The Last Point of View Cheat Sheet You’ll Ever Need
When starting a new project, one of the big decisions you have to make is which point of view (POV) you’re going to use. Go here to download a Point of View Cheat Sheet to help you choose the point of view that’s right for your story.
Before I give you a rundown of the different types of POV, let me explain the cheat sheet diagram. P stands for Protagonist (the main character in your story) while N stands for the Narrator (the person telling the story). Sometimes P and N are the same character, sometimes they are not.
A solid circle represents a character inside the story while the dashed line represents someone outside the story. Notice how P is always in a solid circle (because the protagonist is always a character in the story) while N can either be a solid circle or a not. The circles represent what P or N know in the story–the information available to P or N.
Example: In the first person, the protagonist and narrator are one and the same so everything the narrator knows, the protagonist also knows. In a third person point of view, the narrator is outside the story so he/she has access to information that the protagonist does not know. The cheat sheet gives you a visual representation of all the basic POV options.
Point of View Cheat Sheet:
First person is when the narrator is a character in the story.
This is when the main character is the person telling the story. In other words, this is the “I” narrator. Examples: Holden from Catcher in the Rye or Katniss from The Hunger Games. Notice how the circles for the protagonist and narrator overlap. This is because the narrator can only know information that the protagonist has access to. No more, no less.
First Person Peripheral
This is when the narrator is a supporting character in the story, not the main character. This is still the “I” narrator, but now the narrator is not the protagonist. Example: Nick from The Great Gatsby (Gatsby is the protagonist). In this case, the circles only overlap partially because the narrator has access to some information that the protagonist knows but not all. This means that there are events and scenes that happen in the protagonist’s life that the narrator will not have access to, making this point of view option more of a challenge.
Third person is when the narrator is NOT a character in the story.
Third Person Limited
Third person is the “he/she/it” narrator. Limited means that the POV is limited to just one character. This means that the narrator only knows what that character knows, only sees what that character sees. Examples: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (where the story follows Scrooge at all times–even scenes that Scrooge would not be privy too we see through his eyes as he travels with the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future). The Book of Three (first book of the Prydain Chronicles) where the narrator follows the protagonist Taran.
Note: Third Person allows the writer to play with Narrative Distance.
Look at the second row of circles. All three are examples of third person limited, but the narrative distance changes. This means that when narrative distance is close, the narrator is right there inside the protagonist’s head, almost overlapping as we saw with the first person POV. As the narrative distance gets farther away, the narrator has access to more information outside of the protagonist’s viewpoint but also loses some of that up-close-and-personal feel we get when the the distance is zoomed in all the way.
Think of narrative distance as the writer’s zoom lens, it allows you to get close to the protagonist’s thoughts and feelings but also to pull back and get a bird’s eye view. As with a video zoom lens, you want to avoid zooming in and out too quickly or making drastic choices (unless you want your reader to feel disoriented). Still, third person allows you this wiggle room that you don’t get with the first person POV.
Third Person Multiple
Again, we’re in the “he/she/it” category, but now the narrator can follow multiple characters in the story (hence the multiple circles within the narrator’s circle). The challenge with this POV is making sure your reader knows when you’re switching from one character to another. A good way to make the switch is to use chapter breaks or section breaks to signal a new POV. Example: The High King (which is the final book of the Prydain Chronicles) where the narrator follows several characters in the story, including Taran.
Third Person Omniscient
This one still uses a “he/she/it” narration but now the narrator knows EVERYTHING in the story. The narrator isn’t limited by what the POV character knows. It’s sort of like the narrator is god, hence the term “omniscient.” This type of POV was very popular back in the day but has recently become less popular (some people feel like it’s a little old-fashioned). Still, some excellent books use this narrator. Examples: Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
Third Person Objective
Just like the omniscient narrator can get into any character’s head, the objective narrator gets into NO ONE’s mind. This means the objective narrator can only relate information that is easily visible (character’s words and actions). This narrator can’t tell us about the character’s thoughts or feelings because it doesn’t know. It’s kind of like watching a movie, where the only information you get is what you can see or hear. This POV is very tough to sustain for long pieces which is why the only example I can find is a short story: Raymond Carver’s Little Things. In this case, notice how the narrator’s circle and the protagonist’s circle do not overlap at all. This is because the only information the narrator has access to is what can be observed externally through the protagonist’s words and actions.
