1. Benelee Harper
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    Benelee Harper New Member

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    help with writing in first person

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Benelee Harper, Jan 22, 2013.

    How do you write well in first person? Can anybody give me some tips or maybe a link to another website that would be helpful? I have started writing a book in this POV, but can't seem to get it right. It seems like every sentence I write starts with "I" and the flow of the story is off. I'm set on using this POV because it makes the story feel more personal and I just think it will work best...if I can ever get it right. :) Thanks in advance.
     
  2. neuropsychopharm
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    neuropsychopharm Active Member

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    I write a lot in this POV. It just works better for me. I don't know what to offer in the way of advice except perhaps starting more sentences with adverbs, and such. Like, "Sullenly, I...". I'll take a look at what you're working on if you'd like.
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    You could put a sample up in the Review Room for suggestions. The main advice that I keep giving is to "un-tie" experiences from your character's thoughts and senses. For example:

    Tied:

    I looked around the room; it was a mess. I could see socks under the chair, dust on every flat surface, and a heap of dishes in the sink. I sniffed--I could smell sour milk. When I walked to the window, I could see that it was filthy.

    Then I heard a noise in the hall. I wondered, what could that be? I walked to the door and turned the knob, then paused before opening it all the way. I stepped out and saw the janitor.


    Untied:

    The room was a mess--socks under the chair, dust on every flat surface, and a heap of dishes in the sink. It stank of sour milk. On closer inspection, it was clear that the windows were filthy.

    There was a noise in the hall--what could that be? I want to the door, paused, then opened it. The janitor was in the hall.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Write facing outward, not inward. Don't make the first person MC the focus. Make everything going on around him or her the focus.
     
  5. Benelee Harper
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    Benelee Harper New Member

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    I get a little anxious about sharing my writing before I'm finished with it, but here is a small sample. I know there are probably puncuation, spelling, and etc. errors, but I can't edit that right now. Again, thanks for your help.



    "I flopped down onto the big bed. It was so soft. I couldn't remember the last time I had slept in a real bed, let alone one this comfortable. All I had had while we lived in the apartment building was couch cushions that smelled of mold. I ran my hand across the beautiful, handmaid quilt. It was covered in little crimson flowers. I smiled. This was the same quilt Gran used to give me when I woud sleep over. I couldn't believe Dale would remember such a thing.

    I really should give him a chance, I thought to myself, as I crawled up under the blankets and stuffed my head under the pillows. I had never felt so warm and relaxed. I yawned as all thoughts left my mind. Sleep came quickly and had nearly consumed me when something called me back to reality. I lifted my heavy head out from under the pillows to hear better, but the house was quiet. Someone must still be up, I thought to myself, or maybe it was just the old house creaking. Just as I was about to stuff my head back under the pillows, I heard it.

    "Tap....TAP."

    I shot straight up and peared through the darkness. A paranoid feeling of not being alone anymore swept over me. "Who's there?" I demanded of the darkness. I waited, but no answer came.

    "Tap......Tap."

    I turned my head towards the window just in time to catch sight of something hitting it. I was torn between interest and fear. I slowly pulled the quilt off of myself and crept to the window. Everything was so dark, I couldn't even see past the fence line. I could, however, barely make out the bushes around the house and that is where I found what I was looking for. A short figure was standing near the bushes. His red hair was the only feature I could make out. He must of seen me, though, because he walked away from my window to the other side of the house."
     
  6. Benelee Harper
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    Benelee Harper New Member

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    Cogito, those blog links are really helpful. Thanks.
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    If I comment on the sample, I strongly suspect that my comment will be deleted, because it will be too review-room-esque. (Moderators, if I'm wrong, please let me know?) Just explaining why I asked for a sample, but am not responding to it here.
     
  8. Benelee Harper
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    Benelee Harper New Member

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    Oh, I'm new to posting here, so I don't know what the review room is. Sorry, I'll try and repost this where it belongs.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The Review Room is the old name for the Writing Workshop, which is where all writing offered for feedback and critique must be posted. There are prerequisites for posting there.

