(Just a note, this post is from our archives. Some references and links may be from past years.)
First person POVs can be awesome. Writers can nail a snarky voice of a character or infuse a lot of witty dialogue with it. First person POVs can stand out as distinctive. Earlier this week, I was reading a sample with that POV and although the voice was strong and the dialogue snappy, something was just off for me. I couldn’t put my finger on it.
Then this morning I woke up with a bit of a eureka moment.
The writer was using the snarky internal observation of the main narrator to describe the other characters. Well, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, except, wait for it, that’s all they were doing. In other words, the writer was using the witty voice to tell about the characters rather than actually developing the characters in the scene itself (as a writer is forced to do when using the third person narrative structure).
If the scene is strong enough, the writer can probably get away with it. But if the scene is feeling flat with only the witty voice to carry it, then it’s going to be one-dimensional and feel off.
In short, the writer is still telling instead of showing character.
I’d have to give a whole chapter to show what I mean and in this instance, I certainly don’t have permission to do so. But if you’re writing first person POV story, get with your critique partner and see if you might be guilty of that.