Other POV Choices
This is the “you” narrator. “You go to the store and realize you forgot your wallet… etc.” Like objective POV, the second person is hard to sustain so there are very few novels written in second person. This POV is more popular for short stories. In fact, the first story I ever published is in the second person (which is weird because I think it’s the only story I’ve ever done in second person).
Unreliable First Person
This is when you have a first person narrator but you can’t trust him/her for any number of reasons. Maybe the character is a very young child who doesn’t really understand what’s happening in the story. Or perhaps the character is insane. Or better yet, the character could be perfectly sane but also a pathological liar so you can’t believe what she says. Example: The Tell-tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe.
Epistolary (or other) Form
Epistolary is when the story is told in letters. There are many forms that work similarly to epistolary forms, like journal form or a story told through emails, etc. Mostly these forms work like the first person because the main character in the story is often the one writing the letters/journal/etc. The difference is that the story is limited even further because of the form. For example, people don’t usually write dialogue in their letters, so if you want to use dialogue in epistolary form, you’ll have to find a way around that.
In the end, POV is all about consistency. Whatever form you decide on, it’s important to let the reader know what the “rules” are for your story and then stick to them.
First Person Point of View: Tips, Examples, and Benefits of This Perspective
Writing in the first person point of view is something that anyone instinctively knows how to do: from our earliest childhood memories, we normally drew scenes with ourselves as the main character. And the earliest essays we wrote in grade school were usually about “My Family” or “What I Did Over Summer Vacation.”
Because the first person point of view can be instinctive, we need to be intentional at learning how to get it down pat. Just because you know how to write from your perspective doesn’t mean you automatically know how to use this skill effectively.
Defining First Person Point of View
In writing, point of view refers to the perspective that writers use to tell a story. The first person point 1st person point of view in literature view tells the story from the perspective of the author or narrator. Because of that, it uses first person pronouns like “I,” “we,” “my,” “mine,” “our,” and “ours.”
Second person point of view, on the other hand, tells the story while addressing the reader directly. It uses second-person pronouns “you,” “your,” and “yours.”
The third person limited point of view tells the story from the perspective of one of the characters, while the third person omniscient point of view tells it from the perspective of an outside narrator that sees everything that’s going on.
These different perspectives can greatly impact the way a story is received by readers, so choosing the right point of view is an important early step in writing fiction.
Advantages of the First Person Point of View
A writer can make good use of the first person point of view because it has the following advantages:
It can captivate your audience.
Because the narrator is someone who’s actually in the action, writing in first person can captivate your readers more.
It’s easier for first-time authors.
Writing in the first person is considered easier for first-time authors because you can write based on what you know.
When you write in the first person, no one is going to blame you for not knowing everything; after all, the narrator you’re writing as does not know everything, either. This makes it relatively less complicated to research compared to writing in third person point of view.
First person point of view brings readers closer to the character.
Because the reader gets to see and hear everything the narrator does, he can also feel or react to events as the narrator does. This makes for a more compelling and relatable read.
Sometimes, when a writer uses the first person POV well, the reader may even feel as though he is the main character and experiences everything that happens as though he were truly in the story.
For nonfiction, it can lend credibility to the writing.
If the writer is telling about his own experience, the readers can feel assured that he knows what he’s talking about, compared with his telling about what other people told him about the subject.
How Do You Write First Person?
If you want to write in the first person point of view, these tips will help you:
1. Study first person POV in other books.
The best way to get a feel for how a first person POV works is to study bestselling books that use this perspective effectively. Some examples to help you get started are:
2. Decide which tense to use.
The beauty of writing in first person is that you have greater freedom as far as which tense you wish to use: you can use the present tense, because the narrator might be talking about things in the present; you can also choose to use the past tense to talk about things that happened in the past, or a mixture of both.
3. Give your narrator character.
Think of your narrator as a real person or as a full-fledged character in your book that you need to flesh out. You might consider making a detailed character profile, so that you can imagine what their voice would sound like in a realistic way.
