The Key to a Great Story – First Person Perspective



This post will be about how First Person Perspective can be used in a scene. As I explained in the previous post, I will be using an example of a character called ‘The Debt Collector’, who I have been creating recently, arriving in a town via a carriage.

The footman opened the door to the carriage and I sighed; I was going to have to try and move in the bulky dress I had been told to wear. I breathed as deeply as I was able, and composed myself. I took the footman’s hand and stepped out of the carriage. My heavy brocade skirts fell straight into the mud.

I felt the footman tense, I assume because he was frightened about what I was going to say and do because the carriage had stopped in the mud. I couldn’t exactly tell him I didn’t mind; there was mud as far as the eye could see. I had a reputation to maintain though, and here at the very edge of the world, I couldn’t be seen to be kind to my footman.

As you can see from the paragraphs above I have used the First person which uses a lot of pronouns like ‘I’ and the perspective of the story comes from the character’s inner monologue. The perspective is limited to what the Debt Collector herself sees and feels.

You will notice that without dialogue included, you don’t know that she is the Debt Collector, only that she was told to wear a dress that she’s uncomfortable in, which suggests that she’s not in complete control of her own life. However, her self- awareness of being an intimidating person is conveyed because she consciously doesn’t reassure her footman that she’s not bothered by the mud.

Given that she isn’t happy about wearing the dress in the first place of course she doesn’t mind, which hints that she’s not that happy about being controlled but having been sent to a town on the edge of the world, she is also well aware that her reputation will help her keep her safe so she mustn’t compromise it.

Now if I re-wrote the scene purely from the perspective of the footman, you will see that there is a difference in what information you can learn.

I was wary of opening the door now that we had arrived. The Debt Collector had been annoyed ever since she had appeared from her room early on this morning. I couldn’t figure out exactly what I’d done, or even what the driver might have done, to annoy her so much. We’d searched in vain for a proper paved street for her to leave the carriage but apparently such a convenience didn’t exist at the edge of the world and I really didn’t want to know what she’s do to us when she saw the amount of mud.

I tried to stay calm when I heard the audible sigh from her when she saw me by the door. Whatever was bothering her though wasn’t about to be revealed; her icy demeanour didn’t even flicker as she took my hand and stepped from the carriage. The skirts of her ornate and very expensive dress began trailing in the thick mud immediately. I tensed but her stare didn’t give away anything; just having her look at me though made me quiver slightly and I dreaded what she had in mind for us because her dress had been ruined.  

As you can see limiting the perspective of the story to the footman, means that you have no idea that the reason she’s annoyed is because she’s struggling in the dress. You do however have a much better of how she is perceived .

From her perspective you know that she is perceived to be frightening, but having insight into her monologue you know that she is considerate and that the reason she isn’t towards her footman is because it is safer for her reputation to not be tainted by an act of kindness.

The footman doesn’t know that kindness even exists and is terrified in the belief that he has done something himself to annoy her and that she will blame him entirely for ruining the dress. His perspective changes the audience reaction tot he character; from his perspective the audience only knows that she is a frightening character not to be crossed.

From her perspective though you know more about more complex character that she is, and that she more than the icy ‘debt Collector’. After all someone put her in that dress, and the fact she isn’t bothered by the mud tells you all you need to know about what she thinks about being controlled.

As you can see there are limits to the first person perspective, as you can only know the perspective of the character chosen to tell the story. However you can also see the possibilities of adding depth to a character and facets of different aspects of a character’s personality that an inner monologue and direct dialogue with the audience can convey, but only if you chose the right character for the perspective.


About kabrown4

A quaint life full of teacups searched for inspiration to fuel a writer dreaming of fantasy worlds that are full of friends found only in words. I have been writing for as long as I can remember and over the years I have developed many stories and many characters. This is my blog about the journeys I've been on over the years, and the road I'm still travelling as a writer.

5 responses »

  1. Pingback: The Key to a Great Story – Third Person Restricted Perspective | A Young Writer's Notebook

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