Third Person Point View Definition (HINT: There’s More Than One!)

Define Third Person Point Of View NarrativeThird person point view is by far the most common form of narration for new and seasoned authors alike.

Take down anyone hundred books of fiction from your shelves – I’m sure you have that many!

About eighty-five will be written from this perspective, nineteen from the first person and perhaps one or two using the second person POV, if you’re lucky!

Third person narrative isn’t very intimate for the reader, but it does give the author enormous power, depending on the type used.

How To Know When The Third Person Point View Is Being used

You can recognize it by the use of words like ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’ and ‘they’, among others. It’s as though the narrator is floating around somewhere, either way up in the clouds seeing everything that goes on, or hovering over someone’s head, where the view is a bit more limited. Yes, I really like this way of thinking about it. Is the narrator a God, or simply a levitating, invisible human being? Onward – explanations are required.

It might help if we take a moment to compare the three main narrative perspectives, how and why they are used. Later on in this post I’ll explain why the third person POV is used – previous posts discussed the first and second perspectives in some detail.

Michael Levin discusses first and third person point view narratives in the video below:

https://youtu.be/HWXO-eq-nso

Examples Of First, Second & Third Person Point Of View Narration

First of all, let’s kick off with the first person POV:

‘I turned the corner to see Malone with two of his gorillas. My insides turned over, but I didn’t let him see it. Why me? This is all a huge mistake.

“Hello, James,” Malone said.

My blood ran cold. I didn’t reply. I couldn’t.’

Now I’ll re-write this short (but incredibly well-written) passage in the 2nd person POV – excuse the abbreviations:

‘You turn the corner to see Malone with two of his gorillas. Your insides turn over, but you don’t let him see it. Why you? This is all a huge mistake.

“Hello, James,” Malone said.

Your blood runs cold. You don’t reply. You can’t.’

Third Person Limited POVNotice how the ‘I’ and ‘my’ become ‘you’ and ‘your’. The tense has also changed to the present, although it doesn’t strictly need to. It just makes the experience more immediate and intimate, which is exactly this POV is supposed to do. YOU are inside the protagonist and experience the world through his senses. In the third person perspective, we would write this:

‘He turned the corner to see Malone with two of his gorillas. His insides turned over, but he didn’t let him see it. Why him? This is all a huge mistake.

“Hello, James,” Malone said.

His blood ran cold. He didn’t reply. He couldn’t.’

In this form ‘I’ and ‘my’ become ‘he’ and ‘his’. The narrator is also making used of the past tense, which is more common when writing from this perspective. So far it’s pretty straight forward, but “Hey!” I hear you say, “Didn’t you say there were two kinds of third person point of view?” Well spotted! Yes, there are. Namely, omniscient and limited.

Omniscient Third Person – Here Comes God!

Third Person Omniscient Point ViewImagine you a God-like being floating above everything, not only being able to see all beneath you, but also simultaneously aware of all events and conversations anywhere on the planet.

You can also be in any location instantly. This describes this perspective quite well – but it gets better! You can hear what people are thinking and feel their emotions too.

This magical creature has complete access to all characters in the story, and can witness every event as the plot unfolds.

The big advantage is that the form lends itself to intricate parallel plots and subplots, as it’s fairly easy to structure a novel from the point of view of a narrator who knows absolutely everything that goes on, has gone on and will go on.

One major disadvantage is that the narrator can float between characters. If he does this too many times, the impact for the reader can become diluted, as they are thinking about too many character arcs at the same time. It’s best to focus on two or three main characters and give them a more in-depth treatment.

Limited Third Person POV Definition – A Lesser Being

3rd Person Limited narrative perspectiveThe omniscient needs only one narrator. He’s everywhere and all-knowing, after all. When we limit the view, we find that we have other choices to make.

We can either follow one character and tell the story from his point of view, or hop between two or more characters in the story. Beware! More than three can get a little hairy!

Most writers can spin a powerful yarn by changing the focus between two to three people without losing the impact of the story, losing the plot or diluting the uniqueness of each one. So when do you change perspective from one person to another? Chapter beginnings are an obvious choice, as long as the author makes it plain, either with setting or dialogue right from the get-go.

