Question No. 21: “Can I use ‘I’ in this paper?”

Ira Question Written by Nathan Mattise

I had the opportunity to roadtrip with a friend this past weekend. Any drive over two-hours requires a little more entertainment then just plain music (which lead to)…

The Kindness of Strangers Fear of Sleep

Both of these stories begin with first-person narratives for their initial acts. It’s the literary form you’ve been discouraged from taking ever since eighth grade (“Don’t use first-person in your essays. No ‘I'”).

In the scheme of TAL, I can see why. The brilliance of the program is how honest, ordinary people are fascinating due to their unexpected depth and frankness. First-person narratives seem to contradict this. They are meticulously thought out, at times consciously (or sub-consciously) veiled, lacking a multitude of perspectives.

It’s an easier listen when you’re familiar with the author/character and their voice (someone like Birbiglia, Sedaris, Vowell, Savage), but it’s considerably more difficult in the case of something like “The Kindness of Strangers” (first story is the account of a lock smith, hasn’t had years of developing his voice and his story is noticeably slower).

So if it isn’t too much, I’d love to know…

What  does it take to get a personal narrative into an episode? Would you prefer all reported stories in an ideal production or do you see a place where the narrative needs to be included?

Links: This American Life

E-mail us if you have a question for Ira Glass to discuss or if you have insight on this one.

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