ten things I hate about first person point of view;

bookworm things

I’ve always been told hate is a very strong word. Growing up, my parents preferred that my sisters and I say we strongly disliked something over hate. Frankly, they’re still that way. And for the most part, I agree. I don’t use hate very much, though sometimes I do use it as hyperbole. (A little bit of that is the case of the title, I will admit.)

First person point of view is a very hit or miss with me. I was not fond of it for a very long time, and I still have issues with it. I find myself shying away from a lot of novels with first person points of view for a variety of reasons. Some of my strongest pet peeves are listed below, in no particular order.

ten things i hate about first person point of view

  • It limits the reader’s experience of the world the protagonist is part of.
    First person point of view means we’re seeing the world as the protagonist is seeing it, and it can be a very myopic view of the world. It is also very biased, because everything is coloured by the protagonist’s perceptions.
  • Connected to the first point, it can be very narcissistic.
    Everything being coloured by the protagonist’s perceptions comes across as very self-obsessed. This can be made worse if your protagonist’s personality is one of being very sure they are making all the right choices and decisions, and being constantly condescending towards other characters.
    (I am not naming names, but I am thinking of certain characters from certain books that gained a lot of popularity in recent years.)
  • There tends to be a lot of telling and a lot less showing.
    Being trapped in the protagonist’s perceptions means we only notice the things they notice. A lot of author’s then fall into the trap of telling things instead of showing them happen. Such as the narrator being scared, or upset, instead of showing minute details that allow the reader to infer the narrator’s feelings.
    This is not limited to the narrator’s feelings but also of the action in the story.
  • There is too much introspection and too little action.
    Being stuck in the narrator’s head means that the reader is taken through their feelings on every moment instead of being allowed to infer what is going on with them. Some authors get stuck on the internal workings of the narrator’s mind, and the plot seems like an afterthought. Every action that occurs outside of the narrator’s head is followed by a paragraph of two examining the narrator’s feelings on the subject.
    It gets tedious, guys.
  • There is a repetitive feel to the voice and tone of the novel.
    If the narrator does not have an engaging enough voice, this can turn me off the entire novel. The constant Is and mes are not just repetitive, but can also be restrictive. Literary devices and vocabulary are limited to the character’s tone and personality. And, again, the protagonist can come across as very self-centered.
  • Things that do not happen in front of the character becomes exposition.
    This is especially annoying in novels that should be fast-paced and action-packed. If the action is not happening in front of the character, then the character is hearing about it second-hand, and it becomes exposition. Again, this comes back to telling and not showing, and is so tiring.
  • Unless the novel goes into an overly descriptive, fanfiction style moment where the protagonist describes themselves and what they are wearing, we are left wondering what the protagonist looks like.
    You know the type of paragraph I am imagining. Don’t say you don’t.
    Unless another character says something about the protagonist’s hair or eyes or skin colour, which I have not seen happen. It can be liberating to not be spoon-fed the narrator’s looks, and being allowed to imagine them any way. But it can also be very disconcerting.
  • The narrative style is very self-indulgent.
    The narrator becomes a stand in for the author, with too much of their own points of views colouring the character. Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the narrator has too little personality to allow readers to imagine themselves as the protagonist, and comes across as very bland or naive.
  • There is a lack of subplots in the novel because everything revolves around the one character.
    It gets so boring to only read about the protagonist’s storyline. Any secondary plot is heard about secondhand, unless it affects the protagonist.
    Basically, the narrator is very unreliable because everything is coloured by their experiences and perspectives. Everything is the way the narrator understands it.
    I’m not saying this cannot be done well, but it has to be acknowledged too.

It does seem like I’m repeating points, I know. But there are nuances to every point! And I’m not saying it is always a bad thing. Sometimes biased narratives add to the story instead of detract from it. Sometimes being limited in the point of view adds something to the story instead of takes away from it.

First person point of view, when done well, can be such a compelling read. But those books I just have not found. There are maybe a handful of first person point of view books I have enjoyed.

Does anybody else have an aversion to first person? What are your thoughts on the first person point of view? Which are some of your favourite first person point of view books? Change my mind and give me recommendations!

2016-04-12 11:46

Author: Ara

I’m Aradhna, a 25 year old who someday hopes to have published a novel, and who is currently losing herself in the worlds created by others. Recently graduated with a degree in Communications and currently completed a Masters course in Creative Writing (Screenwriting), this blog is a chronicle of all things to do with my Masters project, as well as other general geekiness. I get distracted and sidetracked easily.

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