Some writers tend to change character perspective within chapters, so that the writing is fast and exciting. The standard method for doing this is by leaving white space, or three stars between each passage of text.

This can be tricky to pull off. Imagine changing the narrative between four different characters within one chapter! The scope for reader confusion and subsequent book abandonment becomes a real threat to the novel even being completed.

No Third Person Head-Hopping, Please!

It can happen that a writer gets carried away with his story, intends to write in third person limited perspective with several characters, but flip-flops back and forth between them so quickly that the reader gets confused. It’s called ‘head-hopping’ and it’s not good. So how do you spot it? Remember that third person limited means that the story is being told from one character’s perspective within the same scene.

Third Person Limited Head-HoppingThe reader is inside one head, registering their thoughts and feelings. From this perspective, the character cannot know the thoughts of another, so it stands to reason that the reader has the same restriction. Here’s an example:

‘Paul turned in the bed, trying to alleviate the pain. Why can I feel the pain, if my leg isn’t there anymore?, he thought bitterly.

The nurse, always attentive to his needs, rearranged his blanket.’

Paul and the reader are aware of the nurses actions, facial expressions and dialogue, but nothing else. Feelings and thoughts would be inferred by here interactions with her patient. In the following example the author ‘head-hops’ within one short scene:

‘Paul turned in the bed, trying to alleviate the pain. Why can I feel the pain, if my leg isn’t there anymore?, he thought bitterly.

The nurse, always attentive to his needs, rearranged his blanket, thinking how handsome he was.’

It doesn’t seem so bad, does it? It almost looks like omniscient third person POV, but it’s not. Omniscient describes two or more character’s actions from far above, and doesn’t dip down into anyone’s thoughts from time to time.

Third Person Point View Infographic

The Deep Third Person

This narrative perspective is becoming more and more common in modern fiction, as it removes some barriers between the reader and the characters. It’s very easy to get tied up in knots when grappling with the differences between this and ordinary third person limited. As is often the case, some simple examples might serve to illustrate the concept much easier than a long-winded, erudite explanation.

Ordinary Third Person Limited POV:

‘John threw her into the room and locked the door. Mary couldn’t understand why John was doing this.’

Notice how there is still some distance between the character and the reader. The narrator is describing her thoughts, because of the narrative perspective.

Deep

‘John threw her into the room and locked the door. Why was John doing this?’

In this version the reader is intimately close to Mary. Her thoughts are not being described, but are being experienced directly.

Conclusion

Point of view is one of the most difficult elements of fiction-writing to understand, particularly for beginners. Newbies are often more comfortable with first person, as it’s the way we normally communicate with other people in everyday life. Third person omniscient is common, but modern writing is now tending towards deep third person limited. It’s wise to follow trends!

 

Novel Point Of View - Third

 

First Person Point View – Why Use The First Person Perspective?

Define Purple Prose In Novel Writing

Point of view in a novel is an indication of who is telling the story. A story has to be told by someone who is a character or an observer who isn’t involved in the plot at all, a bit like the proverbial fly on the wall.

In first person point view the narrator is someone in the story and he’s telling the reader about events from his point of view – he’s the ‘first person’ we are referring to.

The reader can recognise this POV by the use of ‘I’ or ‘We’. The narrator could be the main character or a minor, support character.

Why Use The First-Person Point of View?

One of the best reasons for using it is if your writing is largely autobiographical and you want the reader to experience your world as you see or saw it. The advantage of first person point view is that it brings the reader closer to a specific character and see things through their eyes, which also shapes the reader’s perspective, coloured as it is by the narrator’s opinions about the events in the story.

It’s easy to use as a beginner, because we are used to telling other people about things that happen in our lives, obviously from our own point of view.

On the other side of the coin, it can be limiting. The reader can only know what the narrator knows, so the overall plot and information about the other characters must be presented in other ways. However, this does allow for the narrator to be surprised by plot twists, which tends to make it more convincing for the reader.

