Point of View

Today I’m going to talk about Point of View.  When referring to literature, Point of View is the perspective of your narrative voice. Think of it as the pronoun you choose to use in your narration. There are several options to go with: first-person, second-person, third-person omniscient, and third-person limited. It’s very important to have a strong narrative voice, regardless of which point of view you choose. I suggest you listen to your characters and determine whose story it is before you make your final decision. Once you’ve decided, make sure you remain consistent with the point of view you’ve chosen throughout your story.

When a story is narrated by one character at a time, with the character speaking for and about themselves, this is first-person narrative. The narrator refers to himself/herself using first-person singular, “I”  and/or  first-person plural, “we”.  This allows readers to see the opinions, thoughts, and feelings only of the narrator, and no other characters. First-person narrators may refer to information they’ve heard from the other characters, in order to try to deliver a larger point of view or  the author  may chose to switch from one narrator to another. This allows the readers to experience the thoughts and feelings of more than one character.

Second-person narrative,  is basically a narrative mode in which the main character is referred to by use of  the second-person singular pronoun “you”,  in combination with imperative voice. This is not a very common narrative technique in literary fiction. Here’s an example:

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”
(Dr. Seuss, Oh! The Places You’ll Go! 1990)

Third-person narrative gives authors the greatest flexibility  and is the most common narrative mode in literature. In the third-person narrative every character is referred to by the narrator as “he”, “she”, “it”, or “they”.  In third-person narrative, the narrator is  an  uninvolved person that conveys the story and is not a character of any kind within the story being told.

The most common type of third-person narrative is third-person singular (he/she). However, there have been successful uses of the third-person plural (they). It is common to see singular and plural used together in one story, at different times depending upon the number of people being referred to at a given moment in the plot.

Third person omniscient is a method in which the narrator knows the thoughts and feelings of all of the characters in the story, as opposed to third person limited which  sticks to one character’s perspective.

I won’t go deeper into third-person, but feel free to ask questions or research if you like. It’s a good idea to know everything there is to know about the viewpoint you choose and to check out examples before you begin writing.

While it is advised to adopt a single approach to point of view throughout your story, there are exceptions. Some stories alternate between the first and third person. In this instance, an author will move back and forth between a more omniscient third-person narrator to a more personal first-person narrator. Other stories alternate between third person limited and third person omniscient . Viewpoints can be switched at chapter boundaries or between characters at intervals. Make sure that you swap view points in a consistent pattern so you don’t confuse your readers.  I won’t go too deeply into this either as I’m short on time, just know that alternating viewpoints can be done  and there are different ways to do it. I hope I haven’t forgotten anything!

Here are some references I used and some other websites and pictures that you might find useful.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Point_of_view

http://grammar.about.com/od/rs/g/secondpersonterm.htm

http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/glossary/g/omniscient.htm

http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/glossary/g/firstperson.htm

http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/understanding-point-of-view-in-literature.html

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Thanks for reading! See you next week 🙂

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2 Comments

Filed under Fiction Writing, Point of View

2 responses to “Point of View

  1. I’ve written books both ways and find sometimes a particular storyline works better in the first person instead of the third or vice versa 🙂

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