Tips for writing 1st person Narrative.

#1
Writing in 1st person does not come naturally to me - I am bloody awful at it. I only just scrape by using 3rd person.

So in my infinite wisdom (sarcasm here), I decided to make a god have the ability to chat with my readers. Seemed great in my head - an exciting experiment.

Not going to change this - but I do need to understand for the sake of Deimos (who will have my head if I do not pull this off).

Any tips would be amazing :)

Re: Tips for writing 1st person Narrative.

#2
Try narrating your daily life in your head. (I took a deep breath and straightened my aching back. How could I describe this to Scribe 101 in a helpful way?) 1st person writing is about capturing what that person perceives, ('darn', I thought as I noticed the double red underline. Both grammarly and chrome are laughing at my inability to spell words with "ei" properly...again. I quickly hovered my mouse over "percieves" and accepted the correction) and how they come to the conclusions that guide their action. Trying to do that in your head without the need to invent the events in the story can help you get a feeling for how to put stuff (I paused for a moment to see if I could come up with a better word than "stuff", but decided it was not worth it to spent much time on it. I was writing a forum post, people were fine with wonky stuff.) into words.

1st person is not that much different from 3rd, to be honest. What makes it different from just changing every "he" to "I" is that the character's opinion takes a front seat. Additionally, everything the character doesn't sense is hidden from the reader. So instead of neutral descriptions---e.g. "a dark brown shirt"---we get what the character thinks about it---e.g. " a shit-coloured shirt that looked like it belonged in the last century. Who still wears that cut of collar nowadays? Reminds me of Buffy. In the Pilot they made she spotted her first vampire that way. I just hope this guy isn't one, I'm out of bubblegum but also don't have any stakes on me.". (And again I had been droning on for ages in a simple example. This thing is long enough for a short story, I hope I won't bore anyone to death with it.)

Re: Tips for writing 1st person Narrative.

#3
Henry Wrote: Try narrating your daily life in your head. (I took a deep breath and straightened my aching back. How could I describe this to Scribe 101 in a helpful way?) 1st person writing is about capturing what that person perceives, ('darn', I thought as I noticed the double red underline. Both grammarly and chrome are laughing at my inability to spell words with "ei" properly...again. I quickly hovered my mouse over "percieves" and accepted the correction) and how they come to the conclusions that guide their action. Trying to do that in your head without the need to invent the events in the story can help you get a feeling for how to put stuff (I paused for a moment to see if I could come up with a better word than "stuff", but decided it was not worth it to spent much time on it. I was writing a forum post, people were fine with wonky stuff.) into words.

1st person is not that much different from 3rd, to be honest. What makes it different from just changing every "he" to "I" is that the character's opinion takes a front seat. Additionally, everything the character doesn't sense is hidden from the reader. So instead of neutral descriptions---e.g. "a dark brown shirt"---we get what the character thinks about it---e.g. " a shit-coloured shirt that looked like it belonged in the last century. Who still wears that cut of collar nowadays? Reminds me of Buffy. In the Pilot they made she spotted her first vampire that way. I just hope this guy isn't one, I'm out of bubblegum but also don't have any stakes on me.". (And again I had been droning on for ages in a simple example. This thing is long enough for a short story, I hope I won't bore anyone to death with it.)

Thank you - very helpful and not boring at all :)))

Do you ever read something you have written and get that jangling in your mind, telling you something is off - but you cannot quite put your finger on it? An elusive thing just out of reach of your understanding - one which will not leave me and be quiet.

Hopefully, between your great direction and feedback from my son and friends at the weekend - I will get that ha moment :)

Re: Tips for writing 1st person Narrative.

#4
Try not to start every sentence with an "I". 

I'm guilty of this and it's really easy to fall into. 

Instead of saying "I saw the princess on the veranda. I thought she was very beautiful. I heard her sing. I crept closer and hid behind a rose bush." 

You can literally narrow down the 'I' statements to - "The princess walked onto the veranda. She was very beautiful. She started to sing. I crept closer and hid behind a rose bush." 

That is a clunky example but you get the idea. We're already in the character's perspective so you don't need to constantly reconfirm it. 