4. Limit tags.
When writing in first person, you don’t need to use tags like “I heard” or “I saw.” Instead, just describe whatever it is that the narrator is experiencing, and it will also become the reader’s experience.
For example, compare the following:
- I saw the lightning flash through the window and heard the roaring thunder.
- Lightning flashed through the window and the thunder roared.
The first sentence tells you what the narrator saw and heard; the second sentence puts you right into the scene where the lightning and thunder happened.
Because the reader already knows that the narrator is the one telling us everything that’s happening, you don’t need to explain that every sentence is his thoughts or perspective.
5. Consider using a narrator who may not be fully reliable.
An unreliable narrator is one whom the reader suspects does not tell the full story. The narrator may not be intentionally untruthful, but their withholding of certain information adds to the mystery. It also shows a bit of their own personality or character.
However, this only works for fiction. For nonfiction, you must be 100% reliable, or you will lose your reader’s trust.
6. Don’t italicize the narrator’s thoughts.
When writing fiction, people’s thoughts are usually written in italics to differentiate them from the narrative and dialogue. But when using first person, everything is actually already filtered through the narrator’s thoughts. This makes the italics almost redundant. Compare the examples below:
- The sky looked clear and the sun was shining. Who says it’s going to rain? I thought.
- The sky looked clear and the sun was shining. Who says it’s going to rain?
Because the reader already knows it’s the narrator speaking, you can skip italicizing his thoughts.
7. Leave multiple first-person narrators for later.
Although first person is one of the easier points of view to write, the use of multiple first-person narrators is a whole different story.
One of the biggest challenges for this is how to make sure that each narrator has a distinct voice. If you can’t do this, you will end up with several first-person narrators who cannot be distinguished from one another.
Instead, first make sure that you’re able to give your characters a distinctive voice. By then you can look into using multiple first-person narrators.
Examples of First Person POV in Literature
Some of the best written works in literature are written in the first person. The question remains as to whether these books would have been as effective if they had been written, say, in third person. These include:
Example #1. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
Nothing can describe the confusion of thought which I felt when I sank into the water; for though I swam very well, yet I could not deliver myself from the waves so as to draw breath, till that wave having driven me, or rather carried me, a vast way on towards the shore, and having spent itself, went back, and left me upon the land almost dry, but half dead with the water I took in. I had so much presence of mind, as well as breath left, that seeing myself nearer the mainland than I expected, I got upon my feet, and endeavoured to make on towards the land as fast as I could before another wave should return and take me up again; but I soon found it was impossible to avoid it; for I saw the sea come after me as high as a great hill, and as furious as an enemy, which I had no means or strength to contend with: my business was to hold my breath, and raise myself upon the water if I amazon telephone number for ordering and so, by swimming, to preserve my breathing, and pilot myself towards the shore, if possible, my greatest concern now being that the sea, as it would carry me a great way towards the shore when it came on, might not carry me back again with it when it gave back towards the sea.
This excerpt gives us a very vivid picture of what Robinson Crusoe experience as his ship was wrecked. If this had been written in third person, it may not have carried the same power.
Example #2. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
I saw no sign of the girl in the plantation. When I got out, through the sandhills, on to the beach, there she was, in her little straw bonnet, and her plain grey cloak that she always wore to hide her deformed shoulder as much as might be—there she was, all alone, looking out on the quicksand and the sea.
She started when I came up with her, and turned her head away from me. Not looking me in the face being another of the proceedings, which, as head of the servants, I never allow, on principle, to pass without inquiry—I turned her round my way, and saw that she was crying. My bandanna handkerchief—one of six beauties given to me by my lady—was handy in my pocket. I took it out, and I said to Rosanna, “Come and sit down, my dear, on the slope of the beach along with me. I’ll dry your eyes for you first, and then I’ll make so bold as to ask what you have been crying about.”
Collins effectively uses the first person in all the different parts of his mystery novel: each part telling the story from the perspective of one of the characters. In this excerpt, Gabriel Betteredge, the trusted servant, is describing his encounter with Rosanna Spearman, who eventually becomes a suspect in stealing the Moonstone.
The use of the first 1st person point of view in literature gives us an important glimpse that can help us decide whether or not to suspect her, as the other people in the story do.