A More Detailed Definition Of First Person Point View

first person pov narrativeIt isn’t that important if a main character is telling the story (Jane Eyre) or a support character (The Great Gatsby or Catcher In The Rye), the idea is that the reader’s get to see the whole Universe through their eyes, but beware – this kind of narrator is imperfect!

They can’t be objective at all, as their observations are distorted by their own opinions and wishful thinking about possible outcomes. For example, they could ascribe motivations to another character out of ignorance and prejudice rather than factual evidence.

The first person narrator’s background may also taint his awareness of events and things around him; a person from a poor upbringing will undoubtedly see world events in a very different light to a wealthy socialite.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. The author can use these variations to colour the story and also vary the narrator’s style according to the of the novel. The narrator may be searching his memory for events in the distant past, or from that morning, in which case his recollection would be fluid and more complete.

The First Person Plural Point Of View

This is easily spotted as the narrator uses the form “we” when recounting the story. This isn’t very common because the narrator isn’t a person but a group, or at least, a couple. It can be effective with care, but isn’t recommended for a beginner’s first novel. William Faulkner was a master of this (and all the other) POVs and his works are recommended.

Benefits Of Using The First Person Narrative Perspective

It’s more intimate than using the more common third person POV and readers tend to get into the story more easily, particularly if they like and can relate to the character who is talking. The reader is inside the head of the narrator, so there is a felling of immediate contact and everything is happening ‘now’.

This lack of distance and objectivity can make the experience more human and real as we can almost hear the thoughts as we are drawn into the novel. We learn secrets. We are friends, if you like, in a special relationship with the narrator.

It comes pretty easy for us to write in the first person, after all, we do it all the time! Whenever we meet a friend and start telling them about a problem or some mundane thing happened yesterday, we are using the first person POV.

Even if we’re not talking about ourselves in our fiction, telling a story from the point of view from a fictitious character as the ‘I’ is quite seductive if only for the fact that the perspective never changes throughout the novel (as long as you stick with that character’s POV!) It’s a very easy way to convey emotions in your story – after all, the reader is inside the narrator.

Pros & Cons of First Person - Definition

You Can Believe A First Person Narrator

Readers tend to believe one person telling about a series of events from their own experience, rather than from the third person, where a god-like overview is given, bereft of emotion, at least from the third person perspective. Any internal turmoil as to be described third-hand, whereas in the first person narrative the reader has direct access to the thoughts and emotions of the character.

There’s a sense of authority that comes over to the audience. The character is there, experiencing the events, so he must know what he’s talking about. It doesn’t matter if the narrator is ignorant of some things. This is the mirror of real life, and in any case, all will be revealed in due course …

First person perspective is great for letting your readers get to know a main character, because they are with him or her all the time. It’s not only the things that happen in the story that enthral, but more the reactions of the main characters to them, particularly if they involve serious or dangerous challenges.

Even heroes don’t react in the same way, because every single person has a different temperament. Some are very serious, others always joking; some anxious most of the time and others accepting everything and going with the flow.

Isn’t It Easier For A New Writer To Use The First Person Point View?

pov point of view explainedWell it might seem that way, but beware! At times, it can get downright difficult! I previously said that we all do when we tell someone else about us, what we’ve done or what happened to us, but these are generally short stories – what about keeping it up for 350 pages? This is a fish of a different color, or a whole new basket of horses.

Remember that narration is all about keeping the reader turning the page, releasing information that intrigues, sets the scene and also introduces gradually increasing conflict and tension into the story.

The narrator is a character in his own story and therefore will be undergoing major internal changes (character arc) if the novel is well-crafted. In fact, they must undergo these changes if they are going to succeed at their quest.

It’s been understood since Aristotle’s time that ending chapter’s with a cliff-hanger, which is easy to do if you’re narrating from the third-person perspective.

It’s much harder to put yourself in danger at the end of each chapter, unless the author starts to narrate in the first person, but changing the character who is talking periodically. This is tough to do. It gets complex and tends to lose the reader if not done well, so definitely not for the new author, I’d say.

