What if you could step into the shoes of your favorite literary characters? Point of view is the key that unlocks this possibility, enabling writers to craft immersive narratives that transport readers into the heart of their stories.
This literary technique enables writers to shape the reader’s perspective, ultimately determining how we relate to and understand the narrative.
Join us on this journey as we unveil the secrets of perspective, deepen our understanding of storytelling, and learn how to truly connect with the characters and worlds that captivate our imaginations.
Definition of Point of View
Point of view is a crucial aspect of storytelling that refers to the perspective from which a story is narrated. It serves as the lens through which the reader experiences the events, emotions, and thoughts of the characters within a narrative.
The point of view plays an essential role in shaping a reader’s understanding and emotional connection to the story and its characters, as it can influence their interpretation and empathy towards the events unfolding within the text.
Types of Points of View
There are various points of view writers utilize when crafting their stories, each providing a different perspective and way of conveying information to the reader.
The main points of view include first person, second person, and third person. Each has its distinct characteristics and effects, offering different experiences for the reader.
The first-person point of view, utilizing pronouns such as ‘I’ and ‘me,’ invites the reader to step directly into the shoes of a single character, experiencing the story through their eyes, thoughts, and emotions.
This narrative style offers an unparalleled level of insight into the character’s inner workings, fostering a deep connection between the reader and the protagonist.
Choosing the right point of view is crucial to effectively convey your story, and first-person point of view (POV) can be a powerful narrative tool in the right context. Here are several situations when using first-person POV might be the best choice:
- Establishing an Intimate Connection
First-person POV allows readers to form a deep connection with the protagonist by providing direct access to their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. If your story relies heavily on readers empathizing with the main character, first-person may be the best choice.
- Showcasing a Unique Voice
If your protagonist has a strong or distinct personality, first-person POV can help showcase their unique voice and perspective. This narrative choice can add depth and flavor to your story, making the character’s voice and experiences feel authentic and engaging.
- Unreliable Narrator
If you want to explore the concept of an unreliable narrator, first-person POV can be particularly effective, as it limits the information available to the reader. By presenting only the protagonist’s perspective, you can create suspense, tension, and surprises in your story.
- Personal Growth and Transformation
First-person POV is well-suited for stories centered around personal growth or transformation, as it allows readers to experience the character’s internal struggles, revelations, and changes firsthand.
- Limited Knowledge and Perspective
If your story benefits from a limited perspective, where readers learn about events and other characters alongside the protagonist, first-person POV can be an effective choice. This approach can add a sense of discovery and mystery to your narrative.
- Autobiographical or Memoir-Style Stories
If your story is based on your own experiences or is written in a memoir-like style, first-person POV can provide a sense of authenticity and immediacy to the narrative.
Ultimately, the decision to use first-person POV depends on the goals of your story, the character you want to portray, and the emotional connection you want to establish with the reader.
Consider the strengths and limitations of first-person POV, and think about how it can best serve your narrative and engage your audience.
The second person point of view, while not as frequently used as the first or third person perspectives, offers a distinctive approach to storytelling and information delivery.
By incorporating the pronouns ‘you’ and ‘your’, this point of view addresses the reader directly, allowing them to feel as though they are an integral part of the narrative or learning experience.
Despite its less frequent use, the second person point of view can also be employed in various other literary forms, such as poetry, essays, and even some novels.
The decision to use the second person point of view (POV) depends on the goals and intentions of the writer, as well as the specific context of the piece. Here are some situations where the second person POV may be effective:
- Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Stories
As mentioned earlier, the second person POV is particularly well-suited for choose-your-own-adventure stories, where readers actively participate in making decisions and shaping the narrative.
- Instructional Material
When providing step-by-step instructions, guidelines, or advice, using the second person POV can create a more conversational and relatable tone, making it easier for readers to understand and apply the information.
- Self-Help and Motivational Writing
In self-help or motivational content, addressing the reader directly as ‘you’ can create a sense of connection and make the advice feel more personalized, increasing the likelihood that the reader will feel inspired or empowered to take action.