Example #3. Me and My Little Brain by John D. Fitzgerald
I couldn’t help feeling a sense of great power after Tom was gone from Adenville. I knew I only had a little brain compared with Tom’s great brain. But I believed I’d learned enough from my brother to outsmart any kid in town. I knew I wasn’t a genius like Tom when it came to putting one over on Papa or Mamma and other adults in town. But my brother had taught me that adults are pretty dumb, and a kid who uses his head can fool them most of the time. The time had come for me to take over where Tom had left off.
This is the third book in The Great Brain series, all of which are told from the perspective of J.D., who is the author himself writing from his memories of adventures with his older brother Tom. It adds humor to see Tom’s swindlings unfold from the eyes of the gullible younger brother.
Example #4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Bessie answered not; but ere long, addressing me, she said—“You ought to be aware, Miss, that you are under obligations to Mrs. Reed: she keeps you: if she were to turn you off, you would have to go to the poorhouse.”
I had nothing to say to these words: they were not new to me: my very first recollections of existence included hints of the same kind. This reproach of my dependence had become a vague sing-song in my ear: very painful and crushing, but only half intelligible.
Jane Eyre’s first-person account lets us experience the injustices of her childhood as though we were the ones going through them.
Is Writing in First Person POV bad?
It’s not necessarily “bad” to write in the first person POV, but it does come with its own challenges, and requires careful skill to be executed well.
When you want to describe events or scenes with more detail than what your main character would know himself. Because you are telling the story from his eyes, you have to restrict yourself or else the writing will not seem realistic.
Perhaps a good question to ask yourself is: is this the best way to tell the story? Or will throwing in another person’s perspective make it come more alive? If so, consider shifting to third person limited or third person omniscient POV.
Writing in First Person POV
Writing in first person POV may be considered an easier option, especially if your main character is someone very much like yourself!
But you still need to challenge yourself: unless all your main characters are actually yourself, you need to learn to write authentically in the different voices of your chosen narrator.
Do you have a favorite example of a story told in the first person? Share it with us in the comments below!
If you enjoyed this post, then you might also like:
Yen Cabag is the Blog Writer of TCK Publishing. She is also a homeschooling mom, family coach, and speaker for the Charlotte Mason method, an educational philosophy that places great emphasis on classic literature and the masterpieces in art and music. She has also written several books, both fiction and nonfiction. Her passion is to see the next generation of children become lovers of reading and learning in the midst of short attention spans.
What Is First Person Point of View and How Is It Used?
What point of view will best serve your piece? You should ask yourself this question before every project, whether it’s a report for work or the beginning of a novel. First person point of view is a default for many writers, though its use can be controversial depending on the context and may be completely inappropriate in some instances. So what is first person point of view and how should you use it? Here’s the 1st person point of view in literature of this literary term and how its use impacts your writing.
What Does “First Person Point of View” Mean?
“Point of view” describes narrators and their relationship to a piece’s subject. There are three POV types:
- First person
- Second person
- Third person
First and third person are the most prevalent in fiction, while second person is generally used in more technical or nonfiction writing. The first person point of view is when narrators directly address their audiences as subjects or observers of the story, as in the following examples:
- Narrator tells the story of a personal experience
- Narrator gives an account of an event he or she witnessed
- Narrator describes his or her plans for an upcoming project
First person point of view words include “I” and “we,” though second person and third person pronouns may be used throughout the writing as well. In fact, many pieces written in second person point of view may arguably be first person; one such example is a letter that specifically addresses the reader. This ambiguity may be overwhelming to new writers, but it also provides many opportunities for innovative styles and narratives.
First Person Point of View Words List
If you spot these first person pronouns, you’re likely reading something in the first person POV.
What Kind of Writing Uses First Person Point of View?
There are many opinions about when first person perspective should or shouldn’t be used, so let’s start with one of the most simple examples. In grade school, you were probably assigned to write an essay about a significant personal event. Well, the personal essay happens to be the quintessential first person point of view example. The writer is both the subject and the narrator, using “I” and “we” to describe memories and internal dialogue.