Unseen Dangers Of The First Person POV

Imagine if you began every paragraph of your novel with the word “I”. Don’t laugh; it’s an easy trap to fall into. On top of that, first person authors can ramble on and on, spouting their particular jaundiced view of the world without due regard to the story and the character who is supposed to speaking. It’s important to keep the character’s voice unique and not recognisable as the author’s, or anyone else in the book.

This character may be nothing like the author and may not hold the same views, so there’s a real danger of allowing the author’s personality to steal into the pages to the detriment of the yarn.

The writer can get so absorbed in the style that much of the prose may be introspection and not balanced with action and dialogue, the two elements that serve to drive the story forward.

 

Novel structure - Prose

 

Second Person Point View – Examples & Definition

Define Purple Prose In Novel Writing

Using the second person perspective in fiction isn’t that common, but it does happen, to various degrees of success. The most commonly used probably third person, and then the first. One of the reason for this is the second person point view is damn tricky to get right! It’s suited to professional and instructive documents, and for certain types of novel.

You know it’s being used when the narrator uses words like ‘you’, ‘your’ and ‘you’re’. It’s a little limited in scope because of the view point – it’s as though the reader is experiencing what’s going on at firsthand. If it’s done well, then the reader truly becomes immersed in the story. If not, it becomes stilted and contrived, without serving to deliver the emotional involvement that the author is after.

Does That Mean All Writing Using ‘You’ and ‘Your’ Is Second Person Point View?

2nd person point view - windowWell, not really.

Marketers and other media professionals also use this personal form of writing to get a reader involved in a particular scenario, because it’s more intimate and immediate.

Just like in fiction, it’s use puts the reader at the center of the piece. This is a powerful technique because it mirrors our own egocentricity – in our own minds we are always at the center of everything, so it sits well in our view point of the world.

At times, you might see second person terms used in articles and on web-sites, like this blog for example, but this isn’t second person narrative. The writer is just speaking directly to the reader and so naturally refers to them as ‘you’, which can be singular or plural in its scope.

In true 2nd person POV perspective, the author tries to get the reader to fell as though the events are happening to him or her in real-time. It’s hard to do, for sure and a new writer is probably better off beginning his career using the third person narrative style.

The Benefits Can Outweigh The Difficulties

Done well, this narrative form can be powerful. It’s realistic, it’s happening NOW, and there’s a lot of empathy – after all, the reader is the hero! How more immersed can you get? You just have to be careful that you’re not directing the reader too much, particularly pushing them in a direction they just don’t want to go.

Seasoned authors tend to know a good deal about people’s choices and emotional responses to various situations and tread the path with care. Basically, you’re asking your reader to accept the role of a character that you create – treat him with care!

One of the great difficulties in writing a blog post about anything at all is finding your own voice. ‘What do I think?’, rather ‘What does everyone else think?’ Inevitably, we all learn by reading and being taught by others. For example, I read a hundred articles about the second person POV and write another, based on what I’ve read. What if the experts are wrong? Are there any experts?

Will Second Person Point View Help My Novel Sell?

Point of view examples - the second personMost successful authors will tell you that it’s a bit of a lottery getting published, although quality does tend to shine through. Once an author finds that winning formula, he’ll stick to it rigidly because he likes to eat and more of the same may just help pay the bills! Success is by definition directly related to the number of people that buy your books.

This is why it isn’t really a marker of creative or literary excellence – it’s just that the formula and style just fits what the majority of people want to read. Always bear in mind that this may not be great quality, or indeed, be something that you want to even write!

If you don’t care about the money, and want to break the mold, explore a little, then this Point Of View may the way to do it. It’s interesting, not too common for the reader and, done well, could be refreshingly new, but you have to sure that you understand the form.

In that last sentence I used the word ‘you’ twice, but this doesn’t mean I was using the second person point of view. I’m talking to you and using this form of address to give the writing a little intimacy, and also to help get the ideas across. The true 2nd person POV in question is that used in fiction.

second person pros and cons inforgraphic

More Thoughts About 2nd Person POV

The story is told from the main character’s point of view, and it’s the author’s job to define this protagonist in depth. He or she is unique, with a complete personality. The reader sees, hears, feels, smells and tastes the Universe through them directly.

