In this part of the tutorial about the types of narrators, I’ll analyze the first-person narrator which is the one widely used in contemporary literature. What distinguishes him from the witness narrator, who also resorts to the first person, is the fact that this narrator is the protagonist talking about himself (or herself) and his circumstances. There are quite a lot of first-person novels. Paul Auster’s Moon Palace and Oracle Night, J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, or Philippe Claudel’s Brodeck’s Report are well-known examples.
In addition, the first-person narrator is often used in crime fiction. This is the case of in the novels written by Jeff Lindsay about the serial killer Dexter. Nevertheless, we can also find this type of narrator in the epistolary genre, personal diaries, biographies, internal monologues, etc. Regardless of the literary genre, here are some general features that can help us determine if the first-person narrator fits our story:
1. The narrator is the axis.
As I stated above, the first-person narrator is the story’s protagonist as well as the axis of the narration.
2. He/she lends credibility to the main character.
A character who narrates the story in the first person is perceived as real by the reader because he turns into a voice who speaks to him (or her) directly.
3. He/she must be well developed.
Depending on the story you want to tell and the feelings you want to transmit to the reader (empathy, rejection, understanding, condescension, admiration, etc.), your protagonist (and narrator) will have different traits.
4. He/she has a particular voice.
As a consequence of what’s explained in the previous point, the main character has a personal voice in line with his personality, age, origin, social stratum, etc.
5. He/she has a subjective and restricted point of view.
The protagonist has his individual opinions, thoughts, and feelings about the world around him, and the reader has to accept that and live the story through his eyes.
Be careful: The voice behind the first-person narrator belongs to the protagonist – not to the author. Make sure your main character has his own life!