This example is quite cut-and-dried, but there are many situations where point of view is a stylistic choice. For instance, fiction writers have to decide which point of view best suits their work. This decision can be made difficult by the fact that, at times, more than one option works perfectly well.
Even more controversial is first person use in formal writing. Some people believe the first person point of view definition includes informality, which automatically bars it from use in research papers and 1st person point of view in literature formals writing. Others believe first person perspective to be a purely stylistic choice and therefore fair game depending on the writer’s intent. So who’s right?
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as one group being “right” and the other being “wrong.” Instead, it’s essential that we look at each situation individually to determine if first person POV meets our needs. For context, let’s look at the different types of writing in which first person is commonly used.
One area where it is indisputably appropriate to use first person is recounting your own experiences. This includes autobiographies, personal blogs and memoirs. In fact, when presenting examples of the first person point of view literary definition, these are some of the first genres to come up.
In any piece of writing that details your beliefs, memories or opinions, first person is not only appropriate but the ideal option. Use of second or third person point of view may feel disingenuous, undermining the emotional impact most of these genres aim for.
Many fictional works use the first person point of view as a stylistic choice. Interestingly, early English novels tended to be written in first person either as epistolary works or pieces directly addressing the reader. This approach was thought to increase the narrator’s authority and to assist the audience with the suspension of disbelief, as the format allowed a greater possibility of the story being true.
While blogs are created for a variety of reasons, many are used to address the audience directly. As a result, first person point of view words are common among blogs, even when the narrator is a business or other organization. As an informal genre, first person tends to feel more comfortable, while third person can feel stilted or downright awkward.
Social Media Posts
There’s a lot of leeway when it comes to social media posts, especially if a meme, GIF or humor is involved. However, as a way to communicate directly to followers, posts naturally lend themselves to first person POV. In fact, unless otherwise specified, many readers assume a post author is speaking in first person even if no first person point of view words are used.
Here, at last, is the big debate: Is it appropriate to use first person POV in formal writing? Early in your writing instruction, you were probably told that first person is too informal and therefore never acceptable to use in formal writing. However, if you’ve ever read research papers or books by academic professionals, you’ve probably come across a first person point of view example or two. So what gives?
The answer is complicated but worth a look. While first person point of view can feel informal when used a certain way, it can also be authoritative and deliberate in the right hands. However, it’s essential to differentiate between personal opinion and objective fact when delving into more complex and abstract studies. For newer writers, it can be difficult to write in first person and maintain an objective distance from the subject; as a consequence, writers are encouraged to use third person to avoid this misstep. However, as your mastery of rhetoric grows, there’s no reason to avoid first person point of view words if they achieve your desired effect.
Why Choose First Person Point of View?
Now that we’ve established genres that commonly use first person POV, let’s talk about why you may choose to use it. The number one reason, of course, should be that this point of view serves your purposes better than the other options. But what purposes might you desire in your writing? Here are a few things first person perspective does well.
Connect to Your Audience
One of the most common goals for writers is to establish an emotional connection between their audience and the main character or characters. Since the first person point of view definition sets the narrator and subject as one and the same, it’s a good tool for quickly forming a connection between the reader and subject. Just like with 1st person point of view in literature nonfiction personal essay, audiences hear the character’s feelings and thoughts directly from the source, allowing them to freely inhabit the subject’s headspace and take on those emotions as their own.
First person point of view may also make it easier for writers to connect to their characters, as it forces them to put themselves in the character’s shoes in a literal way. Plenty of authors have used this advantage to create autobiographical works that explore personal experiences through a fictional lens, allowing readers, writers and characters 1st person point of view in literature cross identity boundaries for greater empathy.
Limit Reader Information
While often unspoken, part of the first person point of view literary definition is that the reader only knows what the narrator knows. This allows writers to build suspense by having multiple storylines going on in the background, which generates information the main character and, by extension, the audience isn’t privy to. This may be especially useful to mystery writers, who can then unveil a surprising twist toward the narrative’s end.
First person also works well with an unreliable narrator, which is a narrator who misleads the audience through lies, manipulation, omission or insanity. Psychological thrillers and horror stories are well-known for using this literary device to keep audiences guessing, to build tension and to craft exquisite twists. Of course, third person limited can also be used for this purpose, but first person may make the danger feel more immediate due to the connection between writer, reader and subject.
