life perspective from which to tell a story.

Another pro: First-person narrators can be unreliable narrators (and often the best ones are), leaving what happened open to interpretation—and, in the hands of a skilled writer, this can add amazing depth to a story, as evidenced so expertly in the best known works of Mark Twain and J.D. Salinger. Stories like theirs demand to be told in first person—in fact, Morrell points out they could not be effectively told in any other way.

His key takeaway? Write in first-person only if you have a compelling reason to.

Want to strenthen your character's Point-Of-View? Consider:
The Power of Point of View: Make Your Story Come Alive

Image placeholder title

Become a WD VIP and Save 10%:
Get a 1-year pass to WritersMarket.com, a 1-year subscription to Writer's Digest magazine and 10% off all WritersDigestShop.com orders! Click here to join.


Also check out these items from the Writer's Digest's collection:
Writer's Digest Elements Of Writing Fiction: Beginnings, Middles & Ends

Writer's Digest Elements Of Writing Fiction: Scene & Structure

Writer's Digest Elements Of Writing Fiction: Description
Writer's Digest Elements Of Writing Fiction: Characters & Viewpoint

Writer's Digest No More Rejections
Writer's Digest Weekly Planner

Writer's Digest How to Land a Literary Agent (On-Demand Webinar)
Writer's Digest Magazine One-Year Subscription
Writer's Digest 10 Years of Writer's Digest on CD: 2000-2009

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 25

For the 2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets write a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Today's prompt is to write an exaggerated poem.

Chow_11:24

5 Tips on How to Write a Cunning but Cozy Mystery Novel

Author Jennifer J. Chow shares her expertise on what makes a great cozy mystery novel engaging and thrilling.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 24

For the 2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets write a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Today's two-for-Tuesday prompt is to write a love and/or anti-love poem.

steal_vs_steel_vs_still_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Steal vs. Steel vs. Still (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use steal vs. steel vs. still on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 23

For the 2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets write a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Today's prompt is to write an explanation poem.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Upcoming Short Short Story Competition Deadline and Writer's Digest Turns 100!

This week, we’re excited to announce the upcoming deadline for the Short Short Story Competition, seven new writing courses, and more.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 22

For the 2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets write a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Today's prompt is to write a bird poem.

Sammons_11:21

Telling Our Family Stories: 4 Reasons Why It’s More Important Than Ever to Write Our Family Narratives

Nonfiction author Mary Beth Sammons explores the questions that cause us to learn more about our ancestries and what we learn about ourselves and each other when we do so.