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I'm currently writing from 1st point of view, and I understand that since the character's viewpoint is limited, I can't talk about other characters' actions and reactions unless she sees it. My question is, am I able to do something like:

I sat in the front row directly in front of Ms.Lee's desk.

When we're all sat in our chairs, Ms.Lee starts the class.

"Does everyone know what's going on this weekend?" Ms.Lee asks.

"We have a test on Friday," Lia answers point at the board.


Can I do that, or is it too 3rd person?

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  • You can do whatever you want, as long as it works... – DM_with_secrets Dec 14 '20 at 23:08
  • Just gonna point out a few small mistakes here. First of all, "We're" stands for "We Are", so the second sentence would read: "When we are all sat in our chairs, Ms. Lee starts the class." which doesn't really make sense. And, in the last sentence, it says "Lia answers point at the board." Did you mean, "Lia answered and pointed at the board"? – Nai54 Dec 17 '20 at 19:02
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It's worth noting that first-person need not be as limited as you think. Buzz Mauro's article, “Expanding the Powers of First-Person Narration” from Prime Number Magazine offers some great insights on this. As he notes in the introduction:

It’s the cardinal rule of first person: Don’t narrate anything your narrator cannot plausibly know.

And yet, great literature is rife with flagrant violations. Nick Carraway narrates a central scene in Gatsby’s drama as if he’d been there taking notes, when it’s clear he was nowhere near that fateful garage at the time. Most of Tristram Shandy is devoted to Tristram’s blow-by-blow narration of events he could not possibly have been privy to, notably his own conception and birth. And all of Madame Bovary—including the most intimate details of Emma’s adultery and despair—is presented as a memoir of a childhood acquaintance of her husband.

I recommend reading the whole article for some mind-expanding perspective on writing first-person.

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  • Wow, I love this article, thank you! There's an interesting bit in the Q&A at the end as well: "I think writers always think of their characters as people, and I discovered that critics often don’t", and I think that's relevant here - if you think of your first person narrator as a person, they can tell you whatever they darnn well please! – DM_with_secrets Dec 15 '20 at 9:39
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Yes

I'm not going to do critique of your writing, but the general idea is, as long as you stick to 1st person observations and thoughts, you are good. In your example, I don't see anything that the narrator couldn't observe. Even if "Lia" wasn't immediately visible, the narrator very well could recognize her voice or turn to see who's speaking. Otherwise, it should have been something like "girl's voice from somewhere in the back of the room".

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  • The only thing that might be problematic is Lia pointing somewhere if the narrator can't currently see her. But without further information I'd just assume that since it's described, clearly the narrator can see her. – Llewellyn Dec 15 '20 at 17:21

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