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Chapter 23: Teaching Reading
College English Composition: Help and Review
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What is Point of View?

Point of view relates the narrator to the story.

Point of view

Point of view refers to the relationship of the narrator to the story being told. Sometimes, a narrator may be directly involved in the story, but at other times he or she may be an observer. Each type of relationship between narrator and story is identified and written in a specific way.

Points of view include:

First Person Point of View

First person point of view identifies a narrator that is also one of the main characters in the story. This narrator would tell about his or her own experience.

Use of First Person Point of View:

  • This point of view often makes the reader feel more connected to the character telling the story.
  • First person is rarely used in traditional literature, but it is much more popular in contemporary literature.
  • This point of view is also more widely used in children’s book categories than in adult literature.

Examples of First Person Point of View:

  • I heard the monster’s growl from somewhere in the woods. He was following me.
  • I couldn’t believe I had been rejected from my first choice university. My mom would be crushed.
  • I am staring up at the sky, wondering why I can’t seem to let go of my anger.

Popular Texts with First Person Point of View:

  • The Children of Blood and Bone By Tomi Adeyemi
  • Call Me By Your Name By Andre Aciman
  • The Hate U Give By Angie Thomas

Pronouns used in First Person:

  • I
  • Me
  • My
  • Mine
  • We
  • Our
  • Us

First Person vs. Third Person Point of View

First person point of view is used when a main character of the story is telling it from his or her vantage point and experience. It is written like one friend telling another about something that happened, giving it a less formal tone than perhaps with third person point of view. In the third person point of view, the narrator is a step removed from what is taking place in the story, making the tone a bit more formal.

Second Person Point of View

Second person point of view identifies a narrator that is telling a story in which the reader is the main character.

Use of Second Person Point of View:

  • This point of view is rarely used, but it can be seen most consistently in “choose-your-own-adventure” books.
  • Second person point of view actively involves the reader in the story by making the reader the main character.
  • This point of view is seen so rarely because it is difficult for an author to develop characters and interaction between characters when one of them is the reader.

Examples of Second Person Point of View:

  • You are walking down a brick-lined street when you hear a crash from behind you.
  • You can see the exit, but you’ll be exposed if you make a run for it. What do you do?

Popular Texts with Second Person Point of View:

  • The Night Circus By Erin Morgenstern
    • The Sweetheart By Angelina Mirabella
  • The Friend By Sigrid Nunez

Pronouns used in Second Person:

  • You
  • Your

Third Person Point of View

Third person point of view refers to a narrator that is describing a story while not being an active participant in the plot. Third person has two subcategories: Limited and Omniscient.

  • Third person limited means that the narrator follows just one character throughout the story.
  • Third person omniscient means that the narrator can follow any or all of the characters throughout the story.

Use of Third Person Point of View:

  • This point of view often gives the narrator more of an objective quality when describing the action and/or characters.
  • Third person is almost always used in traditional literature.
  • This point of view is also used in academic writing.

Examples of Third Person Point of View:

  • Charlie burst through his front door, sweat dripping down his face and his breaths coming quickly.
  • Raquel could not fathom staying another night at the creepy hotel. She was ready to go.
  • Cory let the smile spread across his face slowly. He had done it!

Popular Texts with Third Person Limited Point of View:

  • The Maze Runner By James Dashner
  • The Man in the High Castle By Philip K. Dick
  • Throne of Glass By Sarah J. Maas

Popular Texts with Third Person Omniscient Point of View:

  • The Book Thief By Marcus Zusak
  • Lord of the Flies By William Golding
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God By Zora Neale Hurston

Pronouns used in Third Person:

  • He/She/It
  • Him/Her/His/Hers/Its
  • They/Their/Theirs

Why is Point of View Important?

The point of view determines how the reader experiences a story. It is similar to experiencing a film where different camera angles have different effects. A close-up might make the viewer feel like he or she is part of the action, whereas a wide-angle might allow the viewer to take in more of the landscape and the movie set. It is the same with a story. It is also imperative that an author be consistent throughout a story with the point of view so that the reader can easily follow along with what is happening and make connections to the characters and among plot points.

Each story is an experience told from a certain point of view

Illustration of an open book with a dog and a girl with an umbrella walking on top.

Choosing What Point of View to Use

A writer must consider what type of experience he or she wants the reader to have when choosing a point of view. For example, third person point of view can lend itself better to fantasy or science fiction genres due to the amount of world-building necessary to immerse the reader into the story. This can be hard to do when limited to a single character’s voice.

Additionally, some writers find it difficult to maintain cohesive timelines when writing from an omniscient point of view, so the story plan might need to be more robust for this type of writing. A contemporary story, on the other hand, may be better told in first person to make the character as relatable as possible. The desired tone and style of the story need to be considered when making this decision.

Lesson Summary

There are different points of view used in fiction writing that affect how a reader experiences a story. The types of point of view are first person, second person, third person limited, and third person omniscient. Each point of view uses different pronouns:

  • First Person: I, me, my, mine, we, our, us
  • Second Person: You, your
  • Third Person: He, she, it, him, her, his, hers, they, them, their, theirs

Audience, tone, and genre should be considered when choosing a point of view in which to write.

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