Fear in Writing: I, I, I = me, me, me?

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I, I, I = me, me, me?

I used to write only in third person.  That made sense.  I was writing about other people, after all.

Lately, only first person seems to flow.  Is this a sign of my egocentric mind?  Does it mean I have become more self-reflective (as much as one can mirror one's own self, anyway)?  Or is it a glimpse into a need--to express myself, to dig deeper, to find...whatever pompous word fits.

On an intellectual level, I agree that the perspective of the writing should fit with the plot and characters.  (We last discussed this on my blog here, and its quite worth the click b/c of all of your comments!)  But on an emotional level, I seem to want to write from the word "I."
Now the question: Am I writing about me?

I am writing about murder.  I am writing from a male's perspective.  I am writing about twisted relationships and horrible death.


I am writing about journalism.  I am writing about Nashville.  I am writing about a character who has things that I want--urban living, freedom, respect at his job.

A twisted post this might be, but a truly self-questioning one, I propose.

Which POV calls to you right now?  Is it a reflection on your plot or yourself?  Am I a narcissist?  Don't answer that... ; )

*The first picture is a poster from Apr 27 1999 by the San Francisco Junior Chamber of Commerce, encouraging "citizens to be mindful of careless talk and to let the military speak for the nation" (PicApp description).  The description does not speak to my point, but I thought it was an interesting political tidbit worth knowing, and a little scary.


  1. Michele - As always, a very interesting question! I admit that I haven't heard the first person POV calling to me very much; I write in third person. But I know of many terrific authors besides yourself who do write that way. I don't think it's a sign of egocentrism. Rather, I think it's a sign that you are settling on the best way to express yourself and your story. To me, that's a good thing.

  2. I've always heard that writing mysteries is problematic in the first person, and my own stories couldn't be told that way. But most everything else I write (short stories) is from the first person POV, because it just feels more natural.

  3. I know I'm not exactly the best person to ask for insight on this, but I've always it depends on the kind of writing. We all put a little bit of ourselves into everything we do, so there's no shaking you're going to put I when you may mean otherwise. Besides, if it sounds right, I don't think the POV matters :)

  4. I was once given a piece of advice from a successful author who's name now escapes me. "Write in first person only if that is the only way a story can be told." the person went on to say that, if you take your first-person story and you are able to re-write using third-person, then third-person is what should be used.

    That being said, many great stories are written in first-person. The only thing to be extra specially cautious about, it not falling into telling the story from YOUR POV. The story then becomes closer to a memoir. It also limits your ability to put realistic flaws into characters. Who wants to talk bad about themselves, after all.

    Here's the kicker though, if your story becomes suspenseful or falls near the thriller quadrant of stories, then first-person may be the way to go. First-person can be done well and a great story can be told using first-person. Just be aware of the many pitfalls of using firs-person; especially if you are writing from very close personal experience.

  5. I've written in both. I tend to write my YA fiction in first person. It makes the story very intimate and real from that close pov. For my romantic suspense, I've written in third person. It just seemed right for those books. But I might change my mind. For now it works.

    There is a fine line while writing in first person of how much you inject from yourself and how much is made up. That's why writers are so interesting and mysterious. ;)

  6. Good question. I've always written in 3rd person past tense. Always.

    But there's this new character wandering around in my head right now. And she's pretty brash. I think she might want 1st. But I don't know if I want 1st! I'm just going to let her wander a bit more and see if we can come to a decision. :)

  7. Well, you look like a woman to me, so you're not writing about you!
    I'm writing in third person as I'm following two characters at the moment.

  8. Actually, I think successful fiction writing in the first person is the opposite of narcissism. You do it when you can successfully channel the character and really get into his or her voice (not just your own).

    For me, it depends on the story. If a vibrant narrator pops up, I'll go for it, otherwise, I'll move around in third person - although it tends to be "tight third" which also reflects the character voice.

  9. Some stories dictate the POV. If you force it one way or the other there seems to be something missing. I have read books where when I finished I say things to myself like, "He should have told that himself."

  10. I've tried third person, but for this story my MC is screaming to have her voice heard. So, first person won!

  11. I am currently writing in first person, but from multiple POV. My completed novel uses the same approach, many of the major characters (and some minor ones) contribute to the narrative. The main character is one significant exception, she doesn't 'speak' directly to the reader.
    Having said that my first draft was written in third person, but it 'didn't work'.

  12. I've only been able to write decently in first person. I wouldn't say it's an ego thing, I'd say it's an emotional connection thing. When I read something in third person, I feel like I'm being told a story.. I'm not in it, not invested in the characters feelings. In first person, if THEY are scared, I'm scared. If THEY cry... I probably will too.

  13. I used to write in the Omniscient POV, but now I write in the Third Person POV. I'm used to it now. It was difficult because its easier to head hop when you have multiple characters interacting together.

    Stephen Tremp

  14. I write 3rd person when I write fiction, and 1st person active when I write science papers. Science writing flows better in 1st person active than in passive, I think, different from what they what they often teach in the universities >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  15. I've written a short story in 1st person, because it was the only way to write it. My novel is in third person present, with several different POVs. It seems to be the way for the story to flow.

  16. POV depends on the character and story. Imagine a modern cozy mystery told in third person. The story loses its connection between reader and main character. Imagine Raymond Chandler's "The Big Sleep" in third person and not from Marlowe's POV.

    Third person opens up unlimited POV of the story, but separates the reader from the action. It allows the reader to know more than the characters.

    Some writers attempt to keep the wideness in story scope and the connection between reader and character by writing in multiple characters first person (usually separating the shift of POV with different chapters).

    As with any part of writing the only one rule is how can you best tell your story.

  17. Wow...How could I possibly respond to all of these excellent points individually? I think it'll take another post...

    But let me say you each had something to say and given me something new to think about.

    Like I said, another post!


  18. I recently did my first book in first person and found it difficult. It wasn't about me at all, I had to delve deeper into one character than I have ever had to do before. Some think it's easier to do first person, I don't. I think if you find it easy, you're fortunate.


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