Every piece of writing has a point of view. A novel, an academic research paper, your journal, and this blog post all have a point of view. Point of view in writing is the position from which a story is told. A simple way to think about point of view is to ask: Where is the narrator?
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What is point of view?
Point of view is the writer’s way of deciding who is telling the story to whom. Establishing a clear point of view is important because it dictates how your reader interprets characters, events, and other important details. There are three kinds of point of view: first person, second person, and third person.
First-person point of view
In first-person point of view, the reader accesses the story through one person. It’s like reading the main character’s diary. You will notice pronouns like I, me/my, we, us, or our in first-person writing. This limits the scope of what a reader can know about other characters, but it is truest to how we live our lives.
There are two ways to write in first person:
- First-person central: The narrator is also the protagonist of the story. For example, in To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout is both the main character and the narrator, meaning this novel is written in first-person central.
- First-person peripheral: The narrator is telling the story of the protagonist from close by. One famous example is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. The story of Gatsby is told not by Gatsby himself but by a narrator named Nick, a friend and neighbor of Gatsby’s.
Why write in first person?
- Identification: The reader is discovering information right alongside the narrator, so they identify more closely with them. First-person writing creates a feeling of “we’re in this together.”
- Opinion: If your piece is heavily dependent on opinions, then it’s a good idea to establish whose opinion it is. This can be the fictional opinion of a character or the opinion of the writer. Either way, using the pronoun I ensures the opinion won’t be read as fact.
- Intrigue: The limits of a character’s knowledge can play to the advantage of the writer if you want to create mystery around other characters. For example, the narrator’s distance from the subject in The Great Gatsby creates a sense of intrigue about Gatsby.
Second-person point of view
Second-person point of view uses the pronoun you. This point of view establishes the reader as the protagonist or main character. It is the most difficult point of view to maintain in a longer piece of creative writing. As a writer, you want your reader to be engrossed, engaged, and enthralled but . . . involved? There is a time and place for second person, such as nonfiction, advertising, immersive stories, and this blog post. There are some examples of second-person point of view in novels, which we’ll explore later in this article. Just know that it’s the most challenging and least-often-used point of view in fiction.
Why write in second person?
- Uniqueness: It’s unusual to find the second-person point of view in creative writing. Write in second person for a creative challenge or to create a novel experience for your reader.
- Space for reflection: By inserting the pronoun you into writing, you’re addressing the reader directly. This is a useful way to generate space for their personal contemplation.
Third-person point of view
In third-person point of view, the narrator has the ability to know everything. You’ll see the pronouns he/his, she/her, they/them/their, and it/its in third-person point of view. This point of view allows for the greatest flexibility and also creates the most complexity.
There are three ways to write in the third person:
- Third-person omniscient: The narrator speaks freely about everyone and everything. There are no limits to the time, space, or character the narrator can access.
- Third-person limited omniscient (also called third-person close): The author writes in third person but keeps the thoughts and feelings limited to one central character. The Harry Potter series is an example of third-person limited omniscient. The reader has access to scenes across time and space, but they are only ever in the head of Harry himself.
- Third-person objective: The narrator is a neutral entity, relying on observations of characters rather than getting in their heads. It’s writing from a fly-on-the-wall perspective. Ernest Hemingway was a master of third-person objective. Hemingway’s short story “Hills Like White Elephants” is the most popular example of this rare style in fiction.
Why write in third person?
- Complexity: The possibilities are endless in third-person writing. The writer is not limited by the thoughts, observations, or movements of a single character, which gives them the opportunity to build more complex worlds, plots, and characters.
- Flexibility: Third-person narration is not bordered by time or space, so the writer can move the story wherever they want to.
- Authoritative narrator: Human beings are inherently biased, so removing the narrator’s subjectivity can make the writing feel more authoritative.
