I had started writing my novel in the first person. Later on, I planned some plot twists along the way.

For these plot twists to happen, the protagonist shouldn't be aware of the consequences/interpretation of certain events; some go back to when she was in school. Eventually, my protagonist will experience a moment of reckoning towards the end of the book.

I don't know how to pull this off when the protagonist is the narrator. Is she supposed to be aware of everything happening around her and to her when I'm writing in the first person? Or is it possible to navigate this?


Plot twists are actually easier to pull off in first person, because the first person perspective shapes what the audience sees. There's a famous plot twist at the end of The Sixth Sense, and the clues are all present throughout the movie, but the audience doesn't pick up on it, because we see the entire movie from the perspective of the protagonist.

Make sure you have the entire plot worked out for yourself, and that you've considered it from everyone's perspective. But only write into the narrative what your character sees and experiences, and from her perspective and frame of understanding.


Is she supposed to be aware of everything happening around her and to her if I'm writing in the first person?

Yes. But she can be aware and not understand.

She can see and describe things she doesn't understand, but perhaps the reader does. Likewise, she may be involved in conversations, or overhear conversations, that only in retrospect make sense to her.

It isn't just first person, though, in 3rd person limited we often follow a single character throughout the book, and know her thoughts, so a similar issue arises.

One alternative is to engage with a character (or book, or scroll, or legend) that is basically telling her what happened, now that she can understand it, and have her remember her role in it or what she witnessed firsthand.

Otherwise this can require some imagination to figure out. In the end it may not be possible to figure out; you just cannot tell the reader about the past event. But that should be okay, the reader should be immersed in the first person character, and NOT expecting something that character cannot possibly know about! It would be a deal breaker for that kind of reader experience.

Whatever the consequences of this prior event, let it happen, and learn the history later because they happened. Just as we do all the time in real life when we are surprised by something happening due to historical events we knew nothing about.

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