First Person Dos and Donts

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Hi community of awesome, I'm Ava Jae and this is bookishpixie.

A while ago I had someone ask me if I could do a vlog on perspective dos and don'ts.

I write in first person most often, so let's talk about first person.

When writing in first person, here are some things you should and shouldn't do.

Don't start every sentence with "I".

Naturally, in first person, you're going to be starting a lot of sentences with "I" because

your character is narrating from their perspective.

But you do want to be careful not to start _every_ sentence with "I" because it gets

noticeable when you start every sentence the same way over and over and over again.

This is something you don't want to worry about when first drafting, but when you're

revising take a look at your sentence starts and make sure you vary them up.

Don't break from your point of view (POV) character's perspective.

This is something I frequently see in manuscripts I edit, especially in first person, where

there will be POV slips.

A POV slip is when something happens in the perspective of a character _other_ than the

POV character, _in_ the POV character's section.

So, for example, if in a first person perspective the character said, "Mom thought I was skipping

school again," and the parent hadn't actually said that, then that can be considered a POV

slip because the character can't know for sure that that's what their parent thinks.

You can easily fix this, though, by saying, "Mom _probably_ thought I was skipping school again."

By putting the "probably" in there, you're indicating that this is what your perspective

character _thinks_ their mom is thinking.

That isn't even the best example, but the point is you have to filter everything from

your perspective character, and your character can't know what other characters are thinking

and feeling without some evidence.

A better example, say your perspective character is turned away, and then the next sentence

says something another character is doing, that your perspective character can't see

because they're turned away. That's a POV slip.

So long story short, make sure you stay in your character's perspective at all times

in their perspective section.

Do integrate their thoughts and emotions throughout.

This is a frequent thing that I critique in manuscripts that I edit, because oftentimes

I'll find I couldn't really connect to the perspective character in large part because

I frequently didn't know what they were thinking or feeling.

This is important to remember in any perspective, but it's especially important in first person

because first person is the most intimate perspective.

The idea with first person is that you are in the perspective character's head, so _anything_

that they think and feel the readers should know about, unless they're deliberately hiding something.

But if the reader is reading a first person perspective and rarely knows what that character

is thinking or feeling, it's going to feel really distant and cold, and it's going to

be difficult to connect to that character.

And lastly, do remember that your narrative should sound like your perspective character.

Voice is important in all perspectives, but it's especially important in first person

because first person is voice.

In essence, in first person the character is speaking directly to the reader.

That means all the words and phrases that you use in your narration should be words

and phrases that your perspective character would use.

If you're writing a multi or dual-POV book, then the readers should be able to open up

to any page and immediately know which character's perspective they're in, just by

reading a couple sentences.

That's how strong and distinct each first person perspective should be.

While I was revising INTO THE BLACK recently I had a point where I wanted to make sure that

Kora and Eros's perspectives were distinct enough, and I actually ended up laughing at

myself because I realized very quickly it wasn't going to be a problem.

What basically happened is I was scrolling through my manuscript and I came across a

section where Eros describes something as an "ugly af predatory bird" and I started

cracking up because Kora would _never_ ever say that, and also she'd know the name of the bird.

Also he actually says it, I'm just censoring because I know my audience is a little younger here—hey guys.


That's an example of distinct voices and making sure that your characters speak the way they

would actually speak.

So that's what I've got for today!

If you liked what you saw, don't forget to subscribe and comment, and I'll see you guys next week!