July 16, 2018

Choosing the Right Point of View for Your Story -Part Two

By Caron Kamps Widden

In Part One, I gave a quick synopsis on point of view, but now, let’s go deeper.

 First Person (I or We)

First person is used when the writer wants the reader to have a personal experience with the narrator.  Everything is seen through the narrator’s eyes and is limited to a single point of view.  Most of the time the narrator is the main character, but some authors use first person for a character watching the story unfold along with the reader.  For instance, in The Lovely Bones, author, Alice Sebold chose to tell the story from the first person ‘omniscient’ point of view of 14-year-old Susie Salmon who was murdered and is now in heaven.  Often used in mystery writing, the Sherlock Holmes Books by Arthur Conan Doyle were narrated by Dr. Watson.  Using first person across genres creates a more intimate experience for the reader.  A writer can use dual first person characters if done well.  For instance, not within a single paragraph, which can be jarring, even confusing for the reader.  Instead, dual first person functions better within separate paragraphs or chapters.  Getting inside the narrator’s head and seeing things from their point of view can help the writer build an emotionally driven, powerful experience for the reader.

Second Person (You)

Writing in second person is not often used in fiction.  More often this point of view is used in advertising, technical writing, academic writing, or for speeches.  Second person is often utilized as a tool to pull the reader into the action.  For instance, notice how the following sentence speaks ‘for’ you:  You landed safe after a bumpy ride and exit the plane as soon as you can, drained and exhausted from the experience.  Using second person can limit the development of characters and make it difficult to sustain a work of broad prose in fiction.  But second person is often the perfect choice for non-fiction and opinion pieces such as blogging.

Third Person (He, She, or It)  

Unlike first person, where readers experience the story told through a focused, singular point of view, with third person, an author uses a narrator to relay the heart and mind of the character.  Within third person, authors can use omniscient or limited.  Using omniscient reveals the thoughts and feelings of all the characters through the ‘all-knowing’ narrator.  If not done well, the reader can feel overwhelmed by jumps between characters.  Two great examples of third person omniscient are Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  More often, authors choose to use third person limited.  The narrator reveals the story through the eyes of one character allowing the author to create a broader picture.  An example of third person limited can be found in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  Although, multiple character’s points of view are possible using third person limited.  The narrator will need to keep the reader inside one head at a time by using character breaks or even better, one chapter for each point of view.

Happy Writing.
Caron Kamps Widden is the author of RESTORATION, a novel (2006 Hilliard & Harris) and THE LIES WE KEEP, a suspense novel (2015 Hilliard & Harris).  She is currently at work on her third novel and lives in the Baltimore area. You can find Caron online at:,,,,,


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