Writing First Person Point of View (and Let’s Keep it Going!)
Welcome to Chapter One, an interactive forum for readers and writers to share their ideas. In this post we’ll use the first person Point of View to begin a story. Everyone’s invited to continue. So, in addition to sharing your observations and reaction in the comments section, feel free to write your version of what happens next there, too. Each month we’ll pick one and keep the story going and growing.
Ready? Let’s do it!
Cheryl Strayed’s moving memoir Wild triggered a dream that inspired me to begin a story. What you’ll see in the rest of this post is in first person POV suggested by the dream image. Think about the impact. How does the first person POV affect you emotionally? Is there more than one protagonist? What are the issues and how are they handled? What is resolved; what isn’t?
In part two of this post, we’ll present the story from a third person omniscient POV. Before you read that post, you might want to think of other ways to tell the story. Meanwhile, at the end of this post, we’ll invite everyone to interact. Ready? Here goes!
As I stepped into the grocery store, I saw Flaherty and Pierce disappear behind the far aisle. I took the long way around, making sure they didn’t see me.
“I thought this was just going to be you and me,” Pierce whispered.
“Meaning exactly what?” Flaherty said.
“Meaning, I didn’t expect to spend the day listening to you bullshit about Russian literature with some guy I don’t know.”
“You mean there’s something in this world you don’t know about?”
“I don’t know what it is; he bugs me,” Pierce carped..
“Everything bugs you. Before we leave here I’m getting you the biggest can of ‘Deep Woods Off they make.”
“Very witty. Don’t exhaust your big bankroll on me. The guy’s such a fucking pest,” Pierce continued. “The way he talks about books; and ‘did you read this?’ And ‘what did you think about that?’ And ‘do you like Dostoyevsky?’ Like he’s trying to impress me.”
“Jesus, Dude,” Flaherty said. “You make the guy sound like a housefly. Maybe he looks up to you.”
“Christ, what a thought,” Pierce snickered. “I’d rather be admired by a day student at University of New Haven.
“You’re jealous. You’re so used to having your dick admired by those assholes you’ve hung around with the last four years that you forget there’s another world besides New Haven.”
“Oh this is fabulous. I traipse all the way out here to spend two weeks with my older brother and I wind up in psychoanalysis with Dr. Dipshit-know-it-all psychology major who hasn’t done shit with his life except wait tables and babysit five years at ski school, telling himself he’s a ski instructor. I’m serious. How do we get rid of him?”
“We? Speak for yourself, Pierce. I get a vote, you know.”
“Take your shower. Then we’ll set up somewhere where he won’t find us. I picked out the best Merlot they had. I’ll even let you beat me at chess tonight. Then we can hit the road and give him the slip before he knows.”
“Won’t he be looking for us?” Flaherty asked.
“Who gives?” Pierce replied.
So, what now? I asked myself. Pierce feels I’m an intruder; no, it’s worse than that; he thinks of me more like a cockroach.
“Don’t take everything so personally,” my therapist Dr. Smerdloff, had been saying for three years. “Some people will like you; some people won’t. You’re more cerebral than a lot of people. Not everybody takes to it. Be comfortable with who you are.”
Then again was I trying to impress them? The only reason I mentioned Dostoyevsky was because Smerdloff was in my head, and his name made me think of Smerdyakov, the bastard brother who killed old man Karamazov. Hell, I didn’t even like The Brothers Karamazov.
So, I could either slink off letting Pierce think what he wanted, or look the brothers in the eye and say a proper goodbye. Did I owe them that after walking the trail with them for six hours? Did I owe it to myself to feel I had bid them a proper farewell?
There was a line for the outdoor showers. I let them go way ahead of me. Afterwards, I grabbed a beer and took in the sunset on a picnic bench in front of the bar. Through its dust-streaked window I heard the TV. It was the last week in August, the first week of college football. Somestate-State was playing Somestate-tech. An older woman and her younger female companion—I assumed she was her daughter—sat down on the far end of the bench. We introduced ourselves briefly, but I could see they wanted to talk privately, so I let it be
The air was thick with the smells of late summer, the stratosphere full of Canadian geese squadrons in vee-formations, as if they were planning to blanket LA’s golf courses with goose-turds.
When Pierce and Flaherty stepped out of the bar, I was on my third beer—two more than I usually drink. Flaherty nodded at me. “Nice night,” he said awkwardly. Pierce ignored me.
“Take care, fellows.” I said, extending a hand which Flaherty shook. “I’ll be heading off early tomorrow. It was nice being with you two. Good luck.”
“You, too, Bobby. You, too,” said Flaherty.
“See ya around,” Pierce mumbled like he’d rather have macular degeneration than see me again.
I started for the trail early in the morning while it was still dark. There were only two other hikers readying themselves to get going. As I turned on my helmet light and steadied my pack, I heard a woman say, “You’re getting an early start, Bobby.”
I recognized the voice. It was the woman at the other end of the picnic table from last night. I was surprised she remembered my name. “Yes,” I said. “It’s time to hit the road. The map says there’s a water stop five miles north of here. I’ll look out for you two.”
“That’d be nice,” the younger woman said.
Two hours later, I heard someone shouting, “Hey, Bobby. Wait up. Do you hear me? Wait up.”