Writing Prompt: First Person Story

Some people love first person some people hate it. Either way you’re using it today.

[Listen to me talk about this prompt on Anchor.fm]

The Prompt

Write a story in the first person

Tips

  • In many ways, first person is the most natural way to tell a story because it’s how we tell stories all day long. “How was your commute?” “Where did you park?” “What did you do this weekend?” All of these questions invite stories. You answer them every day, in the first person.Hopefully, as a storyteller, have good answers to those questions and can entertain the people around you, spinning yarns and put your everyday stories to good use. Or maybe you’re the type of person who hates those questions and clams up because you’d rather be alone with a pencil. Either way you do know how to tell a story in the first person.
  • The most important thing to remember about first-person is that the reader is only ever privy to the thoughts of the person telling the story. They can infer, from other people other people’s expressions, what they’re feeling, but you can’t know for certain. You can’t tell me exactly what your spouse was thinking when you took a wrong turn. You can tell me what they said and how they said it….
  • Think of the character whose head you would like to get inside. It can be somebody you already understand, or it can be someone you don’t yet understand. (Picking a politician from a party you don’t support support, or one of their supporters, is an obvious way of finding a character that you simply don’t understand).
  • Take one tiny incident from this character’s life. Have them describe the incident and the effect it had on them. Show us that the effect. Walk us through it.
  • The character can be self-aware or self delusional or mixture of the two.
  • There’s a growing trend to write first person present tense. It’s good for keeping tension high if we don’t know whether the characters going to survive at the end of the thriller, but it can feel a little foreign. Feel free to stick with past tense.
  • If you’re having trouble coming up with this style, browse some books that are written this way: thrillers and mysteries, young adult fiction chick lit. Or read a sample of To Kill A Mockingbird.

Go!

Leave a comment and tell us how you’re getting on with the challenge.

52 thoughts on “Writing Prompt: First Person Story”

  1. Oh boy. First person is my wheel house! It occurred to me last night that all three stories this month were first person. I was wondering if I would be sticking with it all month!
    Now to decide what the heck to write about!

  2. Here is a humble effort for today:

    Cemetery

    I saw dusk melt in slow motion, pouring its death glow behind the sky, just before everyone stopped laughing and began singing their prayers. I wanted to drink what was left inside tiny, white coffee cups, but my lips were stiff, cold and could only bite into ice that became my teeth. My disease caused distance, a descent into the earth, shrouded and hungry until everyone prayed—not just to recite the formula of gods—but to sing out, expressing joyful grief that will bloom inside next summer’s tulips. Let me export a picture—something they’ll fear about this day—the tumbling sound of dark feet wiggling their toes from wood splintering as earth caves over darkness and burns the dead sun’s flame into my corpse, or the pleasant abundance of spirit a child tosses as she springs forward, to bury her face with me, sinking inside the ground, drawing pictures from the last story ever read onto bleeding roots of a tree inside my grave. These things are provincial, even stoic as darkness takes the breath from our little stars, or scratches from the inside out and my corpse closes her eyes, hearing nothing but the dirt rain. The child leaves, raised high above each tall stone, drawing everything remembered—the songs, sky slipping backward and how beautiful it will be when it is cold and every light has finally gone out.

    1. Wow, Tovil! This is a gorgeous write! I love the stream of consciousness flow about this piece and all of the dark imagery! Beautifully done!

  3. I thought for a while on the genius of the age of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird before I started on my story, and I think it influenced it in subtle ways. Here’s a snippet:

    You can’t judge my mother too harshly, though, for she was alone in a world that saw her as a blight and us as her punishment. She was only a child when the ban started, with no way of knowing that the law would set the course of her life on a track without rails or handlebars.

    Thanks for another great prompt!

  4. I combined today’s First Person prompt, from Julie, with a Wednesday March 30, 2016 prompt of Write about grandparent in 100 words. I chose a true incident in my life.

    1. Oh, this was really nice. It was a lovely story and a great read. I wasn’t very far in before I knew I’d have to keep reading to the end. Well done!

  5. Wow, I surprised myself and wrote something approaching horror. Nothing bloody, mind you, but creepy. I like it. Good prompt!

  6. I’ve never been good with first-person simply because I always want to go into too much detail about where a character is and what’s going on around them. But! I actually managed to approximate this by writing a letter from one character to another! I feel so proud of myself because it also accomplished something else I’d been trying to write, so yay, two birds etc.!

  7. This was really wonderful. I’ve only written in first-person a handful of times, and never first person present tense. It gives a wicked sense of immediacy. I will definitely try this again!

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