This done by using the pronouns ‘you’, ‘yours, ‘yourself’ and ‘you’, just referring to a ‘him’, ‘he’ or ‘her’ whenever they share the scene with other characters. The hardest thing is to vary the sentence structure enough to make the prose interesting and enjoyable for the reader – you can’t begin every sentence or phrase with ‘you’!

Conclusion – Is The Second Person POV For You?

  • Can be used for any type of genre in fiction, but better suited to self-directed adventure yarns or short stories
  • Effective when you want your reader to become immersed in the emotions of the story
  • Particularly effective in all forms of poetry
  • Needs considerable skill to pull it off – probably not for the new writer

 

Novel structure - Prose

 

Narrative Writing Definition – Narrative Point of View

Narrative Writing Point Of View WorkshopsNarrative is essential in telling your story, because basically, it IS your story! OK, maybe that’s a bit strong – it’s more the way a story is told. A basic narrative writing definition goes like this;

It’s any type of writing that tells a story in a chronological sequence of related events. Whenever a story is written or told, it is from a particular point of view, which means ‘Who is narrating the story?’

Narrative writing point of view examples will be given later on in the article, as they tend to drive the concept home more efficiently than dry definitions. One or two of these, such as second person point view, can seem pretty useless for most authors, but they all have a place.

The Basics Of Narrative within your story

Conflict equals Tension equals dramaWhose point of view you decide to tell the story from is important, because it directly affects the amount and the nature of the information given to your readers. Different narrative styles impact the way that characters emotions and motivations are understood.

Without dialogue, this can be difficult. A good author will take the time to explore the possibilities of the different POVs and choose one that is just right for the story. Believe me, like all good quality novel planning, it isn’t time wasted, but an essential part of writing your story.

Which Point Of View To Choose?

The simple choice is between first, second, and third person points of view. While it’s true the second person POV is not used very much, due to the difficulty in manipulating sentence, tense and grammar structure, it shouldn’t be ruled out entirely – it depends on your writing. Even so, the first and third person POVs give great flexibility.

You might prefer to have the main character tell the story in the first person narrative, or from the point of view of an observer, still using the first person.

If you choose the third person POV, you can choose objective narration, where you can make the reader aware of everything that goes on, anywhere in the story – this is called omniscient. You can also use limited omniscience, limited that is, to the space occupied by the main character.

Each style gives different types of information to the readers, so your choice of which one to use perspective will be according to what information you want to the reader to be aware of. Information such as internal/external conflict and the things that the character is aware of.

Remember that the definition of narrative writing is really basic: it’s writing that tells a story, nothing more. At the start of your writing project, a vital first step is to decide on the point of view of your narrative.

Infographic: Choosing Narrator Point Of ViewFirst Person Point Of View:

In first person point view, the main character, or hero, is telling the story. You know when this is being used because the narration uses the word “I”.

When reading, you see the story from his perspective. One limitation here is that the reader won’t know anything about people or events outside the character’s experience.

First Person Peripheral

You don’t have to use the hero. This POV could be from a secondary character, who is observing what’s happening. “I” is still used, but the same limitation applies: There will be events that happen to or around the main character (and also in the rest of the story) that the secondary character won’t know about, so he or she can’t tell the reader about them.

Infographic Source: https://infograph.venngage.com/p/145899/point-of-view

Third Person Point Of View:

This is by far the most common POV used in fiction writing, and is basically when the person narrating isn’t in the story at all, but floating around like a kind of God. You’ll know when the third person point of view is used when the narrative contains ‘he’, ‘she’ and ‘it’.

Luckily, we can split third person into three main types, which gives some subtle styles to choose from.

Third Person Limited:

The limitation here is that the point of view is limited to just one character, but ‘what does that mean?’, I hear you say. It means that the person telling the story only knows whatever the character knows, which is not that Godly, I admit.

The narrator does have access the inside of the character’s head, his thinking and emotions, so pretty cool, or he can choose to view the scene from a broader perspective, accessing events not known to the protagonist.

