Plotrospection-- 1st person Journal

There are dozens, probably hundreds of books written as if the main character were writing it all themselves in a journal. This opens up a lot of doors.

1) we can see more deeply into the characters mind.
This is great if you have a strong character. But if your character has annoying flaws that the author didn't mean to put in, then getting to know the inner workings of their mind can be downright painful.

2) it opens up a chance for bias.
I love this, actually. When you have a hero or heroine writing about all these things that are happening to them, I like taking a step back and thinking, "Now, how might someone else see it? Is this person skewing things to fit their own agenda?" Many authors don't even mean to open this door, but I love to peek through it.

3) Full emmersion into the world
When you're reading someone's journal, you aren't just being told "The sky is blue." You're being told, "The sky is blue and it makes me think of rainbows and ponies." Similar to #1, this can be great if you've created a believable world. If an omnipotent narrator were to tell me "John had to be careful of breathing too much, as too much carbon dioxide in the air would cause the room to spontaneously combust." Then I might go, seriously? But if I'm hearing it from John's perspection, something like, "My lungs screamed for more air, but I knew that just the tinyest unbalance in the atmosphere of the room would send me to a fiery oblivion," then I'd be thinking, "How cool is that?!"

Looking through the eyes of a character makes me feel more at home and involved in a fictional world. But I guess that all goes back to the famous(or infamous) show, don't tell.

With all that said, I wouldn't say that I prefer journal-style books. Because sometimes I don't. Especially the ones where they're running around doing all this crazy stuff, and I'm left thinking "How in the world are you having time to write this all down?!" But they do have their perks.

What about you? What doors do 1st person journal novels open for you? Do you have some favorites? Some that you detest(please be nice!)? Here are some I know:

Book of a Thousand Days, Shannon Hale (favorite book of all time, tied with Enna Burning)
The Pendragon series, DJ MacHale (Childhood favorite series)

And, discuss.


  1. LOVE B1000, of course.

    I have a journal-style project on the back burner, and writing it has taught me so very much! Logistics in a journal are crazy difficult: How much time am I covering? What's the date? Does the character write every day? It's also hard to foreshadow.

  2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid is hilarious!

  3. I really liked Robin McKinley's Dragonhaven, though it took some getting into, because he doesn't really explain anything upfront. It's very different from her other books, but by the time I was about 1/3 of the way through it I just loved the character's voice, and was incredibly interested in what was going to happen to him.

  4. I enjoy first person journals, but sometimes they tend to narrow down your perspective. I don't get to know what the other characters are thinking, which is a little restrictive.


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