- Interactive Fiction and Gaming
The second person POV, when used in interactive fiction or gaming narratives, fosters player identification with their character, boosting immersion and engagement. This perspective helps create a more personal gaming experience, drawing players deeper into the story and amplifying their emotional investment.
- Poetry and Prose
In certain cases, using the second person POV in poetry or prose can evoke a sense of intimacy or provoke self-reflection, encouraging readers to consider their own actions, thoughts, and experiences in relation to the text.
- Epistolary Fiction
In fiction written as a series of letters, emails, or diary entries, the second person POV can be used to create a sense of realism and immediacy, as if the reader is the intended recipient of the correspondence.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall
In some instances, the second person POV can be employed as a literary device to break the fourth wall and address the reader directly, which can be used to create humor, meta-commentary, or surprise.
It’s important to note that the second person POV can be challenging to execute effectively and may not be suitable for all types of writing. However, when used thoughtfully and with intention, it can provide a unique and engaging experience for the reader.
The third person point of view encompasses several subtypes, including omniscient and limited point of view. In this perspective, the narrator refers to characters using pronouns such as ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’, and ‘they’.
Third person offers both distance and objectivity, allowing the writer to explore multiple characters and storylines more efficiently.
The third person point of view is a versatile narrative perspective that provides writers with a range of storytelling options. As mentioned, it includes several subtypes such as omniscient, limited, and sometimes objective point of view, each of which comes with its own set of advantages and challenges.
Omniscient Point of View
In this subtype, the narrator knows everything about the characters, their thoughts, feelings, and motivations, as well as the events happening in the story.
The omniscient perspective allows the writer to explore the inner workings of multiple characters simultaneously and provides a comprehensive understanding of the story. This can be particularly useful in complex narratives where different characters play crucial roles or in stories that span across time and space.
However, the omniscient point of view can also risk overwhelming the reader with too much information or creating emotional distance between the reader and the characters.
Limited Point of View
In the limited third person perspective, the narrator focuses on one character’s thoughts and feelings, while remaining an outside observer. This allows the writer to delve deeper into a single character’s psyche, making their experiences feel more personal and relatable to the reader.
The limited perspective can create a sense of intimacy and immediacy, as readers experience the story through the eyes of one character. However, this point of view can also limit the writer’s ability to explore other characters’ perspectives or to convey information unknown to the focal character.
Objective Point of View
This subtype, also known as the third person dramatic or cinematic point of view, involves the narrator taking a completely neutral stance, providing only observable facts and actions without offering any insight into the characters’ thoughts or feelings.
This perspective can be useful in creating a sense of detachment or for building suspense, as the reader is left to interpret the characters’ motives and emotions based on their actions alone. However, the objective point of view can also make it difficult to create a deep emotional connection between the reader and the characters.
Writers may choose to use third person point of view (POV) for various reasons, depending on the type of story they want to tell and the narrative effects they wish to achieve. Here are some situations in which the third person POV may be particularly suitable:
- Multiple Characters
If your story involves multiple characters with distinct perspectives, using third person POV can allow you to explore their thoughts and emotions more effectively. This is particularly helpful when the story relies on multiple storylines or when characters have different motives and goals.
- Complex Narratives
For stories that span across different time periods, locations, or involve intricate plots, the third person POV can provide the flexibility and distance needed to navigate the complexities of the narrative without overwhelming the reader.
If you want to maintain a level of objectivity or detachment in your story, the third person POV can help achieve that by distancing the narrator from the characters. This can be useful in stories where the writer wants the reader to draw their own conclusions or focus on the events and actions rather than the characters’ emotions.
- Suspense and Mystery
Third person POV, particularly the limited or objective subtype, can be effective in building suspense or creating a sense of mystery, as the reader is not privy to all the characters’ thoughts and motivations. This can keep readers engaged and guessing throughout the story.
- Emotional Distance
In some stories, it may be desirable to maintain a certain level of emotional distance between the reader and the characters. This can be achieved through the use of third person POV, which provides a more objective perspective compared to the first person POV.