Are There Different Kinds of First Person Point of View?
There are two types of first person POV. Both use first person point of view words, but the narrator’s relation to the story is slightly different.
First Person Peripheral
In first person peripheral, the narrator is not the main character but an observer. Narrators may be directly involved with the story, as is John Watson in many of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, or recounting a story secondhand, as Mr. Lockwood does in “Wuthering Heights.”
This format allows the writer to present events through a distorted lens. It’s also a convenient technique if you intend for the main character to die but need a way to deliver the narrative aftermath.
First Person Central
First person central describes a point of view where the narrator is also the protagonist. This is what people most often think of when asked, “What is first person point of view?” The main character speaks directly to the reader, either while the action occurs, as Katniss Everdeen does in “The Hunger Games,” or by looking back on past experiences, as the unnamed protagonist does in “The Ocean at the End of the Lane.”
Why choose central over peripheral? Unless you need the audience to connect to a character other than the protagonist, you’re better off using first person central POV.
What Pitfalls Should You Avoid When Writing in First Person Point of View?
Though first person POV may be the easier choice for new writers, that doesn’t mean there aren’t pitfalls to watch out for. In fact, there are several issues that writers of any skill level can encounter when writing in first person.
Honestly, the majority of your first person piece shouldn’t contain that many first person point of view words. Unless your narrator is actively doing something, you’re better off excluding “I” and “we.” Otherwise, your writing can become cluttered and stilted. Just take a look at the difference between these two sentences:
- I watched the countryside speed by the car window.
- The countryside sped by the car window.
Your audience already knows your protagonist is in the car, so there’s no need to clarify who is watching the countryside. Additionally, making other nouns the subject of a sentence can help you avoid another pitfall: repetitive sentence structure.
Repetitive Sentence Structure
When writing in first person perspective, you’ll undoubtedly use first person point of view words plenty of times. This typically won’t stand out to readers, as they’re used to this necessity, but repetitive sentence structure can make the presence of first person pronouns stand out. This is especially true if you frequently use them at the beginning of a sentence:
- I always eat breakfast in the morning because it’s the most important meal of the day. I prefer cooking bacon and eggs, but sometimes I only have time for cereal. I pick up a fast-food breakfast sandwich if I’m really running late.
The paragraph is awkward, right? One way to improve flow is to switch up your sentence structure so the subject isn’t always at the beginning:
- Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so I always make sure to eat something in the morning. When possible, I cook bacon and eggs, but sometimes there’s only time for cereal. If I’m really running late, I’ll pick up a fast-food breakfast sandwich.
Since the first person point of view literary definition requires authors to write from the narrator’s point of view, there’s a chance the narrator’s voice can begin sounding an awful lot like the author’s. While this may be the point for some pieces, many readers can identify when the author, rather than the character, is speaking to them, and it can bring them out of the story. If you prefer a heavily stylized narrator voice, you may do better with third person omniscient point of view.
There you have it — those are the basics of first person POV. Remember that while the above rules are considered standard, that doesn’t mean they’re ironclad. Many writers have experimented with the first person POV and created intricate and admirable pieces. Of course, the most important thing is that your finished work accomplishes what you intended. If that means easy consumption or direct communication, you’re better off following the standard.
Do you now feel like you can answer the question, “What is first person point of view?” Have you read a story or article that used this POV effectively? Have you happened upon a piece that successfully broke the “rules”? If so, we’d love to hear about it down in the comments.
First-Person Point of View
In a work of fiction (a short story or novel) or nonfiction (such as an essay, memoir, or autobiography), first-person point of view uses I, me, and other first-person pronouns to relate the thoughts, experiences, and observations of a narrator or a writer's persona. Also known as first-person narrative, personal point of view, or personal discourse.
Most of the texts in our collection of Classic British and American Essays rely on the first-person point of view. See, for instance, "How It Feels to Be Colored Me," by Zora Neale Hurston, and "What Life Means to Me," by Jack London.
Examples and Observations
- "In Moulmein, in lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people–the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me. I was sub-divisional police officer of the town, and in an aimless, petty kind of way anti-European feeling was very bitter."
