Telling a good story is tough. Telling a a good first-person story is tougher.

A first-person story is narrated from the perspective of a character who is speaking directly about herself.

To be authentic, the author really has to get inside the character’s head. The language must be language that character would use. The tone must be the tone that character would have. The references must be references that character would talk about. There’s a lot to get right — and a lot to get wrong.

A few weeks ago, Mark and I conducted a storytelling training and one of the participants got it so right!

Brittany Simmons, a mental health and substance abuse counselor in North Carolina, wrote a first-person story about James (his name has been changed). It starts like this:
“My name is James, for short they call me Jay. You know…Jay? Like Jay-Z? He’s like my role model. Something like a father to me- cuz only God knows who my real father is, what his name is, or where he stays. I have dreams to be successful, to make it out of the hood, and to know what it’s like to be worry-free…. like my boy, Jay-Z.
I worry about what we will eat, if the lights will get cut off, if the water will actually come out of the faucet when I turn it on this time, or if I will hear the rent man banging on our door again fussing at my momma. When I start worrying a lot, I always roll up a blunt to ease my mind. All of my worries become giggles and all of my troubles, that were so serious just a second ago, become jokes.”

Brittany agreed to read her story aloud for us. I think you’ll be blown away at how she captured this young man — his hopes, his challenges, his voice, his story.

Listen below. It’s definitely worth 6 minutes of your time.


[soundcloud url=”″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]