How to create point of view
If you’ve always written your journal in first-person central, you’ve probably never stopped and asked yourself, Should I write this entry in first-person central? Your choice is instinctual. More often than not, the correct point of view is the one that comes most naturally. However, if you want to be more deliberate with your point of view or try a new technique, here are some things to consider:
1 Look at the genre: Are there any established points of view for the type of writing you’re doing? Read other examples to find out. Personal essays are typically written in first person, self-help books tend to take on second person, and journalism is most often written in third person. Turn to writing that you admire or want to emulate and see if you can determine what point of view it is written in.
2 Think about complexity: First person requires you to have a deep understanding of the narrator, while third person requires knowledge of all of your characters.
3 Establish the point of view immediately: Don’t leave your reader hanging on for too long. A good rule of thumb is to situate your reader within the first two paragraphs.
4 Trust your gut: Like so much in writing, sometimes you just have to feel it out! If you’re unsure whether something sounds better in first or third person, try writing a portion of it both ways. Which one comes more naturally? Which one feels more forced? Often the point of view that feels better to write is the one that feels better to read.
Can you switch the point of view?
Point of view is an unspoken contract between you and your reader, so you should try and stay consistent. Changing points of view without warning would be like suddenly calling your mom by her first name—it’s a jarring experience for everyone. However, you probably wouldn’t call her office and ask to speak to “mom.” There are rare but appropriate situations where changing points of view makes sense.
One instance is when you want to create a moment of reflection for the reader. In this case, you might shift into a second-person point of view. For example, if there is a moral question at the end of anallegory, the writer can switch into the second person and ask what you, the reader, might do in this situation. This is one way you can use points of view as aliterary device, which is a strategy to enhance your writing. Some authors, like Haruki Murakami and Italo Calvino, purposefully change the point of view throughout their stories as an imaginative way to enhance the reader’s experience.
Point of view examples
Like we said, every piece of writing has a point of view. Here are some examples of points of view in literature:
First person (peripheral)
“When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart. Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction—Gatsby, who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn.”
—The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald’s narrator, the “I” in the example above, is a man named Nick. Though the central character of the book is Gatsby, the reader learns Gatsby’s story through the personal perspective of a nearby narrator.
“You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Tell the others right away, ‘No, I don’t want to watch TV!’”
—If on a winter’s night a traveler, by Italo Calvino
Calvino was famous for his innovative writing techniques. In this example from the opening lines of his novel, Calvino is directly addressing the reader in second person, instructing them how to read his book.
Third person (objective)
“The American and the girl with him sat at a table in the shade, outside the building. It was very hot and the express from Barcelona would come in forty minutes. It stopped at this junction for two minutes and went on to Madrid.
‘What should we drink?’ the girl asked. She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.
‘It’s pretty hot,’ the man said.
‘Let’s drink beer.’
‘Dos cervezas,’ the man said into the curtain.
‘Big ones?’ a woman asked from the doorway.
‘Yes. Two big ones.’”
—“Hills Like White Elephants,” by Ernest Hemingway
This dialogue is told from a fly-on-the-wall perspective. The narrator is not talking about themself (there is no “I”), and the reader has access to every character’s behaviors equally. It is purely observational.
Point of view FAQs
What is point of view in writing?
Point of view in writing is the position the narrator speaks from. It is who is speaking to whom.
How does point of view work?
Point of view is expressed through the author’s use of pronouns, which reveal the narrator’s position. In first person, the narrator uses the pronoun I throughout the writing. In second person, the narrator uses the pronoun you. In third person, the narrator uses the pronouns she/he/they/it.
What are the different kinds of point of view?
There are three kinds of point of view: first person, second person, and third person.
When should you use point of view in writing?
Every piece of writing has a point of view. Sometimes the point of view is chosen for us by the genre we are writing in. For example, most journalism is required to be written in third person. However, there are different strengths and weaknesses to each point of view, and it is up to the writer to decide which one serves their writing best.
