Young Writers Society

Home » Forums » Resources » Writing Tips

Any tips on starting a 1st POV?

Post a reply
User avatar
8 Reviews


Gender: None specified
Points: 1244
Reviews: 8
Sat Feb 19, 2011 11:05 am
Crouching Tuna says...



Can it start with the MC introducing himself? If yes, how long of a description would be good?

Can it start with his thoughts? If so, how do I connect it to the story/action/plot?

Can it start directly with an action, or him in the middle of something, like how 3rd POV usually does?

It's just, there's not many tips on 1st POV's, even the 'Starting Your Story' article in Snoink's stickied thread is all about 3rd POV's.

Thanks in advance!
Picture is worth a thousand words, but it uses up 3000 times the memory.




User avatar
293 Reviews


Gender: Male
Points: 2916
Reviews: 293
Sat Feb 19, 2011 11:18 am
View Likes
Lumi says...



As a general rule of thumb, never start with a blatant, "Hi, my name is ______." It's an info dump technique that just expedites the reader's boredom.

Your second and third options are your best bet, and I've actually done both with satisfaction.

Personally, starting mid-action will always trump other techniques because it's so fantastic at getting your reader hooked, and it tends to facilitate your own writing process, too. While you start with action, since it's first-person, you're going to want to give it that first-person flare that is necessary to have a good 1P voice. Along that same line, if the narrator's voice isn't fantastic, don't do 1P.

Starting with his thoughts functions well, too. Since first person is geared towards the thoughts/voice of a single character, beginning with introspection into his head can be nice, though I typically try to litter it among other ploys within the text itself.

So basically, my suggestion is to do either of the latter two options, but do them well.

-Lumester
PenguinAttack: Interpretive dance is never appropriate.




User avatar
202 Reviews


Gender: None specified
Points: 8591
Reviews: 202
Sat Feb 19, 2011 1:17 pm
Octave says...



The thing with first person POVs is that they're tricky, considering how authentic the voice has to be for the piece to be considered good. Starting your story with the character describing himself is a huge no-no, in my opinion. I have never once encountered a published book that does this. It's always better to start with a hook.

I have read some first person POV books that use both of the other techniques you consider, and personally, I like starting off with thoughts better. Usually, the thoughts are just prologues though, and this makes it tricky. Not everyone can get away with pulling off a prologue, and some readers admit to skipping the prologue and diving into the first chapter right away.

Usually, when the narrative starts with thoughts, those thoughts touch/overlap with the central themes of the book. However, you can't be too heavy-handed or anvilicious when it comes to these things, lest you'll turn the reader off. It has to tease, but not be too coy, or else you'll also annoy the reader. Also, when it comes to first person, it depends on the narrator himself as to which beginning will work. I'll give you some examples so you'll have a better idea of what I mean.

In Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (I'd love to quote it here, but it's not safe), we see Humbert Humbert's obsession with Dolores. It's clear enough in the first few words:

Lolita, light of my life


Later on, it's even more obvious.

Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

...But in my arms she was always Lolita.


Notice how, despite the MC's obvious obsession, it's not too heavy-handed. oo It's teasing. It tells us everything but nothing. We're not quite sure /why/ he's so obsessed with her, and it introduces us to the main character's strange mind. That, in addition to Nabokov's nigh flawless handle on flow, allows this to work beautifully.

Let's move on to another example of starting with thoughts. Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Scion is a good example (although I wouldn't really recommend the book for sheer squick reasons ._.).

What does it mean to be good?


Quite the hook, isn't it? Works beautifully too. This segues into an introduction of the main character (Imriel) as he reflects on himself and his life. This is also a huge theme in the book. It jives with his character perfectly. Thus, I think you can introduce your character and mix in thoughts/use a hybrid of the first two beginnings you mentioned.

Unfortunately, unlike Lolita, this beginning is only part of the book's prologue, and Carey starts with action on the first chapter.