Ultimately, the decision to use third person POV depends on the writer’s goals and the type of story they want to tell. It is essential to consider the intended effects on the reader and how the narrative perspective will contribute to the overall story structure and character development.
Examples in Literature and Media
First Person Examples
The first person point of view is often used in literature and media to create an intimate connection between the narrator and the audience. In this perspective, the story is told using pronouns such as “I” and “we.” Below are some examples:
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1963)
“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, "This is what it is to be happy.”
The Bell Jar, written by Sylvia Plath, is a semi-autobiographical novel that follows the life of Esther Greenwood, a young woman grappling with mental illness. Told through the first-person point of view, the novel provides readers with an intimate and raw look into Esther’s mind, emotions, and experiences as she navigates a world that often feels suffocating and isolating.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (1999)
“It's just that I don't want to be somebody's crush. If somebody likes me, I want them to like the real me, not what they think I am. And I don't want them to carry it around inside. I want them to show me, so I can feel it too.”
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a coming-of-age novel by Stephen Chbosky, is a powerful exploration of adolescence and the challenges faced by teenagers as they navigate the tumultuous journey towards adulthood.
What sets this novel apart from others in the genre is its unique narrative style — it is written in the form of letters from the protagonist, Charlie, to an anonymous recipient. This first-person point of view creates an intimate bond between the reader and Charlie, allowing for a deeper understanding of his experiences and emotions.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012)
“I was told love should be unconditional. That's the rule, everyone says so. But if love has no boundaries, no limits, no conditions, why should anyone try to do the right thing ever? If I know I am loved no matter what, where is the challenge? I am supposed to love Nick despite all his shortcomings. And Nick is supposed to love me despite my quirks. But clearly, neither of us does. It makes me think that everyone is very wrong, that love should have many conditions. Love should require both partners to be their very best at all times.”
Gone Girl, a gripping psychological thriller by Gillian Flynn, masterfully employs a dual first-person point of view to tell the story of Nick Dunne and his missing wife, Amy. The novel is structured in such a way that it alternates between the perspectives of the two central characters, allowing readers to experience the events, emotions, and thoughts of both Nick and Amy.
This narrative technique provides the opportunity for the author to employ the unreliable narrator device. As the story is told from both characters’ perspectives, the reader is constantly questioning the truth and validity of each account.
This not only heightens the sense of mystery and suspense but also forces readers to constantly reevaluate their own assumptions and judgments about the characters and their actions.
Room by Emma Donoghue (2010)
“When I was a little kid I thought like a little kid, but now I'm five I know everything”
Room, a gripping and thought-provoking novel by Emma Donoghue, is narrated from the unique first-person perspective of five-year-old Jack. Having spent his entire life in a small, confined space known as “Room” with his mother, Jack’s innocent and unfiltered viewpoint provides readers with an immersive experience into the challenges and emotional complexities of their situation.
Throughout the novel, Jack’s first-person narration is crucial in providing insight into the world he knows, which is limited to the confines of the 11×11-foot space. As a result, readers are presented with an authentic and heart-wrenching portrayal of captivity and the resilience of the human spirit.
Jack’s limited understanding of the outside world and his imaginative interpretation of events create an engaging and powerful narrative that pulls readers into the story, experiencing the world through his eyes.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
“Angry, and half in love with her, and tremendously sorry, I turned away.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is a remarkable work of literature that tells the story of the enigmatic and elusive Jay Gatsby, a wealthy and mysterious figure who throws lavish parties at his Long Island mansion.
While the novel focuses on Gatsby’s life and the world he inhabits, it is narrated in the first person point of view by his neighbor, Nick Carraway.
This narrative choice adds a layer of depth and intrigue to the story, offering the reader an opportunity to experience the events through Nick’s personal lens, while also exploring themes of identity, perception, and the American Dream.
Fight Club (1999) Directed by David Fincher
"I felt like destroying something beautiful."