Point of view is the writer's way of deciding who is telling the story to whom. Establishing a clear point of view is important because it dictates how your reader interprets characters, events, and other important details. There are three kinds of point of view: first person, second person, and third person.What is point of view answer and explanation? ›
Definition of Point of View
The term point of view, or POV for shorthand, refers to who is telling a story, or who is narrating it. The narration of a story or novel can be told in three main ways: first person, second person, and third person. To determine point of view, ask, 'Who is doing the talking?'
|Point of View||Pronoun||Point of View Examples in Literature|
|Third Person Limited||He/She/They/etc.||1984 by George Orwell Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen|
|Third Person Omniscient||He/She/They/etc.||Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy|
Point of view is an important literary device for exploring a story. The point of view an author chooses can determine how the reader understands and participates in the story. Point of view can be used to express the feelings, thoughts, motivations, and experiences of one or many.How do you explain point of view to students? ›
- First person point of view is when the main character is telling the story. ...
- Second person point of view is when the narrator is telling the story and addresses the readers. ...
- Third person point of view is when the narrator is telling the story, but they are not part of the story.
When a person is telling a story, whether through their own personal experiences or through someone else's experiences, we know that as the point of view of the story. When an author begins writing a story, they have to decide who is going to tell their story.What is 1st 2nd and 3rd person point of view? ›
First, second, and third person are ways of describing points of view. First person is the I/we perspective. Second person is the you perspective. Third person is the he/she/it/they perspective.What is the rule of point of view? ›
The cardinal rule of Point of View:
Limit yourself to one Perspective Character per scene, preferably per chapter, ideally per book. That means no switching POV characters within the same scene, let alone within the same paragraph or sentence.
Examples from Collins dictionaries
Thanks for your point of view, John. Try to look at this from my point of view. Do you think that, from the point of view of results, this exercise was worth the cost? The average man doing hard physical work has the best record, from the point of view of heart disease.
Author's viewpoint is the way an author looks at a topic or the ideas being described. Viewpoint includes the content and the language used to present the data. Thoughtful readers decipher an author's point of view, opinions, hypotheses, assumptions, and possible bias.
Point of view in a text is the position from which the subject matter of a text is designed to be perceived. In defining a point of view the writer, speaker or director of the text controls what we see and how we relate to the situation, characters or ideas in the text.Why do people talk in third-person? ›
The third person is how you indicate that the topic is not open for debate. You are speaking about facts that just so happen to include you.What is it called when the author is telling the story? ›
Narration is the use of a written or spoken commentary to convey a story to an audience. Narration is conveyed by a narrator: a specific person, or unspecified literary voice, developed by the creator of the story to deliver information to the audience, particularly about the plot: the series of events.What is plot in a story? ›
What is a story plot? Essentially, a story plot is what happens in the story. More specifically, the plot is the series of events that take place. It's the action of the story that drives the narrative forward.What are the three points of view examples? ›
The three primary points of view are first person, in which the narrator tells a story from their own perspective ("I went to the store"); second person, in which the narrator tells a story about you, the reader or viewer ("You went to the store"); and third person, in which the narrator tells a story about other ...How do you write two point of view? ›
- Hone in on the most important character. ...
- Use different perspectives to build characters. ...
- Stick to one point of view for each scene. ...
- Clearly define perspective shifts. ...
- Give each character a unique perspective and voice.
What Are the 4 Types of Point of View? As mentioned earlier and in the examples above, there are different POVs you can use for your novel. You can use first-person, second-person, third-person (limited and omniscient), and even fourth-person point of view in your book.What is a sentence for first point of view? ›
In writing, the first person point of view uses the pronouns “I,” “me,” “we,” and “us,” in order to tell a story from the narrator's perspective. The storyteller in a first-person narrative is either the protagonist relaying their experiences or a peripheral character telling the protagonist's story.What is the first person point of view? ›
First Person Point of View
In first-person narration, the narrator is a person in the story, telling the story from their own point of view. The narration usually utilizes the pronoun I (or we, if the narrator is speaking as part of a group).
phrase. You use in my view when you want to indicate that you are stating a personal opinion, that other people might not agree with. In my view things won't change.
