Smells and Bells and First Person


Common problem: a writer decides to tell a story in first person and then fails to exploit the full capabilities of that POV.

How do you know if you're doing this?

Look for passages where you attribute sensory experiences, e.g. I smelled, I heard, I saw. Lose the attributions and place your reader directly inside your character's head.

Wrong: I smelled gunpowder.

Right: The room stank of gunpowder.

Wrong: I heard the bells ringing.

Right: The bells rang.

Same thing with feelings. If you have sentences that start, "I felt...," rewrite them to place the reader directly in the character's head.

Wrong: I felt worried.

Right: It wasn't going to be all right. It would never be all right.

See? Stay in the character's head, not outside it.

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