First-Person Point of View: Definition and Examples
13th August 2023
First-Person Point of View: Definition and Examples
The first-person point of view is a grammatical person narrative technique that immerses the reader into the intimate perspective of a single character or individual.
In this literary approach, the story unfolds through the eyes, thoughts, and emotions of the narrator, granting the reader direct access to their inner world. Through the narrator’s use of pronouns such as I and me, readers gain a personal and subjective understanding of the narrator’s experiences, motivations, and conflicts. For example:
I walked away quickly, mortified that everyone would see my tears.
Sally walked away quickly, mortified that everyone would see her tears.
Why Write From the First-Person Point of View?
This point of view often creates a strong sense of immediacy, enabling readers to form a deep connection with the narrator while limiting the reader’s knowledge to what this character or narrator knows. It’s a dynamic viewpoint that allows the rich exploration of a character’s or narrator’s growth and provides the opportunity to delve into their personal struggles.
First-person narration shouldn’t be used or should be considered carefully in some situations. Familiarize yourself with genre style and tone before making this decision.
Using the First-Person Point of View in Fiction
The first-person point of view is a powerful tool in fiction because it can create an intimate and engaging connection between the reader and the narrator. It is particularly effective for the following purposes.
Developing a Character’s Voice and Personality
First-person narration facilitates a deep exploration of a character’s or narrator’s unique voice, thoughts, and personality. It enables readers to experience the story through the lens of the narrator or a specific character, giving the reader direct insight into their emotions, motivations, and growth.
Portraying Subjective Experiences
When the story relies heavily on the narrator’s or a character’s subjective experience, emotions, and perceptions, the first-person point of view can help the reader connect on a personal level. This bond is especially beneficial in stories that explore complex internal conflicts and psychological themes.
Enhancing Reader Empathy
First-person narratives can foster empathy by enabling readers to see the world through the eyes of the narrator. This perspective can lead to a more emotional and immersive reading experience, allowing readers to relate to and invest in the narrator’s or a character’s journey.
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Conveying Unreliable Narrators
First-person narration is excellent for stories featuring unreliable narrators. Readers can uncover discrepancies between what the narrator says and what they actually do, revealing layers of intrigue and mystery.
Delivering Engaging Storytelling
When the narrative requires a strong and engaging storyteller, the first-person point of view can make the story feel more like a conversation or confession, drawing the reader in.
It’s also important to note that using the first-person point of view comes with limitations. The narrator’s perspective is confined to what they personally experience, possibly limiting the scope of the story’s atmosphere and the portrayal of events that occur outside the narrator’s awareness. Consider how authors of classic novels have utilized point of view in their writing.
The First-Person Point of View in Research Essays
Generally, it’s preferable to avoid the first person in academic and formal writing. Research papers are expected to maintain an objective, unbiased, and impartial tone, focusing on presenting information, data, and analyses clearly. The use of I or we may introduce subjectivity and personal opinions, which can undermine the credibility and professionalism of the research.
Instead, the third-person point of view is preferred because it allows a more neutral and detached presentation of the material. Follow the guidelines and style requirements of the specific field or publication you’re writing for: some disciplines may have different conventions regarding the use of first-person language.
The first person can lend itself to some types of research description when the researcher is discussing why they made a particular decision in their approach or how and why they interpret their findings.
But be aware that when writers attempt to write without reverting to the first person, they often overuse the passive voice. In nonfiction or academic writing, staying in the first person may sometimes be better than using the passive voice.
Ultimately, the decision to use the first person in fiction or nonfiction depends on the specific goals of the author. Fiction authors should consider how this narrative choice aligns with the story’s themes, characters, and intended emotional impact. Research writers should carefully consider whether the use of the first person is necessary to convey their findings and decisions or whether that information could be described as or more effectively without it.