“Fight Club” (1999) is a riveting and thought-provoking film that plunges the audience into the mind of the unnamed protagonist, portrayed by Edward Norton. As the narrator, he guides viewers through his personal journey of self-discovery, transformation, and rebellion against societal norms.
The audience experiences his initial feelings of numbness and despair, his growing fascination with the dangerous and seductive world of the fight club, and ultimately, his grappling with the consequences of his actions and choices.
Through his internal monologues, the narrator provides a raw and unfiltered commentary on society’s expectations and the impact it has on the individual psyche.
Memento (2000) Directed by Christopher Nolan
"I have to believe in a world outside my own mind. I have to believe that my actions still have meaning, even if I can't remember them. I have to believe that when my eyes are closed, the world's still there. Do I believe the world's still there? Is it still out there?... Yeah. We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are. I'm no different."
“Memento” (2000) is a groundbreaking psychological thriller that takes the audience on a disorienting journey through the fragmented memories of Leonard Shelby, a man suffering from anterograde amnesia, which prevents him from forming new memories.
The film’s narrative is structured in reverse chronological order, with interwoven black-and-white scenes that provide glimpses into Leonard’s past.
Through the first-person perspective, the audience gets an intimate look into Leonard’s mental state, witnessing his frustrations, fears, and determination to seek justice for his wife.
The film delves into the themes of memory, identity, and self-deception, as Leonard’s reliance on notes, photographs, and tattoos to remember crucial information raises questions about the nature of truth and reality.
Thirteen Reasons Why (TV series 2017-2020)
"And as I stood there in the hallway―alone―trying to understand what had just happened and why, I realized the truth: I wasn't worth an explanation―not even a reaction. Not in your eyes."
“Thirteen Reasons Why” is a thought-provoking and emotionally intense TV series that delves into the harrowing experiences of high school students as they confront issues such as bullying, sexual assault, and suicide.
Adapted from Jay Asher’s novel, the series skillfully incorporates first-person perspectives to create a multifaceted narrative that captures the intricacies of each character’s experiences and emotions.
The story revolves around Clay Jensen, played by Dylan Minnette, who receives a box of cassette tapes recorded by his deceased classmate, Hannah Baker, portrayed by Katherine Langford.
Through these tapes, Hannah provides a first-person account of the thirteen reasons why she decided to take her own life, with each tape dedicated to a specific individual who contributed to her decision.
First person narration is also common in autobiographies, memoirs, and personal essays, allowing the author to share their own experiences and thoughts with the reader.
Second Person Examples
Second person point of view (POV) in literature and media is relatively rare compared to first and third person perspectives, but there are still some notable examples. This POV directly addresses the reader or viewer as “you,” making them an active participant in the narrative.
Here are some examples of second POV:
Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney (1984)
“Your heartbreak is just another version of the same old story.”
In “Bright Lights, Big City,” Jay McInerney employs the unique and compelling second person point of view to immerse the reader in the life of a disillusioned magazine fact-checker living in 1980s New York City.
By choosing the second person point of view, McInerney places the reader in the shoes of the protagonist, essentially transforming them into the main character.
This perspective makes the reader an active participant in the story, heightening their emotional investment and fostering a deeper connection to the events and characters that unfold.
As a result, the reader is not just an observer of the protagonist’s journey but an integral part of it, navigating the ups and downs of life in the fast-paced, hedonistic world of 1980s New York City.
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino (1979)
“You're the sort of person who, on principle, no longer expects anything of anything. There are plenty, younger than you or less young, who live in the expectation of extraordinary experiences: from books, from people, from journeys, from events, from what tomorrow has in store. But not you. You know that the best you can expect is to avoid the worst.”
Italo Calvino’s innovative and experimental novel, “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler,” masterfully employs both second and third person perspectives to immerse the reader in a narrative about the act of reading stories.
By alternating between these two points of view, Calvino blurs the line between fiction and reality, drawing the reader into an intricate labyrinth of storytelling where they become the protagonist, navigating through a series of interconnected narratives.