We were attending a country fair when the news came.


Weak compared to the prologue. Very weak. But if you read the prologue, you're hooked at this point. It's a gamble, though. ._. So be careful of starting off with thoughts/an introduction and starting weak on your first chapter.

Ten Cents a Dance, by Christine Fletcher, starts with Ruby at a party. It works beautifully, and we're sucked into the period quite easily. This is a good example of starting with action, especially given Ruby's spitfire personality.

The Red Queen's Daughter by Jacqueline Kolosov also starts off with a hybrid of action and character introduction, and though the funeral sets quite the mood, it doesn't work. Why? Given her main character, Kolosov shouldn't have started off like this - Mary is a quiet girl and action doesn't suit her. She's more introspective (and even that's quite a stretch - lack of character development is a problem in the book) than she is quick.

A summary of my insanely long rambling:

1. Never do a pure character introduction. Mix it in with some of the second or third. 8]

2. Whether you start with thoughts or with actions depends on what kind of personality your narrator has.

3. Starting with thoughts is tricky, but if it works, it's more likely than not close to perfect.

Anyway, I hope this helped! PM me if you want to ask me something, all right?

Sincerely,

Jae
"The moral of this story, is that if I cause a stranger to choke to death for my amusement, what do you think I’ll do to you if you don’t tell me who ordered you to kill Colosimo?“

-Boardwalk Empire

Love, get out of my way.


Dulcinea: 2,500/50,000




Random avatar

Gender: Female
Points: 1253
Reviews: 9
Mon Feb 21, 2011 7:36 am
purplegirl14 says...



I would recommend not introducing the character in the first paragraph like that. It makes it seem a little too informal. I would try incorperating your introduction a different way. A new ardent introducing herself, a guy meeting a girl, writing a diary...
You can defidently start with thoughts or actions as long as they are relvant. Why would they be thinkng that? What is going on around them? Why are they doing that action?

Honestly, how I write in first person POV is by imagining myself in the situation. Even if you aren't like you character, just pretend that you are doing it for a class or something. Write what you would be thinking in that situation, how you would react. Imagine how you introduce yourself to someone; most pokey not all at once, bit slowly over time.

I hope this helps!




User avatar
8 Reviews


Gender: None specified
Points: 1244
Reviews: 8
Mon Feb 21, 2011 11:08 am
Crouching Tuna says...



Thanks for the answers!

So if I'm getting it correctly, having the MC introduce himself at the start is a big no-no, yes? All I'm left is whether to start in the middle of something(like how most 3rd POV starts) or start with his thoughts.

Which I, so far, agree.

Some suggestions about I need to 'feel' and 'be' that MC while writing also helps (though I knew that, but I just kept on forgetting that after every couple of words, when I think about it).

This problem I'm still having may depend on how my MC is, personality/situation-wise.

Why are they doing that action?

Like purplegirl mentioned, I'm thinking of these questions when I try to write the MC's thoughts. The thing is, the reason why he's doing that certain action may require some introduction and explanation, which is not entirely about himself, but about his surroundings/other character's motive/his world/etc.

This is where I'm getting confused. My best option to open the story is by letting the reader know about the situation(which, like I said, not entirely consisting of the MC describing himself). But all in all, it's still describing, right? Is that ok? What worries me more is, I'm scared the reader might be annoyed when the first thing they read is all about descriptions, info dumps, and things necessary for them to know before the start of the story can correctly unfold. That last one sounds like a problem to not only 1st POV, but every types of story, I guess.
Picture is worth a thousand words, but it uses up 3000 times the memory.




User avatar
937 Reviews


Gender: Other
Points: 73769
Reviews: 937
Mon Feb 21, 2011 2:51 pm
Rosey Unicorn says...



You seem to be making first person a bit harder than it actually is. You start a first person story pretty much the same way as a third person story, only you're tinting everything with the character's voice. That "tint of voice" makes it you don't have to put thoughts all the time so we find out what your MC's thinking— we know what he's thinking because he's the narrator.

