1. Owen8
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    Owen8 Member

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    First Person Question

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Owen8, May 27, 2012.

    How often should I be using words like "I", "me", "my"? I just started a project written from first person, and so far I've been trying to avoid using these words as much as I can. In describing action, like the character doing things and events happening around him, is it okay to use these words? I still seem to use at least one "I", "me", or similar term in almost every sentence, and I just wanted to get people's opinion on it.

    Also, can anyone recommend some good reading from the first person POV?

    Thank you.
     
  2. Owen8
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    Owen8 Member

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    I forgot that I had another question. What is generally the pest tense to use in first person?

    Thank you.
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you're using first person, I can't see any way that you could avoid using those words. However, you don't want to overuse them, tying everything to your character's senses.

    For example, let's look at the following paragraph.

    I walked into the diner and sat down. I read the menu and saw that it mostly included fried chicken. I was pleased about that. I looked around at the dining room and admired the old fifties-style tables. I heard a big crash from the kitchen, and then I saw a waitress run out of the kitchen and then out into the parking lot. In a few seconds, I saw the cook and busboy run out of the kitchen and out to the parking lot, too. I didn't know what was going on, but I got up and ran outside myself.

    You could un-tie as much as possible from the character's senses and change this to:

    I walked into the diner and sat down. My first impressions were positive--the menu mostly featured fried chicken, and the furniture was classic fifties. But things turned ugly. First, there was a crash from the kitchen, and then a waitress, cook, and busboy streamed out of the kitchen and out to the parking lot. Staying put seemed like a bad idea, so I collected my purse and followed them outside.


    Neither paragraph is actually good - my mind isn't being good with language today. But they should demonstrate how you can untie facts and impressions from the character's senses.

    ChickenFreak

    Edited to add: On tense, I always prefer past tense. I know that you can write fiction in present tense, but I hate it with a fiery passion. Others disagree.
     
  4. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Owen8,

    Past tense is like telling a story that has already happened a while back. Sitting around a campfire and telling it.

    Present tense is like telling the story as it occurs.

    Present tense is tricky to do, but not impossible. All of my first person works have been done in past tense.

    If you want some good examples of First Person Present try:
    Carry Me Home by Sandra Kring
    The Zombie Driven Life by David Wood

    First Person Past:
    The Vlad Taltos series by Steven Brust
    The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny

    One of the best things you can do to determine if you're on the right track with the use of 'I' and 'me' and 'we' etc. is to examine and study published works. See how those authors did it and apply that to your writing and style.
     
  5. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    If you're just starting out, go for past tense.
     
  6. Jud
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    Jud Member

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    I have the exact same dilemma, Owen. I too have just started work on a first-person novel (past tense). My problem is compounded somewhat by the fact that I'm trying to write as simply as possible. I find the older I get the more I enjoy reading very simple prose, and novels written is such a way are what currently inspire me.

    I think ChickenFreak's reply is a good one. Try to lengthen the sentences so there are greater gaps between the use of 'I', 'Me', 'My'. This varies the reader's rhythm and avoids the staccato effect.

    I sympathise, though. I almost dread ending a sentence as I know the next will invariably begin with yet another 'I'.

    Use the 'Look Inside' feature to read a few pages from Erlend Loe's Naive. Super. It's a first-person, past tense narrative and written extremely simply, yet observe how the references to himself flow naturally.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1841956724/?tag=postedlinks-21
     
  7. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    I'm working on a first person in present tense and what helps me keep the usage down is avoid using I hear, I saw, I felt ect. Instead, I just go straight to describing the thing the character saw, felt or heard. For example:

    'I saw the green chair on the floor.'
    Vs
    'A green chair was on the floor'

    The reader knows by the character describing it, they see it. So, that's my 2 pennies :3
     

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