Checking my notes at the writersandcritters conference

Today I’m sharing the recording of a short conversation on the merits of writing in first, second or third person that we got into after my talk at the writersandcritters conference.

Briefly speaking, writers typically employ first person point of view for memoir and personal essay as it is the most intimate and natural choice. It is, however, by its very nature rather close, and, when writing, it can be hard to differentiate between the “I” in the story and the “I” of the writer. Switching to third person can help you gain that perspective and see yourself as a character. You can always switch back to first person later. Using second person can have a similar effect, although in English “you” serves two purposes, and so it can be hard not to seem to be addressing the reader, unless you’re writing in letter form and are meaning to do that.

I found the issue of using the impersonal pronoun particularly interesting and you will see, if you listen to the short podcast, that we had a little back and forth about that. English doesn’t really have a designated word for the impersonal like other languages do, and we discussed the perils of using “you” versus “one.” I’d be interested to hear what you have to say about that.