(George Orwell, opening sentences of "Shooting an Elephant," 1936)
- "One summer, along about 1904, my father rented a camp on a lake in Maine and took us all there for the month of August. We all got ringworm from some kittens and had to rub Pond's Extract on our arms and legs night and morning, and my father rolled over in a canoe with all his clothes on; but outside of that the vacation was a success and from then on none of us ever thought there was any place in the world like that lake in Maine."
(E.B. White, opening sentences of "Once More to the Lake," 1941)
- "In most books, the I, or first person, is omitted; in this it will be retained; that, in respect to egotism, is the main difference. We commonly do not remember that it is, after all, always the first person that is speaking."
(Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854)
- "That's one thing I love about the first-person: It's such a great place to hide, especially with essays."
(Sarah Vowell, interviewed by Dave in "The Incredible, Entertaining Sarah Vowell." PowellsBooks.Blog, May 31, 2005)
The First Person in Technical Writing
- "Many people think they should avoid the pronoun I in technical writing. Such practice, however, often leads to awkward sentences, with people referring to themselves in the third person as one or as the writer instead of as I.
One [substitute I] can only conclude that the absorption rate is too fast.
However, do not use the personal point of view when an impersonal point of view would be more appropriate or more effective because you need to emphasize the subject matter over the writer or the reader. In the following example, it does not help to personalize the situation; in fact, the impersonal version may be more tactful.
I received objections to my proposal from several of your managers.
Several managers have raised objections to the proposal. Whether you adopt a personal or an impersonal point of view depends on the purpose and the readers of the document."
(Gerald J. Alred et al., Handbook of Technical Writing. Bedford/St. Martin's, 2006)
First vs. Second vs. Third Person Points Of ViewИсточник: https://www.thesaurus.com/e/writing/1st-person-vs-2nd-person-vs-3rd-person-pov/
When we think of point of view in the general sense, we tend to think about someone’s attitude or opinion of things: their likes or dislikes, their focus, their idea of the world. Point of view is unique, right? After all, everyone has their own perspective on things.
When talking about literary or narrative point of view, though, there aren’t nearly as many options. In fact, there are only five different types of narrative point of view:
- third-person omniscient
- third-person limited
- third-person objective
These points of view aren’t as unique, but they can be helpful in creating different effects in works of literature. We’ve broken down the five main types of narrative points of view for you. It’s amazing the thousands of stories authors can create with just these options.
When to use first-person point of view
Human beings can be a bit … selfish. That might be why first–person point of view is all about I, me, and mine. We like to put ourselves first.
All joking aside, first-person 1st person point of view in literature of view is when the story is told from an individual point of view describing something that is happening to them. The key pronouns for first-person point of view are:
Some popular books written in first-person point of view are the Hunger Games series, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Bridget Jones’sDiary.
Here are a few examples of first-person narration:
- On my way to the grocery store, I saw a lone glove lying in the snowbank. Wondering if it belonged to someone nearby, I picked it up and put it in my pocket.
- I felt the track underneath my feet. It was dry and rocky. I could hear the crowd cheering. I was going to win!
- My friends were all down by the river by the time I turned up with my fishing rod and a bucket. They teased me for always being the last one to arrive.
As you can see from these examples, first-person narration helps the reader relate to the character. As the reader, you become aware of everything happening in the story from the character’s perspective. It’s a powerful approach, but it can be limiting if you are trying to build a big world, like in science fiction or epics.
When to use second-person point of view
Second-person point of view is all about you. No, we aren’t trying to butter you up. What we mean is that second-person point of view is a narrative that is told from the reader’s point of view.
The key pronouns for second-person point of view are:
It’s generally considered a no-no to write a novel in only second-person point of view. More often, poetry or short stories might include bits of second-person point of view. Just to be clear, second-person point of view isn’t the same thing as when the author addresses the reader directly. It’s when you, the reader, seem to become part of the story. You know, like those old Choose Your Own Adventure books we all read.
Here are a few examples of second-person narrative:
- You walked to the corner, where you heard a telephone ringing in the phone booth. When you picked up the phone, there was no one on the other line.
- You always wanted to win the lottery, but you never thought it would really happen!
