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Back to Basics: Point of View


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For this Back to Basics mini-course, we’re talking about point of view. Each Back to Basics course includes a challenge at the end to help you experiment.

Let’s look at the basics.


One of the most important elements of a story is how we experience it. Stories let us follow the journeys that different characters take and see their own perspectives. Writers use point of view in order to relate the events of the story to the reader. In this Back to Basics course, we’ll discuss point of view, aka: POV. 


 

When you first start your story, you need to determine what kind of POV style you want. Let’s look at the different POV styles:


1: First Person

First person POV is one of the most common styles a reader will find when reading a work of fiction. In the first person, the reader is experiencing the story through the eyes of a character (typically one, but sometimes there are multiple). The reader sees what the character sees and knows what the character thinks and feels. Grammarly states, “It’s like reading the main character’s diary. You will notice pronouns like I, me/my, we, us, or our in first-person writing.” There are a lot of benefits to first person, for example, Masterclass says that first person can “provide intimacy and a deeper look into a character’s mind, but it is also limited by the perceptive abilities of the character.” What this means is that while first person is a great choice for creating a meaningful relationship between the reader and the character, it can be limiting in the sense that the reader will only know what the character does.


 

2: Second Person

Second person POV tends to be a bit more elusive for writers. While it’s fairly common in nonfiction writing, it’s not nearly as prominent in fiction. Second person POV uses the pronoun you, which means that you the reader are actually a part of the story itself. Second person is a very intriguing and somewhat unorthodox POV style because it essentially makes the reader the main character of the story. It can be a really unique style which Masterclass says can “allow you to draw your reader into the story and make them feel like they’re part of the action because the narrator is speaking directly to them.” While it may be a bit challenging to maintain second person for a longer work of fiction (like a novel), it could be great for something shorter like a short story or flash fiction.


 

3: Third Person

Third person, like first, is one of the most common styles a reader will find. Third person is when the story is told to the reader through a narrator. Sometimes these narrators are their own characters with names and personalities like Lemony Snicket in A Series of Unfortunate Events, but more often the narrator is a nameless figure that has no overall impact or interaction with the characters.


While there are different variations of each POV style, there are two very distinct types of third person that are worth mentioning specifically. As laid out by Masterclass, the first is called third person omniscient—that’s when the narrator knows everything about the characters and the story. The narrator is able to switch between the minds of each character and also has their own opinions on them and/or the story. The other is third person limited—when the narrator only follows one character. Since it only follows one character, it limits what the reader knows about the story, which is a bit similar to how first person works. The difference being that first person uses pronouns such as I, or me, and third person uses pronouns such as they.


 

To summarize, point of view is a very important part of a story because it’s the way that the reader receives the story. The different types of point of view each tell a story in a unique way. Figuring out which style works best for you is often one of the first and most important steps to take when writing. Now that we’ve talked about point of view, let’s look at the challenge.


The Challenge:

Write a short scene of some kind (500-1000 words) in first person, then rewrite that same scene in either second or third person.



Thanks for joining us for this Back to Basics course. If you tried this month’s challenge, you can share it on Discord or social media using #WWB2B. You can also send us your challenge for feedback as soon as possible, via dropbox on our Back to Basics page. Thank you and I will see you all next time!



 

About the author: Izhan Arif is an English graduate from the University of Illinois, Chicago. His interests tend to revolve around all things superhero, whether it be comics, shows, or movies! He also loves to write (go figure) and when he's not working on Back to Basics, he's also writing videos for WatchMojo!

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