Third Person Multiple:

This narrator can follow more than one character throughout the novel. Be very careful when you switch between characters that the reader understands what’s going and, indeed, that such a switch has been

made! This can be done by arranging the switches at chapter beginnings or showing clear breaks within longer chapters.

Third Person POVThird Person Omniscient:

This narrator really is God! He knows absolutely everything, everywhere in the story. He or she knows things that the characters don’t and can actually see their thoughts! They can also make comments about what’s happening, from any perspective they choose.

HINT: This is the one to go for if you are a newbie.

 

Online Writing Courses

 

In the video below, WarnerJordanEducation explain the common narrative points of view. The video transcript appears underneath:

https://youtu.be/ZkoMqu-Cz2g

Let’s go ahead and get right into it. All right, so what is point of view? Point of view is basically the perspective from which the story is told. Basically, we have to find out who is telling this story. Is his somebody who is in the story?

Maybe one of the characters is this some sort of outside narrator. A narrator who might know everything that’s going on, and be able to share that with us as the audience. Perhaps they are a narrator who only knows a couple things, and chooses to keep those more secret point of view.

The perspective that the story is being told from, point of view is important because it lets us know who is telling the story. At the literal level, that’s somewhat important. We want to find out who that person is, but we also want to be looking at that interpretive level and thinking.

Does this narrator know enough to tell us the story? Do they remember things wrong? Do they embellish? Are they reliable, are they not reliable? And so the first part is, we need to identify who is talking? Is it somebody within the story or is it some sort of narrator outside of that story?

Then we need to start looking at what is their bias. What is their perspective and how might their perspective vary from the absolute truth? The biggest thing for us to be looking at in terms of point of view is the narrator’s reliability. Should we believe him, or her?

Sometimes we get these narrators who are too young, maybe too old. Maybe have proven themselves to be forgetful, or perhaps they are embellishing to make themselves look good as a character. So, we have to look at that and say “who exactly is telling this story” and then what do we need to sift through in terms of their own bias to get at the root of the story.

Edgar Allen PoeA first example to look at point of view might be the short story by Edgar Allen Poe called the Tell-tale Heart. Take a look at some of the early narration here and start asking yourself “who is telling the story”? Should we be on guard in terms of taking him as a reliable narrator, or perhaps he’s a little bit unreliable or very dreadfully nervous?

‘It starts with the old man, an old man in an old house. A good man, I suppose. He had never harmed me. I didn’t want his gold, if gold there was. Then what was it? I think it was his eye. Yes, his eyes staring. Milky white film. The eye everywhere. Everywhere in everything. Of course, I had to get rid of the eye.’

We need to see which character or narrator is telling the story. One way to do that is to look at the pronouns that are being used. A first-person point view is going to use words like ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘my’. You know, all of those first-person pronouns, because that character is in the story and then telling it from his or her perspective.

Another way to look at it is whose perspective is most obvious, for example, in movies. Sometimes we follow only one character. The camera seems to linger on them. It seems to show from their perspective. They seem to see the world from a unique point of view,therefore the story is being told through their point of view.

And so we want to make sure that we are able to discern whose angle is the most pronounced when determining point of view. Let’s look at the various person point view narrative perspectives.

The first one is the idea of first-person point of view. The story is being told by a character in the story. We’re going to see those first-person pronouns and then we’re going to see that speaker’s perspective. An example of that is to Kill a Mockingbird. The story is told through Scout’s perspective.

We start to look at that in terms of reliability, we have to question. Can the young Scout be accurate in her remembering of what has happened? Even though the whole story is told by Scout after the fact, we then have to question “can she remember accurately?”

If this happened in her childhood and Scout has now aged, might things have been mistaken? Now that Scout has aged she’s truly telling the story, but might she have forgotten things. Might she get some details wrong? Might she embellish to makes certain people look good and other people look bad?

Those are all things that we get to play with in our mind and start to question about. When we’re looking at a first-person narrator, we want to make sure that we were looking at the narrator and determine if he or she is reliable. Should we believe him or her , and if we choose not to, why?

