I naturally write in first person, but I know that a lot of people really struggle with it. This is a post that I’ve been meaning to write for a few months (sorry!).
First of all, what is first person point of view?
First person is where the story is told from the direct point of view of a character. You’ll see it in all of my books. For example this is the (unedited) opening paragraph to Infernal Ties.
Something was wrong. I could feel it.
The pink encroached on the greys of the morning, and he still wasn’t home. I clenched and unclenched my hands as I looked out over the red roofs of the city. He could have gotten side-tracked with some girl on his way home, but my gut told me otherwise. I paced around our large living room and tried to tell myself that it was an easy task, my dear twin could handle himself. It was only a rogue lycan, one he’d dealt with previously. I glanced at the front door again, hoping to hear his familiar footsteps. Nothing. I’d never been one to believe in psychic abilities, despite what I’d seen from the fae and witches of the city. Yet, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that something had happened to Quin.
As this is told by the character in question, the descriptions will be coloured by their own psychology, their past experiences, biases, etc. That’s something to keep in mind when writing in first person. The world may not be portrayed entirely accurately, and there will be clear biases there.
Let’s say for example that you’re writing from the point of view of Corrin. Poor Corrin had a bad experience with an elf when they were ten. They never properly recovered from it, and due to that, they loathe elves. So where an unbiased third person narrator might describe an approaching elf thusly:
The elf’s long hair cascaded down his back and caught in the gentle breeze while he glanced side to side trying to get his bearings. His elegant clothing was carefully tailored to conceal the heavier muscle of a warrior while still allowing him to blend into high society.
Corrin, with her biases, might describe the same elf thus:
The elf’s long hair would give me an advantage should I need to defend myself. His expensive clothing was thin and only highlighted the prosperity he enjoyed. I had no doubt that he had stolen from good people to pay for such an extravagant suit with the glisten of gold threads only flaunting the thievery.
That’s a little extreme, but that highlights my point more clearly. An unbiased narrator picks out general details, just enough to give the reader an image. Corrin, being as biased as they are, focuses on the details that are important to them. In this case, they expected a fight, so spotted a way to gain an advantage in said fight. They also saw details that deepened their own hatred and views of the species.
Everything about first person point of view is coloured by the character who’s experiencing the story. This means that you have to know them inside and out so that you can see the bits that would draw their eye and then convey that to your reader. I read an excellent example of this where the narrator was a seamstress, she noticed the clothing people wore before she saw the people themselves. A warrior on the other hand is likely to notice the centre of balance, movement patterns, and overall body-language and fighting ability.
The key is to put, to really truly, put yourself in the character’s shoes and then see which details pop for you. Don’t forget to use every sense. If you’re writing an intimate scene, then does the character notice the slight ridge of an old scar? The faint hint of lavender? The hitch in breath? Pick out a couple of details, things that will remain in the character’s mind long after the scene is done with, and describe those.
I hope this helps! If you’d like to see how Evie’s experiences colour her view of the story then you can pick up Infernal Ties for just 99c here.