First person POV has its advantages and its drawbacks. If you love it, and many writers do, you know one of the biggest issues is the overuse of personal pronouns. If you’re not paying attention, you can end up with long passages where every other sentence starts with the same word. In those rare instances you didn’t use “I”, you probably used “my” or “mine”.
Reading passages with a perfusion of the same sentence constructions is no fun for your reader, and it might have the undesirable effect of making your lead character come off as an egocentric jerk.
Here are five ways to beat the “I, me, my” dilemma and create some diversity in your sentences:
1. Don’t include every thought in the main character’s head: Working in first person POV can lead to characters spending too much time thinking and talking about it. Avoid long passages of inner narration by getting your protagonist to interact with the other characters. If your story calls for your protagonist to spend chucks of time alone, try to focus on what they are doing while alone, aka their physical actions.
2. Work from the perspective of what the other characters are doing: Just because you’re writing in first person doesn’t mean the other characters aren’t doing interesting things. You can also open a sentence with the another character’s name. This revision helps minimize the need for extra dialogue tags.
3. Use a statement of fact: There’s no reason your lead character needs to give an emotional response to everything! Some things in life are just there. They need description, but no commentary. In fact, commenting on everything your character sees and feels is often a sign that you’re telling, not showing.
4. Setting often needs no pronoun: Just as statements of fact need no emotional interpretation, sometimes settings just exist. Clocks chime and air conditioners hum all without anyone around to say they heard them. You can use sounds and smells as your lead in to describing a setting without explicitly saying the protagonist heard or smelled them.
5. Use more body language to show emotions: You don’t want to combine every feeling the character has with a pronoun. Again, this is a sign of telling language. Avoid “I felt sad” “I was hurt” or “I cried.” One good point to remember is first person is only your narrator’s voice. This eliminates the need to constantly remind the reader “who” is sad! Instead, try showing the tears!
I know digging in to revise those easy, comfortable “I, me, my” sentences is a huge job, but it’s worth doing. Making these kind of changes might help separate a good book from a great book.
I prefer third person and I think it’s easier to use. However, I use first person when I think the story calls for it. What do you think? Are you a fan of first person POV? Do you have a tip I missed? Please share in the comments.