Is there something about them that makes them unreliable? And then, if we are choosing to see them as unreliable, what does that do to the story? Which things might be confused? Which things might be off-kilter? Those are things that we should be paying attention to.

We mentioned this before, but Scout is a first-person narrator and we do need the question ” is someone that is telling the story from flashback or who is experiencing the story as a young girl reliable”? Does she have all the details right and might the truth of that story be a little manipulated?

Go back to the Tell-tale Heart that we looked at before. The story is told by the young man who was in this story but see what he says. Does he paint a picture of a very reliable narrator? Might there be some things we want to believe but also some things we should not?

First person narrative point viewAs readers, we need to identify where the narrator is but then also is this person reliable or not. Looking at the text of Forrest Gump. Forrest Gump tells his own story while he’s sitting on that bench waiting for the bus. Is there any reason we should doubt the accuracy of his life story? Even though he’s telling it, see what kind of clues the filmmaker gives us to potentially have us question his reliability.

Another part of point of view is what we call the third person limited point view. This is basically that the story is told by an outside narrator. You’re going to see pronouns from that third-person category – ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘they’, and ‘it’s’. This narrator is somebody watching from the outside and then telling the story from there.

If they are a limited third-person narrator that means that they can know the thoughts and feelings of one character. Most likely that’s going to be the main character, the protagonist. They’re going to tell the story through that person’s point of view.

There are always those times though where a narrator may seek to tell the story from a different perspective and kind of follow one other character. If the narrator does follow some sort of minor character, that creates all kinds of issues for us in terms of what he or she is privy to.

What does that minor character see? What do they not and are they being able to tell us the most reliable story? Here again, we need to go back to the idea of that narrator being reliable? What might they not see happening? If a narrator is limited they can only get inside the brain of one character.

What if they misinterpret what another character is thinking? What if they don’t understand what’s happening behind a closed door? Those are all kinds of things that a third person limited narrator might have problems with and so we as readers need to decide. Should we believe this narrator or should we question him or her.

The next type of third point of view that we look at is what we call third-person omniscient point view. Again, this is told by an outside narrator. We’re going to see the pronouns in the third person, he/she, etc so what makes a third person omniscient narrator different from a third person limited narrator?

The idea is that an omniscient narrator knows the thoughts and feelings of two or more characters. They might know the thoughts and feelings of every single character and that provides a very open book for us. As readers, we are able to see what everybody is thinking.

It’s very difficult to have any hidden secrets, things like tha,t because the narrator can choose to share every single thing. At the same time, we also have to be paying attention to when the narrator is choosing not to share certain things with us. Even though, as an omniscient narrator, he or she could.

We want to be paying attention to how many thoughts and feelings can this narrator know and how many is he or she sharing with us. As an audience, we kind of mentioned this already, but the narrator is outside. Should we believe him or her? What happens if an omniscient narrator starts out the story telling us everything about everybody, but then chooses to not reveal a certain point.

 

Kill a Locking Bird - POV

 

Might that hidden point come back later? Might that serve as foreshadowing? Might that serve as some sort of red flag for us to be paying attention? All of a sudden, that this narrator has chosen his or her mind to not reveal everything. Again, the point is we want to check the reliability of the narrator as that is our access point into the story.

We need to be paying attention to what he or she is giving us. So to sum up – point of view is the perspective from which the story is told. We have the three major ones. We have first-person, where the narrator is in the story.

Third person limited, where the narrator is outside of the story and knows the thoughts and feelings of probably just the main character. We also have third-person omniscient, where the narrator is again outside the story, but seems to know the thoughts and feelings of two or more, perhaps all of the characters.

The biggest thing with all of these is to examine the idea of reliability? Is the narrator telling us an objective story, or is he or she putting a slant on it, a bias, a perspective? We need to look at that and then potentially question it. Because as the point of view is revealed, that can help us get to the deeper theme of this novel?

What does it mean when the narrator chooses not to reveal certain things? What does it mean when the narrator does reveal everything? These are the important things that we need to examine when we’re looking at point of view.