If you want to get fancy, you can try - "The princess stepped onto the veranda and my heart skipped a beat at the sight of her beauty. None of the girls from my village could compare. Unable to stop myself, I crept closer to get a better view, hiding behind a nearby rose bush." 

This limits the 'I' statement to an active action rather than just an observation. 

You also want to decide if you're writing in present or past tense. Both are fine. My story is in present and as someone who is used to writing in third person past it is HARD. I slip up a lot (usually caught in the edits) and it takes practice to get into, but it definitely helps the story feel more immediate. 

Re: Tips for writing 1st person Narrative.

#5
Evan Wrote: Try not to start every sentence with an "I". 

I'm guilty of this and it's really easy to fall into. 

Instead of saying "I saw the princess on the veranda. I thought she was very beautiful. I heard her sing. I crept closer and hid behind a rose bush." 

You can literally narrow down the 'I' statements to - "The princess walked onto the veranda. She was very beautiful. She started to sing. I crept closer and hid behind a rose bush." 

That is a clunky example but you get the idea. We're already in the character's perspective so you don't need to constantly reconfirm it. 

If you want to get fancy, you can try - "The princess stepped onto the veranda and my heart skipped a beat at the sight of her beauty. None of the girls from my village could compare. Unable to stop myself, I crept closer to get a better view, hiding behind a nearby rose bush." 

This limits the 'I' statement to an active action rather than just an observation. 

You also want to decide if you're writing in present or past tense. Both are fine. My story is in present and as someone who is used to writing in third person past it is HARD. I slip up a lot (usually caught in the edits) and it takes practice to get into, but it definitely helps the story feel more immediate.

Thank you, I am very appreciative. 

I am going to take a look through what I have done so far and implement these things you have said :)

Yes, it is in the present and feels like I am writing a new language.

Re: Tips for writing 1st person Narrative.

#6
That 'I' issue tripped up my willingness to engage with first-person, too. Now, I'm writing a fanfiction and have not micro-edited for that specifically, so it likely still shows up a lot, but it also flows better than you might think when you're not looking for it. You can take a look if you want, and get an idea for handling repetition generally, too. A lot of that is down to making it intentional, or simply using the word 'again' in first person narration, since narrator voice and noticing repeated behaviour is a thing. Anyway, like I said, you can take a look if you want—https://archiveofourown.org/works/40097085/chapters/100420911

But mainly I was here to share the list I made before writing on this exact issue, except it's not the most concise or clear thing ever.

His [noun], e.g. hand was shaking . . .
The [noun, verb] e.g. hand I'd used was aching . . .
Description, e.g. ‘It was a peaceful day until it wasn't.’, 'Red dripped from my bleeding hand . . .
Another thing followed quick on the heels of my injury.
After [x] then action [y], e.g., after I recovered my senses, I saw the horror that awaited me.
That meant [insert internal narration] e.g. he was lying to me.

Re: Tips for writing 1st person Narrative.

#7
Learn from the Navy Seal Copypasta. Even if you use 'I,' if you place a strong sense of voice behind it, then this will give the impression of the kind of character who is talking. Addressing the reader explicitly can also be effective, though it's optional. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye is slightly more subtle, but still uses a pronounced sense of tone to conjure a clear sense of character at the beginning.

That's the easier way. You can also portray a more subtle character, as in Bernhard's 'The Loser,' or Tristram Shandy. In that case, the idiosyncracies of the narrative style and the character's focus while describing the world will eventually establish a sense of character. 

A first-person narrative is often framed as a somewhat detached, third-person-like narrative by portraying it as a narrated account from later on or a confession. In that case, it can function a bit like a third-person story, with descriptions of the world, etc., as usual. However, if the description is in the moment, then slightly less description and more subjective or surrealistic elements might be appropriate.

Re: Tips for writing 1st person Narrative.

#8
to me, writing first person is like playing DnD. You need to get into character before you do anything. With 3rd, you can allow some leeway for your own or you narrator's voice, but with 1st you can't do that. 

Pretend you're the MC. Use speech patters they'd use, like certain words or sentence structures. Try to inject as much of their personality/bonds in how they see the world. An artist and an accountant will pay attention to different things while walking down the street.

it come easier with practice, so good luck!