To understand an author's point of view, a reader must consider the author's experience and the argument being made. Point of view is conveyed through language; therefore, students must look closely at what an author says and connect it back to what they author knows and believes.How do you evaluate point of view? ›
- Distinguishing Between Fact and Opinion, Biases, and Stereotypes.
- Recognizing the Structure of Texts in Various Formats.
- Interpreting the Meaning of Words and Phrases Using Context.
- Determining the Denotative Meaning of Words.
- Evaluating the Author's Purpose in a Given Text.
Perspective includes the thoughts, feelings, and actions of the character. Point of view impacts how you write the piece (first-person, second-person, third-person).What are the benefits of third person point of view? ›
- Third-person POV can allow for omniscience. ...
- Third-person POV provides insight into multiple characters. ...
- Third-person POV allows for objectivity. ...
- Third-person POV can more easily jump around in time. ...
- Third-person POV is compatible with first-person POV.
A first-person narrator gives the reader a front row seat to the story. It also: Gives a story credibility. First-person point of view builds a rapport with readers by sharing a personal story directly with them.What is the advantage of writing from the omniscient point of view? ›
Omniscient point of view really lets the author's voice shine. Because the story isn't filtered through a character, the writer is able to use their full vocabulary, syntax skill, and mastery of the craft. They are not limited by the knowledge and abilities of their central character.How does writing in third-person effect the reader? ›
In a story with a third-person point of view, the narrator refers to the characters by their names and uses third-person pronouns. The effect for the reader is that of someone watching the protagonist, main characters, or all characters, with varying knowledge.What is third-person point of view and how is it used? ›
Third Person Point of View. In third-person narration, the narrator exists outside the events of the story, and relates the actions of the characters by referring to their names or by the third-person pronouns he, she, or they.Why do we need to use third-person point of view in academic writing? ›
If you are working on anything formal such as argumentative papers or a research essays, then you must use third person pronoun. This is because it gives your work a picture of objectivity rather than personal thoughts. This aspect of objectivity will make your work look more credible and less biased.What are the advantages of different point of view? ›
Conveying a story through multiple points of view offers an in-depth look into characters' motivations, mannerisms, behaviors, and traits. With more than one POV, you can establish distinct narrative voices that set your main characters apart, particularly by describing their thoughts and reflections.
What Is Second Person POV in Writing? Second person point of view uses the pronoun “you” to address the reader. This narrative voice implies that the reader is either the protagonist or a character in the story and the events are happening to them.What is 2nd person examples? ›
Second person is a point of view that refers to a person or people being addressed by a writer or speaker. For example, the sentence You walked across a bridge uses the second person to say what “you” (the reader or listener) did.What is the difference between 1st person and 2nd person point of view? ›
The first person is the speaker or a group that includes the speaker. It is expressed by the words “I” and “me” in the singular and “we” and “us” in the plural. Second person is used for those who are being spoken to. It is expressed by the word “you” in both the singular and the plural.Is it easier to write in first or third person? ›
Overwhelmingly so do beginners prefer to write in first- rather than third-person. That means that when a gatekeeper encounters a first-person manuscript, it goes without saying that a little red light goes on (from his/her past experiences) that chances are pretty good this mss came from a… less seasoned writer.What is the impact of point of view? ›
The Importance of Point of View. Point of view is important in a story because it helps the reader understand characters' feelings and actions. Each character will have his or her own perspective, so whoever is telling the story will impact the reader's opinion of other characters and events.How does point of view affect the reader? ›
Point of view is important in a story because it helps the reader understand characters' feelings and actions. Each character will have his or her own perspective, so whoever is telling the story will impact the reader's opinion of other characters and events. Point of view is an important part of all writing.