I'm writing a first-person fantasy novel. I can't exactly figure out how to avoid the repetition of "I" when explaining the actions of the character. Any way I have ever seen makes the story seem like it's being entirely told in past-tense, and I believe that would take away from how I want to portray things.

This question is unique because it asks how to maintain the tense, unlike the possible duplicate.

The possible duplicate also doesn't provide an answer in which the present tense is maintained.

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    The tense used has nothing to do with the point of view used. – Jason Bassford Sep 2 '18 at 14:46
  • @JasonBassford Okay, I'll further explain why its not a duplicate in my edit. – Keith Cronin Sep 2 '18 at 15:57
  • The top answer in the linked duplicate works perfectly well in present tense. Change the tense of the example given and the result is exactly what you'd want. Similarly for @StuW's answer - just change the tense and the given example works fine. – Jules Sep 2 '18 at 20:44

I don't think the fact you're writing in present tense makes much of a difference, and if you do it'd be worth discussing why, for instance, the write-this-not-that examples in the other question wouldn't work as well in the present tense. My go-to present-tense author is Damon Runyon, and his first-person stories are also a good exercise in scant use of "I". This, for example, has the narrator more of an onlooker who's not involved much. That might not suit your purposes, but his sentence structures could give you ideas.

This survey found a 3% use of "I" by word count in one author's first-person writing. I don't use first-person often myself, but when I do the total is more like 4%. You should ask yourself whether you are overusing it. The frequency of "I" can attest to the character's extent of self-absorption, which for my protagonist was a definite character trait. You might, might, find writing a self-obsessed character works more to your strengths than worrying about your overuse.

  • My character is self-absorbed. You could definitely say that. I personally find that having to have an "I" at the beginning of a sentence where he does some kind of action is going to grow to be tedious. I try to deeply portray what the character is experiencing, and observing in order to keep the "I"s from annoying the reader. Because the character is alone now and for a little while, I only have action, experience, observation, and thought to work with until more characters are introduced to the story. I might have to introduce another character quicker than I wanted. – Keith Cronin Sep 2 '18 at 14:12
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    @KeithCronin Ah, the overuse of "I" at the start of a sentence is a different issue; but you'll get around that with practice. The problem may be not so much your overuse of "I" as your sentences having similar structures. – J.G. Sep 2 '18 at 14:35

Sir, there is a way by which you can minimize the use of I in the first place. As you are writing a first-person fantasy you can always use other characters to tell your story in this manner you can always skip the letter I.

Let the sub-character tell first-person's story, so the story will keep everyone engaged.

it's a fantasy after all you can make the nonliving things tell your story also.

  • I agree with that, but, the character that I'm in first person with right now is completely alone, and will be until the next main character is introduced. – Keith Cronin Sep 2 '18 at 14:03

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