The Use of I

I chatted with a friend the other day about using the word “I” as a tool to get a point across. She gave up using the first person perspective in her poetry because all the people she critiqued it with- including college professors- thought that meant it was a true story from her perspective.

I was a little amazed at that. In stories or poetry I tend to use the first-person as a different way to tell the story, rather than a truthful telling, but it really made me think about the run-of-the-mill authors who use it in that way and things I’ve heard about first-person.

If 90% of amateurs use first-person perspective, are they writing what they know and doing a somewhat truthful account of something? That really lowers my value of some of those amateur fiction accounts. I think when the first-person is done well it can really sell a story (even literally!) but it isn’t often handled with the necessary care. I’m betting that’s why most of the fiction we see published is in 3rd person limited viewpoint (about 90%).

I am a storyteller. Just because I write something, doesn’t mean it exists anywhere but my mind. If you believe it’s real, so much the better for my ability to weave a tale. Never confuse the written words with the author behind them – the best ones will always make you wonder.

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2 Comments

  1. Dawn Embers said,

    7 February 2009 at 16:46

    This is a great topic.

    I have heard that most amateurs use first-person because we are taught at a young age to write personal essays and that is the leaping off point. I dunno about that though.

    Hated those essays and writing about myself. My sophomore year we had to do a personal essay for English class. I wrote about the education system and still managed to get a 100 percent. *shrugs*

    Personally, I’m not that fond of first-person and yet my sci-fi(ish) series is in first-person and it seems to be working. It’s a struggle for me to write but since you and others are enjoying it, I hope it will be one of the few successful ones.

  2. Crys said,

    8 February 2009 at 07:08

    Amen, Sistah!

    I haven’t run into this problem so much with fiction, but with poetry for sure. It even got to the point where I would attempt persona poems and my classmates were confused about whether or not they were actually about me. Everyone else on EARTH could write a persona poem, but I couldn’t! I’m chalking it up to just another writing skill I lack. Although, I will say that’s one of the reasons I switched to writing for kids and stayed there.


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