First Person Editing - Get Rid Of I

In my old writing class, someone in the group had written a first person story, and our tutor gave him a piece of advice that's always stuck with me.

Get rid of "I".

I believe "I" cannot function the way the main character's name can in a third person narrative.  Obviously you don't want to read the MC's name every sentence, but when the story is coming directly from the perspective of your MC, overuse of "I" becomes even more tiresome and, in my opinion, not very in-character.

Think of it like this - when you're going about your daily routine, do you think "I must make a cup of tea" or "I must take a shower" or "I must go to work" or "I simply must stop what I'm doing and read that book I bought yesterday because when I was in the shop I looked around for something good to read and I saw that book and I knew it would be brilliant!"

I'm guessing your probably don't.  Also, what a chore to read!

Some of my favourite first person narratives make me forget I'm reading first person because I'm so absorbed in the story. When I'm in a character's head, I want to hear their voice as clearly as my my own. I'm not saying get rid of every single instance of "I" or even limit it to five uses per page (although feel free to accept either challenge).  Look at it this way: if you can restructure a sentence to get rid of "I" and still sound like your character's telling the tale, do it.

Go from "I really fancy a hot chocolate" to "Hot chocolate would be perfect right about now..."

Mmmm... hot chocolate....


How about you? What do you think about using "I" too much (or too little!) in first person narratives?

Comments

  1. Excellent advise, as always. I try to cut out 'I' as much as I can... time will tell whether it's successful enough or not, though. :D

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    Replies
    1. Thanks!

      I thought I was quite mindful of it when I wrote my first draft... eeeeeh, not so much ^^;

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  2. This is so tough to do, but when I look at the hot chocolate example you gave, it feels more doable. Eliminating a bunch of instances of "I" in my story is going to be something I tackle in my revisions. Should be challenging! :)

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    Replies
    1. Challenging but fun, I hope!

      THINK OF THE HOT CHOCOLATE! ;)

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  3. This is hard, but it falls into the same category as word repetition. We should be avoid repeating the same word--especially in close proximity (how many times do you need to say "just" in the the same sentence?!). But we might be tempted to overlook the use of "I" in a first-person narrative. It's a first-person narrative, after all! Of course there's going to be a lot of "I"s. But you're right. We should be as sensitive to this as we are about using "just" or "really" every fifth word. :)

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    Replies
    1. Yes, it's very easy to overlook but once you become familiar with other ways of writing, it does become a little easier to come up with an "I" free sentence.

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