Story Point of View
How to Choose the Right Point of View for Your Story
The point of view of a story is the perspective from which a story is told. Writers may choose to tell their story in on of three perspectives:
- First person: using "I" or "we,"
- Third person: "he," "she," or "it," which can be limited or omniscient,
- Second person: "you," the least common point of view.
As a writer, you must strategically choose the point of view that allows you to most effectively develop your characters and tell your story.
First Person Point of View
First person limits the reader to one character's perspective. With a book such as "On the Road," for instance, the first person point of view puts the reader directly in the car with Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty. Readers follow Sal's every exhilarating thought as the two characters careen across the country. First person feels more personal.
But what about unreliable narrators and first person? Discover the intrigue of an unreliable narrator with books like Chang-rae Lee's "A Gesture Life."
Third Person Point of View
Though first person point of view can be powerful third person is actually a more versatile point of view. Third person allows the writer to create a richer, more complicated universe. A book such as "Anna Karenina," for example, could only have been written in third person. As one writer put it: "When I write in first person, I tend to make the story more personal to me, which can limit how far I will go with a character.
Third person isn't as much about me, and I can be much freer with the plot."
Second person is writing from the point of view of a narrative onlooker who is writing about you, the reader: "You went to school that morning." This point of view is rarely used in fiction because it is difficult to develop characters and hard to maintain a narrative in longer pieces of writing.
Try a New Point of View
Despite the advantage of third person, beginning writers tend to fall back on first person, either because it's easier or they are writing about themselves. Even if your story is autobiographical, consider trying third person. Doing this will help you view your story more dispassionately and allow you to tell it more effectively. It might also show you directions for the story you hadn't considered.
When choosing between limited and omniscient, it may be easier to use third person limited, which still adheres closely to one person's point of view. But, as your plots become more complicated, you may find you need more than one point of view to tell your story and begin to use omniscient.
If your story keeps hitting a wall, consider switching the point of view. For most people, this involves going from first person to third. Beginning writers may groan at the idea of rewriting an entire story but for professional writers such experimentation is par for the course. If you're writing for the first time, consider switching the point of view. This point-of-view exercise will help lead you through the process.