Can a Creative Nonfiction Story Be in First Person?
Creative nonfiction has opened up the nonfiction newspaper, book and magazine markets. It allows writers to tell the fascinating stories of the lives of real people, including their own. These stories allow for the use of the first-person point-of-view, bringing the richness of a page-turning novel to the nonfiction arena.
What is Creative Nonfiction?
The creative nonfiction writer employs some of the dramatic storytelling techniques that writers of novels, short stories, plays and poems have used. Instead of using a straight reporting style that people associate with news stories in the paper or on TV, creative nonfiction will use elements such as simile and metaphor, detailed place and character descriptions. According to Purdue OWL, the three most common types of creative nonfiction are the personal essay, the literary journalism essay and the memoir.
When a writer tells a story through the third-person point-of-view, the story comes to the reader through the eyes of the main character. The writer uses "I" statements such as "I said," "I maintained" or "I challenged" to indicate that the character is referring to something in his life. Other indicators include the main character saying "mine, my, we or us" when speaking about his experiences or thoughts.
Excellent examples of authors using first person in a piece of creative nonfiction include Elizabeth Gilbert's book "Eat, Pray, Love" and Lev Raphael memoir "My Germany." Gilbert's book discusses her adventures through Italy, India and Indonesia. Raphael's book traces his trip to Germany as he follows the footsteps of his family members, including his parents; they were Jews in Europe during the Holocaust. By using first-person point-of-view, both books allow readers to become a silent witness to the writers' experiences as if he were sitting right next to them as they traveled.
Sometimes using the first-person point-of-view is the best option for a piece of creative nonfiction writing even if it is a memoir, personal essay or piece of literary journalism. The reader only experiences what the narrative shares with him and cannot see the story through another character's eyes as in the third-person POV. Additionally, many writers create memoirs about people besides themselves. Telling a story such as this through the third person instead of first person allows the reader to see the character in question from multiple viewpoints and bring a different tone to the voice of the book.
- Purdue OWL: Creative Nonfiction in Writing Courses
- Writer's Digest: What Point-Of-View Should You Use in Your Novel
- AIMS Community College: Point-Of-View in Writing
- Purdue OWL: Narrative Essays
- CreativeNon-Fiction.org: What is Creative Non-Fiction?
- Creative Non-Fiction Collective: Defining Creative Non-Fiction
- Eat Pray Love; Elizabeth Gilbert
- My Germany; Lev Raphael
Buffy Naillon has worked in the media industry since 1999, contributing to Germany's "Der Spiegel" magazine and various websites. She received a bachelor's degree in German from Boise State University. Naillon also attended New York University and participated in the foreign exchange program at Germany's Saarland University. She is completing her master's degree in educational technology at Boise State.