You by Caroline Kepnes (2014)
“Your lips were made for mine, Beck. You are the reason I have a mouth, a heart.”
Caroline Kepnes’ gripping thriller, “You,” effectively utilizes the second person point of view to create a chilling and unnerving narrative experience.
The novel is narrated by Joe Goldberg, a bookstore manager who becomes infatuated with an aspiring writer named Guinevere Beck. Throughout the story, Joe addresses Beck directly as “you,” forcing the reader to inhabit her perspective and experience the terror of being pursued and manipulated by a relentless stalker.
This choice of second person POV creates a disturbing sense of intimacy between the reader and Joe, as they are thrust into the mind of the obsessed protagonist and witness the twisted logic that drives his actions.
Half-Life series (Video Game 1998-2020)
"You've proved yourself a decisive man so I don't expect you'll have any trouble deciding what to do. If you're interested, just step into the portal and I will take that as a yes. Otherwise, well, I can offer you a battle you have no chance of winning... rather an anticlimax after what you've just survived. Time to choose..."
The Half-Life series, a groundbreaking first-person shooter (FPS) game franchise, effectively utilizes a second person perspective to fully immerse the player in the role of the protagonist, Gordon Freeman.
By experiencing the story through Freeman’s eyes, the player is able to engage with the narrative on a deeper level, as they directly confront the challenges and dangers that await within the game world.
This innovative blending of first-person gameplay mechanics with the emotional impact of a second person perspective elevates the Half-Life series beyond the realm of traditional FPS games, creating a truly unique and captivating experience.
The Stanley Parable (Video Game 2013-2022)
"Imagine if you had selected 'continue' on your first playthrough, how tantalizing it would be, not knowing what happens when you pick the other option. Indeed, you are one of the lucky ones."
In The Stanley Parable, the player assumes the role of Stanley, an office worker who discovers that his colleagues have mysteriously vanished. As the player navigates through the empty office building, a disembodied narrator provides commentary, direction, and insight into Stanley’s thoughts and feelings.
This narrative device establishes a unique second person perspective, as the player is not only controlling Stanley but also being directly addressed and influenced by the narrator.
Firewatch (Video Game 2016-2018)
"You came out to put your memories behind you and they're still right there in front of you."
In Firewatch, the player assumes the role of Henry, a fire lookout stationed in the Wyoming wilderness.
Throughout the game, Henry communicates with his supervisor, Delilah, using a walkie-talkie. This method of interaction establishes a sense of direct connection between the player and Delilah, as the player chooses how to respond to her and engage in conversation.
This dynamic not only creates a sense of intimacy between the player and the in-game characters but also simulates the second person perspective, as the player actively participates in the unfolding narrative.
The Wayhaven Chronicles by Mishka Jenkins (2018 – present)
"'Please don't dismiss the dangers so lightly, Detective,' she says, almost breathless. 'They are very real. And the thought of your life being so endagered again...' She takes a breath. 'It is of great concern to me.'"
Set in the small town of Wayhaven, the series follows the story of a detective who becomes entangled in a world of supernatural intrigue when they are tasked with solving a mysterious murder case.
Throughout the narrative, the reader is addressed as “you,” taking on the role of the protagonist who is a detective and experiencing the story from their perspective.
This direct involvement in the story allows the reader to fully immerse themselves in the protagonist’s journey, forging connections with other characters, and making decisions that impact the course of events.
By adopting the second person point of view, The Wayhaven Chronicles is able to delve into themes of personal growth, relationships, and the complexities of morality.
As the reader navigates the protagonist’s interactions with various supernatural beings and faces difficult choices that test their loyalties and beliefs, they are encouraged to reflect on their own values and principles.
Crème de la Crème by Hannah Powell-Smith (2019)
"In other words, your parents are depending on you to clear up their scandal."
Set in the prestigious world of Arlingtons, an elite finishing school, the story follows the protagonist as they navigate the complexities of high society, forge relationships, and uncover secrets.
The use of the second person perspective in Crème de la Crème allows for a deep exploration of themes such as social status, ambition, and the consequences of one’s actions.
