First person narrative

by David L. Jones
(Austell, GA. USA)

Question: I am trying to write my first story and I am writing in the first person. In the story the person may or may have not died so that is giving me trouble in how to write as the person telling the story. Any advice?


Answer: I agree that is a problem, since it can feel like a bit of a cheat to have it turn out that the character is narrating from beyond the grave (though that has been done, as in the film Sunset Boulevard).

A few alternatives...

1. Perhaps the novel is actually the main character's diary, written up to the point just before they died. You may need an afterward written from a different point of view to explain this and let the reader know what happened in the end.

2. Try writing in the third person, limited mode.

3. Perhaps the main character is telling their story to someone or in a journal just before the crisis. Once that they are finished, you might switch to third person to tell what happens after that point.

4. You decide the main character survives.

5. You explain the gimmick early on -- that the main character is deceased and narrating from beyond the grave, or had his consciousness preserved in a computer, etc. so the reader knows he is dead from the start.

6. Write the story using more than one point-of-view character and let the other character explain what happened in the end.

Best of luck with this thorny problem.

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