First Person Narrative: Attack of the I-Bombs

There are tons of agents out there who don’t accept manuscripts written in first person narrative. The reasons behind this decision vary from “it makes the writing bland” to “it sounds unprofessional” to about a gazillion other things. When clients come to me with a manuscript in first person narrative, they’re always a little wary. One client even told me his previous editor – with whom he eventually parted ways – had typed “DO NOT WRITE IN FIRST PERSON” on his manuscript in gigantic font.

My reaction to this is always “ugh? what?” Because it’s hard to believe so many people are completely against first person narrative. And why? Like with any other narrative, if it’s well written, then it’ll work. If there’s a story, well-developed characters and decent writing, then your story will work, regardless of what narrative you pick.

However, on the opposite end of the spectrum you have people advicing others to writei n first person, because it’s “easier”. I seriously doubt that. Because most, if not all writers, who use first person narrative, sooner or later fall for the I-Bombs.

What are I-Bombs, you ask?

I walk down the hallway. I search for the light switch, my hands grasping nothing but air. I let out a sigh when I finally manage to put the lights on. I continue on down the stairs. I miss the last step, and tumble down the stairs.

You see what happens here? “I this, I that, I this”. It becomes boring. It slows down the pace, and it’s, in short, unprofessional writing.

Of course now you’re going all “but Charlene, I would never write something like that!”

Trust me, you will. If you pay attention to it, you will see through this I-Bomb surprise attack most of the time, but I’ve yet to see a manuscript in first person narrative, which has not yet been professionally edited, that didn’t have the I-Bombs in there every now and then.

So, beware of the I-Bomb, and make sure you don’t start every (or most) of your sentences with “I” when writing in first person narrative.


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