16

The story I'm writing uses 'I' and 'I'm' way too much, and it's really obvious. The problem is that I cannot find words to replace the two, and when I do, it always changes and bends what I'm trying to portray, making it extremely difficult and confusing to understand.

Is there a way for me to stop using them so much? Is there a way to make them less noticeable and less obvious?

4
30

The way to stop overusing 'I' and 'I'm' is to examine the words following those terms.

Usually, they are filter words -- thought, felt, heard, et cetera -- and are putting a kind of layer between your 1st person narrator and the reader. By writing more intimately, the filter words disappear

For example, 'I felt angry because they were out of cookies' becomes 'No Cookies! Don't tell me there are no more cookies.' or 'Is it too much to ask for there to be enough cookies for everyone.' or 'Never enough cookies. #Deleted bakers!'

And, 'I thought I'm getting fat' becomes 'These pants are too tight?'

Okay, fine, they are lousy examples. You're not paying for my A-game! I thought to myself as I typed out my answer to another question on that online forum.

Not that you should be getting rid of all I and I'm. They are useful for focusing the moment on the character, especially when the character experience is mixed in with narrative passages. As in 'I'm short. Not that it's all bad. Many famous people were short -- Alexander the Great 3'6" Jack the Giant Killer 2'10". The world can crap on short people, thinking them small and insignificant. Just let them go on like that. Never thinking, I'm hiding under their bed with a knife.'

Starts intimate. Drifts slowly away, feels kind of like a character thinking, but is a great way to introduce world building and exposition, then pull it back into intimate with 'I'm under their bed.'

2
  • 1
    IOW, don't narrate "I felt X" but show stream of conscious. And you don't have to put "I thought," when you do so, if it's a consistent thing for the whole chapter.
    – JDługosz
    Dec 3 '21 at 16:00
  • @JDługosz, not so much stream of consciousness, because that's a whole thing in itself (and one I don't understand). But show the moment with directness and intimacy
    – EDL
    Dec 3 '21 at 16:07
20

Remember your first person POV is the narrator:

When I am describing what is going on in third person, it wouldn't occur to address people about me as narrator. But in many ways, first person POV is simply third person where the narrator also gets to be one of the characters.

The examples that EDL uses in his answer are very good (+1). It's all about keeping the perspective as much as possible in the observation, not in the action. So "I opened the creaky door and I found it to be a jarring noise," becomes "The door opened with a jarring creak." The thinking is to have the character describe the story like a narrator. Then the only places where you need to use I/my/I'm/me is where you are describing the actions of narrator-as-character, or to clarify who is performing a specific task and it's not otherwise clear.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.