First Person POV in UF

Angela, the SciFi Chick, wants to know why so many urban fantasy novels are written from first-person point-of-view. Here’s my take.
While some folks use 1st person as a measure for defining the sub-genre, it’s not that simple. Part of why 1st person works so well is because of what happens in a UF story– the hero/ine is presented in his/her ordinary world, and then stumbles upon the previously unseen fantasy world. This is the storyline for most UFs.  It’s much easier for the reader to understand and feel the character’s reaction to this new world from a 1st person POV. We also feel more deeply the changes to the character as a result of this new knowledge.

Is it perhaps because 1st person is more intimate? Perhaps. Is it because 3rd person not only feels more removed, but also lends itself to the old trick at the end of “it was all a dream”– such as in Alice in Wonderland, and the Wizard of Oz?

It could also be because UF has a hint of noir, and if you think back to those old movies and stories, they were 1st person as well. You can’t get that same filter of “everything is corrupted” from a 3rd person POV.

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3 comments on “First Person POV in UF

  1. I don’t think it’s any easier to understand. I understand just as well if it’s from a third person POV. I do see what you’re saying, though.

    While I enjoy first person, I’m starting to get a little tired of it. I kind of want to know what some of the other characters are thinking or feeling, too.

  2. I hadn’t really thought about this before. First person doesn’t bother me. Sometimes I don’t even notice it–I’m kind of oblivious when I’m reading! I do think first person helps me “get into” the world I’m reading about though. You’re right…there’s a hint of noir to urban fantasy–and it is helped by first person POV.

  3. I agree that a certain noir feel lends itself easily to first person POV. Also, urban fantasy, for me, speaks of things many people don’t have a common frame of reference for (you’re not going to see how casting a spell feels on American Idol), and a first person POV makes that easier to do. With 1st person, there is more freedom to let what the narrator is feeling color their persoectives. A wonderful example of this can be found in Jim Butcher’s Fool Moon, when Harry uses a potion that gives him a boost. His perspective informs us better than any observer about the changes the potion works in him, and how unready he is when it wears off.

    Also, I think that UF stories are more about the character than the plot, and keeping elements of the plot hidden from the narrator is what makes the mystery a little more fun to discover…at least for me.

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