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What does narrative point of view mean?
Narrative point of view, or POV, is a perspective or insight that the author uses to express how they see what is happening in the story. It can be first-person, second, third person or variations of these, but it depends on what you want to express through the story.
Narrative point of view types.
What are the different point of views in a story?
Let’s briefly recap what the most common points of view are:
First-person means that the narrator (the person telling the story) is also one of the characters in the story. This can be useful as it allows you to describe things from their point of view directly:
“I could feel my heart pounding, sweat dripping down my forehead.”
It makes it easier for us, your readers, to identify with the character.
Second-person point of view comes in two versions: a direct second person and an indirect second person. The direct second person is where you talk directly to the person reading the story, and it’s often impersonal (as in “you walk across the street”). The indirect second person is a more informal way to tell a story.
Here, the narrator tells events in the third-person and then addresses the reader in the second-person: “You enter through a wooden door, inhale deeply as your eyes adjust to the darkness. A massive figure looms above you.”
Third-person point of view is where the narrator is not part of the story (though this isn’t mandatory). Sometimes, it can be useful to describe scenes in an impersonal way (take a look at this first person narrative and compare it to this third person narrative).
Third-person limited means that the narrator can only know what their viewpoint character knows. For example:
“She looks out on a dark, rainy day and wonders whether she should get an umbrella. She never goes anywhere, though, without getting her phone and her bag with her.”
Third-person omniscient means that the narrator knows everything. For example:
“She is sitting on a bench in the park with a cup of tea when she hears someone yelling at a man. She looks up and sees two police officers, one of whom is waving his gun around.”
How to identify the narrative point of view
When the author narrates he will use ‘I’, ‘he/she’, or ‘you’. ‘I’ indicates a first person narration; ‘he/she’, is a second person narration; and ‘you’, indicates a third-person narration.
The third person POV can also be split into third person limited and third person omniscient. The third person limited means that the narrator can only know what their viewpoint character knows. For example: “She looks out on a dark, rainy day and wonders whether she should get an umbrella” (Person A)
Third-person omniscient means that the narrator knows everything.
Why is narrative point of view important?
The choice of POV determines the style of a novel. A first-person narrator will view things from his own perspective. It makes it more intimate for the reader who also gets to experience what the narrator is experiencing. It will also make you write in a more subjective manner since everything is seen through the eyes of this character.
The reader may or may not know what all characters are doing or feeling. It all depends on the author’s choice of point of view. The author decides what information to share with the reader and also what to withhold.
A first-person narrator has a limit to how much he can reveal about other characters in the story. This also means that the reader will only be able to form his own opinion based on what the main character is shown doing, not by any other information gathered by the first person narrator.
How does the author introduce the narrative point of view?
The author doesn’t need to. The POV is obvious by using I, he/she, or you.
Is the narrative point of view important?
Yes, it’s very important. It can be used to create drama and suspense. By using a first person POV, you can make the reader wonder what is going on inside another character’s head. You can make your first-person narrator dislike another character and this will put the readers against that character via the narrator. You can also create drama by withholding information from your readers. It will also give you more insight into the characters in your story.
Can a story have more than one point of view?
Yes, it’s possible to tell a story from two points of view. For example, a story of four people told in sections. Each person tells it from their point of view and between the points of view, there is a section told in the third person.
Why do the author use more than one perspective?
It’s a great way to make the story complex. It will make it harder for readers to get everything; it gives you more opportunity to tell your story from different perspectives. You can also show how your characters shift back and forth from their point of view.
How does an author choose the right point of view?
The only real choice for most authors is between first or third person POV. First is more intimate while third person is more objectively distant. Some authors choose third-person limited or omniscient, but a lot stick with first-person POV.
First person is great for letting your readers feel the character’s emotions while third person is less personal but gives the reader more room to think objectively. First person can also describe things that the character is doing, while in third person the author can describe it from a different angle.
There are different ways you can play around with different points of perspective in your story. If you are writing a first-person story, write several short stories in which you have your characters tell their own side of a story. Then re-write them in third person and see how they feel. Which version is more interesting to you?
Authors and artists use different points of view in their work for different reasons. We must understand the difference to how they can impact the reader. It’s often used to create a more dramatic feel in a story that might not be very easy to convey otherwise.
What are the benefits of writing in second person?
It brings the reader right into the action by putting you in the main character’s place. It’s a great way to create a sense of drama and also to make the reader feel like they are making choices in the story.
Instead of writing ‘He walked across the creaking floorboards’, the author writes ‘You walk across the creaking floorboards’.
It makes it immediate and the reader feels in danger themselves, instead of just watching the main character do things.
13 Famous books written in second person point of view
- Ivory and Bone
- American Housewife
- The Tiger’s Daughter
- Emergency Skin
- Interior Chinatown
- Harrow the Ninth
- The Raven Tower
- The Night Circus
- The Stone Sky
- The Obelisk Gate
- Bright Lights, Big City
- The Fifth Season
What is the hardest POV to write?
In general, second person is difficult to write because it requires a lot of planning and is difficult to write consistently and well over a long period of time. The second person shifts can be difficult to write as well, since it’s the reader who is doing things, not the story’s main character.
The main problem for an author writing in the second person is that it is difficult to find a balance between the reactive and proactive elements of the POV. An author who is not careful can come off as too passive or too aggressive, which could be a detriment to the story.
In what kinds of books would I find second person?
Any kind of books in which the author wants the reader to feel like they are part of the story.
How do I write from second person?
“You are stuck down here with the storm raging outside where you are alone. It’s cold, and you slip on the ice. You’re out of food, and these walls hardly have a roof over them. There is no way out tonight.”
What are the benefits of writing in first person POV?
The first person POV is great for writing books that have a strong emotional connection with the reader. Moreover, you can build up a very deep connection with characters in the story since they are being told by someone who shares their perspective (i.e. the narrator).
In conclusion, the narrative point of view is very important and impacts the writing craft. It can make an author’s job easier or harder depending on their choice of point of view. The narrative point of view also impacts how a character will be perceived by the reader. It’s a simple choice but one that can make or break your book.