As the reader guides the protagonist through various challenges and dilemmas, they are faced with moral quandaries and complex decisions that shape the story and reveal the nuances of the characters and their world.
This level of involvement encourages introspection and self-reflection, adding a layer of emotional depth and complexity to the story.
While second person POV is less common than other perspectives, these examples demonstrate its potential to create engaging and immersive experiences in literature and media.
Third Person Examples
The third person point of view is widely used in literature and media, as it provides a flexible and objective perspective for storytelling. This point of view uses pronouns such as “he,” “she,” and “they” to narrate the story. Examples can be seen in the following works:
Third Person Limited
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (2005)
“What she had realized was that love was that moment when your heart was about to burst.”
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, written by Stieg Larsson, is a gripping and intricate crime thriller that masterfully employs third person limited point of view.
The novel alternates between the perspectives of its two main characters, Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, providing the reader with an intimate understanding of their thoughts, emotions, and experiences.
As the story unfolds and the paths of these two characters become intertwined, the alternating perspectives create a dynamic narrative that keeps readers engaged and invested in the outcome.
By using third person limited point of view, Larsson successfully crafts a captivating and multi-layered story that delves into the human experience, exploring themes of power, corruption, and the complexities of human nature.
- The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials series) by Philip Pullman (1995)
“When he'd sworn at her and been sworn at in return, they became great friends.”
The Golden Compass, the first book in Philip Pullman’s renowned His Dark Materials series, is a captivating fantasy novel that employs third person limited point of view to follow the adventures of its young protagonist, Lyra Belacqua.
The Golden Compass’s third person limited point of view allows Pullman to explore complex themes such as power, religion, and the nature of consciousness, while keeping the focus on Lyra’s personal growth and experiences.
As the story unfolds, readers are exposed to the rich tapestry of parallel universes and the various forces at play in Lyra’s world, all while maintaining a strong connection to her character.
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (2003)
“She said, 'I'm so afraid.' And I said, 'why?,' and she said, 'Because I'm so profoundly happy, Dr. Rasul. Happiness like this is frightening.' I asked her why and she said, 'They only let you be this happy if they're preparing to take something from you.”
The Kite Runner, a heart-wrenching novel by Khaled Hosseini, is a powerful exploration of friendship, guilt, and redemption, set against the backdrop of a tumultuous Afghanistan.
The Kite Runner’s third person limited perspective allows Hosseini to explore the complexities of Afghan society, politics, and culture, as well as the universal themes of friendship, loyalty, and the consequences of one’s actions.
As Amir navigates his way through a war-torn Afghanistan and later adjusts to life in the United States, readers witness his growth and transformation, culminating in a powerful and emotional conclusion.
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (1985)
“He could see Bonzo's anger growing hot. Hot anger was bad. Ender's anger was cold, and he could use it. Bonzo's was hot, and so it used him. ”
Ender’s Game, a thought-provoking science fiction novel by Orson Scott Card, follows the story of its young protagonist, Ender Wiggin, as he undergoes rigorous military training in a futuristic world.
The third person limited perspective in Ender’s Game allows Card to explore themes such as the nature of warfare, the morality of using children as soldiers, and the balance between compassion and ruthlessness.
As Ender confronts these issues, readers gain a deeper understanding of his character and the challenges he faces in his pursuit of victory and survival.
Third Person Omniscient
- Bleak House by Charles Dickens (1852)
“Everything that Mr Smallweed's grandfather ever put away in his mind was a grub at first, and is a grub at last. In all his life he has never bred a single butterfly.”
Bleak House, a classic novel by Charles Dickens, masterfully employs a unique combination of third person omniscient and first person narrative perspectives to create an intricate and engaging story.
The combination of third person omniscient and first person narrative perspectives in Bleak House allows Dickens to tackle a wide range of themes, such as social inequality, the inefficiency and corruption of the legal system, and the importance of compassion and empathy.
The novel’s expansive narrative approach creates a rich, multi-layered story that explores the human experience within the context of a complex and often unforgiving society.
- Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871)
“Certainly the determining acts of her life were not ideally beautiful. They were the mixed result of young and novel impulse struggling amidst the conditions of an imperfect social state, in which great feelings will often take the aspect of error, and great faith the aspect of illusion.”
The omniscient viewpoint in Middlemarch provides readers with an intimate understanding of each character’s thoughts and emotions, while also maintaining a sense of distance and objectivity.
This narrative technique allows Eliot to delve deeply into the characters’ inner lives, revealing their hopes, dreams, and fears, as well as their moral dilemmas and challenges. At the same time, the omniscient viewpoint offers a broader perspective on the societal norms and values that shape the characters’ actions and decisions.
Third Person Objective
- The Destructors by Graham Greene (1954)
"He was just, he had no jealousy, he was anxious to retain T. in the gang if he could. It was the word "beautiful" that worried him — that belonged to a class world that you could still see parodied at the Wormsley Common Empire by a man wearing a top-hat and a monocle, with a haw-haw accent."
The Destructors, a provocative short story by Graham Greene, employs a third person objective viewpoint to create a vivid and engaging narrative. This narrative approach allows Greene to explore themes such as destruction, rebellion, and the loss of innocence, all while maintaining a sense of distance and objectivity.
As the story unfolds, the calculated and ruthless manner in which the boys dismantle the house is presented without commentary or judgment, leaving readers to reflect on the implications and significance of their actions.
- The Lottery by Shirley Jackson (1948)
“It isn't fair, it isn't right," Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.”
The Lottery, a chilling short story by Shirley Jackson, employs a third person objective point of view to create an unnerving narrative that captures the events of a seemingly ordinary day in a small village.
Through this narrative technique, the narrator provides an impartial and objective account of the horrifying tradition that unfolds, without commenting on the characters’ thoughts or feelings. This approach lends a sense of detachment and suspense to the story, heightening the impact of its shocking conclusion.
- The Sniper by Liam O’Flaherty (1923)
“He paused for a moment, considering whether he should risk a smoke. It was dangerous. The flash might be seen in the darkness, and there were enemies watching. He decided to take the risk.”
The Sniper, a gripping short story by Liam O’Flaherty, effectively employs a third person objective perspective to create a tense and engaging narrative.
Through this narrative technique, the story focuses on the actions and experiences of the protagonist, an Irish Republican sniper, without delving into his thoughts or emotions.
This approach lends a sense of detachment and suspense to the story, allowing the reader to witness the events as they unfold and draw their own conclusions about the protagonist’s motivations and mindset.
- The Open Boat by Stephen Crane (1987)
“They would twist their bodies for a moment and groan, and sleep the dead sleep once more...”
The Open Boat, a powerful short story by Stephen Crane, employs a third person objective viewpoint to create a vivid and engaging narrative.
Through this narrative technique, the story recounts the harrowing experiences of four men stranded in a lifeboat without delving into their thoughts or feelings. This approach offers readers an impartial and detached perspective, allowing them to observe the unfolding events and draw their own conclusions about the characters’ motivations and actions.
- A&P by John Updike (1961)
“This monologue, he recognized, was a matured version, hardened into jagged edges and points that prodded and hurt, of the young woman’s feathery, immersing discourse across the airplane aisle—a version of that female insistence upon getting male attention, a force as irresistible as the ability of freezing water to split rocks.”
A&P, a compelling short story by John Updike, skillfully employs a third person objective perspective to create a vivid and engaging narrative. Through this narrative technique, the story focuses on the actions and dialogues of the characters, particularly the protagonist, Sammy, without delving into their thoughts or emotions.
This approach lends an air of detachment to the narrative, leaving the interpretation of the characters’ motivations and feelings up to the reader.
Benefits and Limitations
First Person Advantages and Disadvantages
First person point of view provides a more intimate connection between reader and narrator. It allows the reader to step into the shoes of the main character and view the world through their eyes. This can make the story feel more personal and engaging.