    We can offer general recommendations in this thread, but feedback on specific samples of your writing is not permitted. Sorry, but there are good reasons for the way we restrict that kind of feedback to the Writing Workshop, which are outlined in Why Write Reviews Before Posting My Work? and How to Use the Writing Workshop.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Unfortunately (well, unfortunate in this case; I actually approve of the policy in general) there's a number of posts, number of days since signup, and number of reviews requirement before you can post to the review room. I'm wondering if my earlier post of examples made any sense?
     
  11. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I would suggest taking a look at some books written in first person to see what works and what doesn't.
     
  12. Benelee Harper
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    Benelee Harper New Member

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    ChickenFreak, your examples were very helpful. Infact so helpful that I thought if I posted a few paragraphs of something I had already written then you or somebody else could point out how I could improve my ability, or lack thereof, to write in first person. I wasn't asking for a critic on the content of the paragraphs. Which I why I thought it was okay to post it here, but if I have to wait and join the workshop first, I understand.

    Back to your examples:

    The difference I saw was that in your "Tied" example every sentence started with "I" and was difficult to read because it didn't flow. It had an explanation of every move the character made and what they saw/smell/heard as a result. But in your "Untied" example it had flow because, while the reader still saw everything the character did and noticed, it didn't feel like a list of actions and sights?

    By writing, "the room was a mess-socks were on the floor, a layer of dust covered everything, and the window was to flithy to see out of," it's then implied the character looked around so I shouldn't need to feel the need to actually write, "I looked around."

    So a paragraph written well in first person would be; "My heart skipped a beat as Jacob slipped back into the cold room. Blood flowed from a fresh cut on his face. My trembling hands caught his sword just as he stumbled into the wall. The booming from outside sounded louder and louder with each passing moment. One look at Jacob told me, we had no other choice. We would have to face the dangers that lurked in the dungeons."

    Instead of; "Jacob opened the door and my heart skipped a beat. I saw him shiver from the cold. My eyes fell on a fresh cut on his face from which blood was flowing. He fell into the wall as I stood up and reached just in time to stop his sword from hitting the floor. I heard the booming growing louder and louder. I looked into Jacob's face and saw fear, which told me that we had no other choice. I knew we would have to face the dangers inside the dungeons."

    Am I on the right path here?
     
  13. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    If you don't mind me jumping in here - I'd say to a good degree, yes. Just remember to keep the person doing the action, rather than the person's things doing the action. "Heart" here is fine, but when it comes to hands, I'd just say "I" here, unless it's important to know about the trembling hands.

    That's probably skirting the edge of what's allowed here, if not actually going right over it. Hope not. But in general, just remember that you're not telling me what you (the character) did, your allowing me to see through your eyes and hear your brain as you do it.
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yep! I think that you can "untie" your rewrite even a little more, but you're getting there. I'd be happy to offer an excruciatingly detailed set of suggestions later on when you can post to the Review Room. :)
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    read/study first person novels by the best writers of all time, as well as the best contemporary writers of same... doing that should answer all of your questions...
     
  16. Benelee Harper
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    Benelee Harper New Member

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    ChickenFreak, thanks so much for your help. I would love to hear anymore advice/suggestions you have. As soon as I can, I will post some of my actual writings in workshop.
     
  17. Benelee Harper
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    Benelee Harper New Member

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    Sorry again if I went over the line. (those things I wrote were just examples. It's not from any book, short story, or etc. that I have written.) Thanks for your advice. I understand exactly what your saying. I thought the sentence about "the trembling hands" didn't sound right for first person POV as I wrote it, but wasn't sure.
     
  18. Keitsumah
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    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

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    Here's a tip i think you might find useful -read books that have a first-person POV. one amazing example is the Hunger Games. you can get good ideas as to what it should look like roughly from there -but each author has their own style, so read a good variety to see the differences.
     
  19. TimHarris
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    TimHarris Senior Member

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    I might be pointing out the obvious. But try to avoid writing things like "I thought to myself". Who else would he be thinking to? Otherwise, I can only hop on the bandwagon of people who reccommend reading a lot of books written in first person. If you like fantasy, I can suggest Robin Hobb's Farseer Trilogy. All the books in that series are written in first person, and are entertaining too.
     

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