Writing in First Person? Watch your “I’s” By Deanna ADAMS

Today, let’s talk about me. Me, me, me, me, me, and a little bit more about me.
What, you don’t care? You don’t want to hear that I did this, and then I did that, and when I, and how I and why I….
Sounds awful, doesn’t it? I was reminded of this recently when reading a blog—by a writer, no less—that contained some good advice, but she used so many Is, it was hard to concentrate on what she was trying to articulate. Her overuse of this pronoun was so distracting, I decided to count them. In this one blog, she used 59 “I’s.”
That’s right, 59 of them. And it wasn’t even that long a piece.
Of course, when writing in first person, you will be using quite a few I’s, it simply can’t be helped. But when you use them in every sentence, and sometimes more than once in every sentence, the topic you want to discuss disappears into a muddy pool of self-serving blubber. Plus, it’s lazy writing. The writer’s not taking the time to be creative with their prose. And isn’t that half the fun?
It also shows that you’re so wrapped up in you as a writer, you’re not considering the reader. And writers must always consider their readers. You want them to take in your words, and forget about the person behind them.
For example. Let’s say you’re writing a memoir piece about your father:
“I loved those fishing trips my dad and I would take each year, and I can still see him. . . .
It’s not even a completed sentence and already the writer has used three “I’s.”
Isn’t this better? “Dad always organized our annual fishing trip. Those images are still fresh in my mind . . .”
This allows the reader to be involved. The focus is on Dad and the trip. Readers already feel involved, imagining Dad preparing for the big event, rather than hearing the writer go on about his reflections.
I know, it’s easier said than done. But a good creative nonfiction class can show you how. You can also just play a bit on your own. Try and tell your personal story without using hardly any “I’s.” Quite a challenge, but chances are, the finished piece will be incredibly more interesting.
You can also read how the masters do it. Here a few to get you started, my immediate short list of authors and their excellent books, written in first person:
E. B White, Essays of E. B. White
Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies (Check out her others as well)
Mary Karr, Lit (Check out her first book too, The Liar’s Club)
David Sedaris, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Russell Baker, Growing Up
J. R. Moehringer, The Tender Bar
Till next month, Happy Writing!

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One Response

  1. Excellent observation, Bobbi. All of those who agree, say ….

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