However, there are drawbacks to using first person narrative. It can limit the ability to explore multiple perspectives and can make it difficult to reveal information that the main character isn’t aware of. The reader’s knowledge is restricted to the narrator’s understanding, which can make the storytelling feel one-sided.
Second Person Advantages and Disadvantages
Second person point of view involves addressing the reader directly, using “you” as the main pronoun. This unique approach can create an immersive experience for the reader, as they become the protagonist of the story.
Unfortunately, second person narrative also has its limitations. It can be disorienting for the reader, as not every reader will identify with the protagonist’s thoughts and actions. This nontraditional perspective may make it difficult for the author to maintain reader engagement throughout the story.
Third Person Advantages and Disadvantages
Third person point of view provides a wider scope for the narrative. By using external pronouns like “he,” “she,” or “they,” the author has the ability to explore multiple characters’ perspectives and access their thoughts and feelings. This narrative style can create a rich, multifaceted story.
On the downside, third person can sometimes feel distant and detached compared to first person, as the reader isn’t as closely connected to the main character. Additionally, it can be challenging for the writer to maintain consistency in voice and perspective when shifting between different characters.
Common Mistakes and Tips
When working with point of view in writing, it’s important to be aware of common mistakes and useful tips to create a compelling narrative. The following are some of the most typical errors writers make, along with advice on how to avoid them:
Mistake 1: Inconsistency in point of view
One common mistake is unintentionally shifting between points of view within a single story or scene. To maintain consistency, be mindful of which perspective you’ve chosen and avoid switching between them randomly.
Mistake 2: Overuse of pronouns
Overusing pronouns like he, she, or they can lead to confusion for readers. To ensure clarity, intersperse them with appropriate character names or identifying details to keep the narrative easy to follow.
Mistake 3: Head-hopping
In third-person limited point of view, only one character’s thoughts and feelings should be presented at a time. Head-hopping, or switching between multiple characters’ inner thoughts within a scene, can confuse the reader. Stick to one perspective per scene or use clear transitions to signal a shift in focus.
These tips can help enhance the use of point of view in writing:
- Choose the most suitable point of view: Consider which perspective best serves the story’s message, themes, and characters. Understanding their motivations and desires can help you make informed decisions about whose viewpoint to use.
- Maintain narrative distance: When using third-person limited, maintain a balance between the narrator’s voice and the character’s inner thoughts. Too much distance can make the narration feel impersonal, while too little distance may result in head-hopping.
- Experiment with different points of view: Don’t be afraid to explore various points of view early in the writing process. This can help you gain a deeper understanding of your characters and find the perspective that best serves your story.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I mix first-person and third-person points of view in a story?
Yes, it is possible to mix first-person and third-person points of view in a story. Some authors choose to do this to create a distinct narrative structure, explore multiple perspectives, or emphasize specific aspects of the story.
When mixing points of view, it’s important to maintain clear transitions between perspectives and ensure that each point of view serves a narrative purpose.
How do I know if I’ve chosen the right point of view for my story?
To determine if you’ve chosen the right point of view for your story, consider whether the chosen perspective enhances the narrative and supports your storytelling goals.
Ask yourself if the point of view effectively conveys the emotions, themes, and plot developments you want to explore. If the story feels engaging, cohesive, and emotionally resonant, you’ve likely chosen an appropriate point of view.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different perspectives and make adjustments as needed to find the best fit for your story.
How can an author effectively switch between points of view?
An author can effectively switch between points of view by clearly signaling the change to the reader, such as through chapter or section breaks, or by using distinct narrative voices for each character.
It is crucial to maintain consistency and coherence, as abrupt or unclear changes can disorient or confuse the reader.
Point of view is a powerful literary tool that shapes the reader’s perception of a story’s events, characters, and themes.
By understanding the nuances of first, second, and third-person perspectives, as well as the role of reliability in narration, we can better appreciate the artistry and intention behind the works we read.
Exploring examples of various points of view in literature, from classic novels to contemporary works, enriches our reading experience and deepens our understanding of the storytelling craft.
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?