Do First Person Narrators All Sound the Same?

I write and read primarily YA. The last manuscript I wrote I used first person, and for the one I’m revising I’ve used a very close third person. Many YA books are told in first person. I’ve speculated before (waaay back in the archives) about how teenagers probably relate best to the first person voice because they really feel like they become the character. Though I think, in general, teenagers don’t think about this as much as the author does. They just know what they like. Barry Lyga has said that people have been adamant that his close 3rd person book, I Hunt Killers, is actually in first just because it’s so intimate and in Jazz’s head. So, basically, using the POV that’s best for the story is what’s important, no matter what the trend is.

All that being said, I feel like every book I’ve read lately that’s been in first person sounds like it’s being told by the same person. I even just finished an adult sci-fi adventure story where the main character was a 30-something woman who still sounded to me like any snarky teen–even my own first person narrator sounds this way. And I don’t know why. Their personalities are different, and they have different ways of speaking. I think that conversational tone just has a cadence that shows up in every story. Female narrators vs. Male narrators are slightly different, but are still similar to me.

My pickiness may have to do with some YA disillusionment I’ve been experiencing lately (and I plan to make this the topic of next week’s post)–I tend to go in phases of highs and lows toward writing, and I’ve been in a low lately. Right now, though, I just don’t care for first person narration, but I’m dying to read a book where it is used well. I think to pull it off you’d have to have a really unusual character to begin with. One that might have done it was Lo from The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison where the narrator has OCD. Does anyone know any other good, original-sounding first-person narrators (modern, not The Great Gatsby or anything, and it can be adult, though YA is preferred)?

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2 thoughts on “Do First Person Narrators All Sound the Same?

  1. Nice post. Made me think a lot about my own writing. Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman has a very good first person narrative which is quite unique.

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