When a writer begins a new story, she must decide:
will tell my story?
Point of view
is who tells the story, or the “voice” that the story is told in. It's the place from which a narrator sees and understands what is happening.
first person point of view
, the narrator is telling a story and is a character in the story. He or she is directly involved in the events that happen. If you're writing an essay about your summer vacation, it might be in the first person. For example: “
spent a lot of time at the beach, but
also read a lot of books.”
first person point of view
, we sometimes encounter an unreliable narrator.This is a narrator who can't be trusted or speaks with a biased view of things. Just as we have friends who tell us stories that we cannot always believe are exactly true, we have narrators we cannot completely trust. Perhaps one of the most famous unreliable narrators in American literature is Huck Finn from Mark Twain's novel
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
second person point of view
, the narrator is not a character in the story – but “you” are. Speeches and instruction manuals are often written in the second person. For example: “Before
nail the two boards together,
should sand the sharp edges off.” The
Choose Your Own Adventure
series is also written in second person. In these books, the reader takes on the role of the main character (like spy, doctor or race car driver).
third person point of view
, the narrator is not a character in the story and exists completely outside of the story. All characters are described as “
” or “
.” The lines below from Lewis Carroll's
Alice in Wonderland
is an example of the third person. Note that Alice is not the narrator!
“So Alice began telling them her adventures from the time when she first saw the White Rabbit. She was a little nervous about it just at first, the two creatures got so close to her, one on each side, and opened their eyes and mouths so very wide, but she gained courage as she went on.”
There are 3 different types of the third person point of view:
: From this point of view, the narrator isn't a part of the story. He can tell the reader what happens to the characters in the story. But he can't go into their heads and tell what they're thinking and feeling. For example, “Anne and Lisa biked through the park in search of their lost cat.”
: Here, the narrator focuses his attention on one character. The reader knows what's going on with the other characters, but knows what
one particular character is thinking
. For example, “As Anne and Lisa biked through the park in search of their lost cat, Lisa worried they might not find him.”
: From this point of view, the narrator is all-knowing. He watches all that is happening and can describe the innermost thoughts and feelings of all characters in the story. For example: “Anne felt sure they'd find their cat by sundown, but Lisa thought it might take even longer.”