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First and Third: A lesson on Point of View

     Whenever you sit down to write a story or even when you are reading a story, point of view decides how the story is to be told.  Points of view are divided into two main groups: first-person and third-person.

     In the first-person point of view, the narrator is a character in the story that tells the story as he or she experiences or understands it.  It is easy to spot the use of first-person point of view due to the use of the pronouns: I, me, we, us, my, and our.  For example, a story begins, “I was starving and had not eaten in three days.  My stomach twisted and grumbled at my lack of food.” Is told from the first-person point of view.

     When a story is told from the first-person point of view, the reader only knows the inside of the narrator’s mind.  All other characters are given to the reader from the narrator’s perspective, what the character says, and how the character acts.  Readers have to decide from those three clues what the other characters in the story are thinking. If the narrator were a little crazy, then it would make sense that the reader is going to have a skewed vision of the other characters.

     In the third-person point of view, the narrator is not one of the characters in the story.  The narrator stand outside the story and looks in to refer to the characters as he, she, his, her, or they. When the narrator says, “He made a decision to purchase his lunch from a hot dog vendor.” It is being told from the third-person point of view.

     Within the third-person point of view, an author has the choice to choose either omniscient (ohm-nish-ent) point of view or limited omniscient point of view.  The difference is that in omniscient point of view the narrator has carte blanche and is all knowing.  He or she enters into the minds of all the characters and tells the reader all of their secret thoughts. The narrator understands everything about every character.  When an author uses limited omniscient point of view, he or she gets into the head of only a few of the characters and tells the story only from those character’s point of view.  Limited omniscient point of view can even stick to one character that the author highlights throughout the whole story.

     When writing a story it is a good idea to choose the point of view that will best compliment your characters and plot line.  If you want to keep your readers guessing, you may wish to use the first-person point of view, and if you need the reader to see the problem in the story from all the characters you may wish to use a form of third-person point of view.  Happy writing.




Grandmother Musings 2012-2013.
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