English Grammar

What is first person writing narration Characteristics and examples

First person writing

The writing in the first person is one that is used to tell the events from the point of view of the main character or one of the participants in a story. For this reason, it is known as an internal narrator, as it is part of the context of the events described in a report or the fictional universe of a literary work.

There are two forms of first-person narration: I (singular) and we (plural). An example of the first person singular would be: “I was at María’s house, looking for Jorge, but he had mysteriously disappeared. An example of a second-person narration would be: “We saw that there were not many people left at the party, so we decided to go home.”

Writing in the first person is not recommended for research reports, news reports, scientific articles, or formal documents. Since these present texts characterized by an objective, equanimous and impartial tone, without pretending to transmit personal opinions.

Instead, the first person is used to narrate in novels or short stories. In this way the narrator involved with the events can express his ideas, feelings and emotions.

Characteristics of writing in the first person

1-Normal among beginners

This type of narration is the most common in those who begin in the profession of writing. This happens because of its similarity to how we tell the events that happen to us on a daily basis.


With the writing in the first person, the author leaves room for the reader to try to predict the facts. In the same way, the reader has the responsibility to judge the events, supported by his personal judgment. At this point, the persuasiveness of the writer can add suspense and intrigue to the narrative.

For this reason, writing in the first person is very useful in stories and mystery or detective novels. In addition, this type of literary composition is very suitable when the writer needs to convey authentic feelings of love, pain, guilt, mistake, exaltation, justification or rectification.


Writing in the first person uses a narrator who is not omniscient, that is, unable to predict what will come. When narrating from the “I”, the action falls directly on the narrator himself. Then, an intimate connection is created between sender and receiver, with complicity and confidentiality.

4-Greater credibility

It may seem counterintuitive, but readers tend to rely more on a narrator involved with events.

5-Deeper characters

The characters know each other more deeply, thanks to the exploration of the feelings and thoughts of the protagonist.

6-More intimacy

The first-person narration facilitates the emergence of empathy from the reader towards the protagonist of a story.

7-Greater intrigue and suspense

A narrator should not lie, but he is allowed to make mistakes. Consequently, you may transmit false information to surprise the reader based on your own biases.

8-More limited narration

In the first person it is narrated in a more limited way, since it is more difficult to express the thoughts and justify the actions of the secondary characters.

9-Excess presence of the “I”

The protagonist gets all the attention and can spoil the story.

How do you write in the first person?

To write in the first person, it is recommended to take into account the following aspects:

1- Choose if you will be the protagonist or secondary character

First-person narration allows two forms of basic perspectives:

  • Protagonist

The narration can be done from the protagonist, this being the center of the plot. Therefore, everything is narrated from the perspective of the self and the facts are shown subjectively.

Of course, you are limited to what you see, hear and feel. The narrator is not only a window to the facts, he himself (experiences, thoughts) is a source of information for the reader.

The narrator of the events could also be someone close to the protagonist, an investigator or a curious person. Similarly, subjectivity persists. This narrator shows everything around the main character from his vision and scope.

2- Determine the time in which the events will be narrated

Basically, to narrate you can choose between the present or the past. Choosing the present allows you to play with memories at certain times, so you can resort to narration in the past when appropriate. But, starting in the past tense implies that everything will remain in that time.

3- Avoid being everywhere

That is to say: avoid omnipresence. A very common mistake when starting to narrate in this first person is that the writer sometimes falls into “knowing what happens on all sides of the plot.” Being a normal character, it is necessary for him to narrate from his limited human perspective.

4- Avoid the narrator “barrier”

This error is also common. It refers to the fact that when it is narrated, the first thing that appears when describing the events is the figure of the “I”. It is recommended to show and describe the spaces without the main character intervening. There is a narrator, yes, but you do not have to combine everything from his vision.


– With “barrier”: And I saw the snow subtly sneak through the windowsI could feel that she was trembling, and I was moved.

– Without “barrier”: The snow trickled through the window subtly. She trembled, moved, I approached.

5- Avoid the “daily” effect

This refers to the fact that the narrator must avoid putting so much of himself in the protagonist, as when someone writes in his diary.

This is not a biography . The real goal of writing in the first person, in addition to generating an interesting plot, is to create a character who has his own qualities .

Examples of first person narration

First-person narration with main narrator

In this first-person writing style, the narrator tells his or her own story. He only knows and describes “what he can see or feel”: the perception of his senses and his own memories, thoughts and emotions. He is unaware of the thoughts of the other characters.

It is important to mention that there is also a type of protagonist narrator in the third person. Here is an example of a protagonist narrator in the first person:

  • “The border crossing” (Juan Ortiz)

I sailed 120 kilometers from my island to the mainland. From there, I walked 1,150 more kilometers to Cúcuta. The border was in front of me, finally, after 40 days of hiking. It is strange, but you could say that its dividing stamp was made of words, of beings and a few buildings. There was no magic line there, as the ge I imagined while walking the long stretches.

However, after crossing, something broke, and I was able to walk as lighter. No past event, nothing before, had freed me from so many regrets and guilt.

First-person narration with witness narrator

As his name implies, he is a narrator who tells the events he witnessed or heard. Therefore, it does not intervene directly in the development of events. When writing uses this figure, it tends to mix the first and third person, almost always in the past tense.

Similarly, the witness narrator can demonstrate inferences from the feelings or thoughts of the other characters in the play. However, those guesses are never certainties. These characteristics can be observed in the character of detective Philip Marlowe, who is the rapporteur in Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye .

  • “The lady in white” (Juan Ortiz)

I saw her go by in her car at 120 km per hour. Just yesterday we spoke. Something inside me told me I was going for him. I took my motorcycle and followed her. His car zigzagged on the road. Did he drink? I wondered. That gave me more strength to follow her and see where it all ended.

He was so close to his car that I could see how he saw me in the rearview mirror. From there, I only remember the roar. I got up, minutes later, next to the road. I could see her, clearly, walking in white towards the mountain. I approached her, and when I tried to touch her to tell her that everything would be fine, she pointed to a space, ten feet to her right, right where her body lay.

Since then, he has always been there, he walks the same space, night after night, and interacts with anyone who stops and talks to him.

First person narration in short story

My name is Pablo and yesterday I did not go to school. Neither my father, nor my mother, nor my sister knows. When I got to the door of my school, I decided not to go in. I was curious to know what happened in the city in the mornings. Children are always put in class and we do not know what happens beyond the school walls.

It was the most boring day of my life, but I told my friends that I had a great time. They don’t believe me. They think I was sick and stayed home. Maybe they better think that.

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