And I wouldn't worry about putting in a why they're acting. That can be the main plot of the novel, and you don't want to give away the conflict right at the start. Just give us enough to be interested, then keep going. Things will be clear in time.

I remember one first person novel I read. The MC's motivation was explained maybe once or twice in the whole novel. But the motivation doesn't stay the same. It travels along a normal path of self-discovery, and when the motivation's changed... you don't notice. Nor do you get it explained to you again. You just follow along what happens to the MC and her reasons become clear after time, but because it's first person, you can see yourself doing that. You see her thought process to get from A to B. It makes for a somewhat slow read, but it works.
You know you're a writer when you're not alarmed at hearing voices in your head, you can't read a book without analyzing it for plot & characters and you consider something you nearly killed yourself to write the most rewarding.

Guilty as charged.




User avatar
8 Reviews


Gender: None specified
Points: 1244
Reviews: 8
Tue Feb 22, 2011 4:18 pm
Crouching Tuna says...



Rosey Unicorn wrote:
And I wouldn't worry about putting in a why they're acting. That can be the main plot of the novel, and you don't want to give away the conflict right at the start. Just give us enough to be interested, then keep going. Things will be clear in time.


This is what's been worrying me, but I see more and more people saying this. Perhaps I should do this then. If the conflict, or the motive of the MC's initial action is complicated, avoid explaining it blatantly to the point of it becoming some kind of a lecture to the reader, as it's almost always will turn into a major turn-off, especially at the start.

So I'll try this out: not having the MC explain specifically his motive whatsoever, instead give out the 'effect' of that motive/decision/how he ends up with that action.

Sounds good?
Picture is worth a thousand words, but it uses up 3000 times the memory.




User avatar
937 Reviews


Gender: Other
Points: 73769
Reviews: 937
Tue Feb 22, 2011 5:00 pm
Rosey Unicorn says...



I'd not worry so much about getting the perfect (or even a good) beginning as just getting a beginning. That's probably a good start, but your beginning is the first thing to get rewritten and the thing you tend to be the least satisfied with.

For now, just focus on getting words on paper. :)
You know you're a writer when you're not alarmed at hearing voices in your head, you can't read a book without analyzing it for plot & characters and you consider something you nearly killed yourself to write the most rewarding.

Guilty as charged.




User avatar
8 Reviews


Gender: None specified
Points: 1244
Reviews: 8
Mon Feb 28, 2011 3:40 pm
Crouching Tuna says...



Yeah, I'll just write. But sooner or later I'll come back to the beginning and be stressed out all over again.

Here's what I'm thinking of right now: an opening witty sentence for the 'MC's head' kinda beginning. All I know is, it gotta be neutral, not asking for attention-kinda sentence (it can be subjective, only if it's super catchy, like the 'I like knives' opening sentence I saw somewhere from YWS). Then, it also should describe his main point, in my case, representing the 'how I got into this mess'-kinda event.

So far I have 3 examples of such sentences, (unfortunately none of them fits the situation of my MC):
-I don't know how this happened :an opening sentence from this awesome blog.
-This tale grew in the telling :Tolkien's foreword. Lol. Still super awesome though.
-The time has come/It's about time : a common one to be used if the MC's somewhat hyped up over the recent event/story that follows after.

Any suggestion/tips on this one?
Picture is worth a thousand words, but it uses up 3000 times the memory.




User avatar
937 Reviews


Gender: Other
Points: 73769
Reviews: 937
Mon Feb 28, 2011 4:20 pm
Rosey Unicorn says...



This article has some theories about starting beginnings. As does this article.

Hope these help.
You know you're a writer when you're not alarmed at hearing voices in your head, you can't read a book without analyzing it for plot & characters and you consider something you nearly killed yourself to write the most rewarding.

Guilty as charged.