Monday 21 October 2013

The Appeal of the First Person Narrative

I'm halfway through a fairly large anthology of new stories and have been struck by how overwhelmingly many have been written in the first person. It's so prevalent in fact that when I see an opening sentence with the inevitable "I", I begin to shudder.

Now, let me be clear, I have nothing against first person narratives. But in my own writing I have only ever used it thrice - and then only in some of my earliest stories. I haven't used it in decades.

Which is perhaps why I am puzzled why so many writers in this anthology have chosen this form of narrative. Is it because this is now more popular, at least amongst younger writers? Have I missed spotting a new trend? Or is it because many of these writers, being new, feel it is easier to use this viewpoint?

For a horror story, it has always struck me that the first person has distinctive limitations, particularly for the climax. Not to mention limitations in characterisation. It takes a particularly good writer to be able to give a distinctive character to the narrator when theirs is the only voice.

As I would automatically start a new story in the third person singular, I am interested to know why there are so many first person viewpoints in this anthology, all but to the exclusion of any other. It's something I'll probably feel obliged to look out for in other anthologies too now that I've noticed it here to see if this is prevalent today.

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