- There is something scary about the abandoned amusement park. Do you choose to enter anyway?
Just like the first-person perspective, second-person perspective can create a story that seems more intimate to the reader. It really puts them into the story. Second-person perspective can also create an uncanny, almost alienating, effect.
When to use third-person point of view
If you have read a narrative lately, it was most likely written in third-person point of view. In other words, it was not told from the point of view of 1st person point of view in literature narrator or the reader.
The key pronouns for third-person point of view are:
There are three different third-person points of view. We are going to start with the most common one, third-person omniscient.
Omniscient is a fancy word that means “all-knowing.” So, third-person omniscient point of view means that the narrative is told from the perspective of a narrator who knows the thoughts and feelings of many characters in the story. Sometimes, third-person omniscient point of view will include the narrator telling the story from multiple characters’ perspectives. Popular examples of third-person omniscient point of view are Middlemarch, Anna Karenina, and The Scarlet Letter.
Here are a couple examples of third-person omniscient narration:
- Darcy danced only once with Mrs. Hurst and once with Miss Bingley, declined being introduced to any other lady, and spent the rest of the evening in walking about the room, speaking occasionally to one of his own party. His character was decided. He was the proudest, most disagreeable 1st person point of view in literature in the world, and everybody hoped that he would never come there again. (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, 1813)
- Having ridden to the village of Pratz, [Kutuzov] halted … Prince Andrei felt excited, irritated, and at the same time restrainedly calm, as a man usually is when a long-desired moment comes. He was firmly convinced that this was the day of his Toulon or his bridge of Arcole. (War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy, 1869, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, 2008)
Third-person omniscient narration is common because it is the most versatile of the types of narrative point of view. It can show characters’ intimate feelings and create large, complex worlds.
While being omniscient, or all-knowing, can be pretty cool, there is something to be said for third-person limited point of view. Third-person omniscient shows us what many characters in the story are thinking and feeling; third-person limited point of view sticks closely to one character in the story.
Using third-person limited point of view doesn’t mean you tell the story entirely from the one character’s perspective using I. That would make it first-person point of view. Third-person limited point of view can be more useful than the first-person point of view because you aren’t trapped in the character’s head. You can show both how they feel and what’s going on around them.
This might seem a little confusing, but you probably are already familiar with at least one series of novels that relies on third-person limited point of view: Harry Potter. In the series, most events are told from what Harry Potter sees, feels, and experiences. Otherwise, we would have known the whole time that Snape wasn’t entirely such a bad guy.
Third-person limited point of view is useful when you want to deeply develop a reader’s relationship with one character. It can also be used to generate suspense by keeping a reader from knowing what other characters in the story know. Here are a couple of examples of third-person limited point of view:
- Jessie saw that Margaret was sobbing. The tears ran down her cheeks. He had no idea why she was so upset.
- The whole softball team was already on the bus when Max arrived. She was embarrassed and being late, she couldn’t find a seat. “Oh great,” she thought to herself. “Now everyone is going to know what a loser I am.”
Some other popular examples of third-person limited narration are The Giver and 1984.
Both third-person omniscient and third-person limited points of view work to give you a certain insight into or empathy with a character or characters. The writer wants you to feel a certain way about them: she wants you to like them, or hate them, or trust them.
Third-person objective point of view reduces the coloring that the writer puts into the narrative. Instead of creating a story in which the reader knows everything about what the characters think and feel, third-person objective point of view tells the story from the perspective of a total outsider. The reader has to judge the characters by their action and dialogue alone.
- The couple sat on the park bench, barely moving. They weren’t holding hands. The crickets chirped around them as they sat in the gathering darkness.
- Samuel took out a knife and the peanut butter. He spread the cream all over a piece of bread on the counter. There was no one else around.
Third-person objective point of view creates distance between the reader and the characters. It can also add an air of mystery.
A well-known example of third-person objective is the short story “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway.
Can you alternate points of view?
There might be only five different kinds of narrative point of view, but that doesn’t mean authors are limited. There’s no rule that says you have to stick to only one point of view when you are writing.
Authors can switch between different points of view in a single story. Why might they do that? Well, as you have seen, different points of view create different effects for the reader. It all depends on what you’re writing about.