Unlock your writing’s potential by exploring the various types of points of view and their roles in crafting impactful narratives.
Have you ever been so engrossed in a story that you could taste the protagonist's fear, feel their happiness, and perceive the world through their eyes? This is the magic that a masterfully employed point of view (POV) weaves, and it’s impressive, to say the least.
Below, we invite you into this empathetic world to examine the different points of view. We'll explain how to utilize them to amplify the emotional depth of your writing and craft compelling narratives to help you along your journey to becoming a better writer.
What does “point of view” mean in writing? ✏️
Whether you want to become a copywriter or a novelist, the concept of "point of view" is a guiding star. In writing, point of view refers to the perspective through which a story is told. It could be the personal lens of a character, which allows the character's thoughts and feelings to shape the story, or a more detached, omniscient viewpoint that knows and sees all.
Point of view is a precious tool for writers; it requires careful, skillful selection and handling, as it directly influences character development, the strength of the narrative voice, and the story's emotional resonance.
Whether crafting a Facebook ad, ghostwriting an e-book, or penning a fast-paced thriller, understanding and mastering point of view is critical to taking your writing to the next level.
Types of point of view 👇
Point of view in writing is a multifaceted tool. Understanding its various forms provides writers with quite a few options for delving into characters' lives, navigating plots, and conveying themes. It allows writers to manipulate reader perspective, dictating where they stand and whether it's inside or outside a character's mind.
Each point of view has unique characteristics, advantages, and applications, from the personal first-person POV to the more immersive second-person POV and the more observational third-person POV. Harnessing them strategically helps transform your storytelling or copywriting from a linear, one-dimensional path into a multi-dimensional journey.
First-person point of view 🔭
The first-person point of view immerses the reader directly within the mind and emotions of a character. The story unfolds from the character's perspective using first-person pronouns such as "I" and "we." This intimate approach builds character depth. An example of first-person narration is "I wrote a landing page for my client."
There are two types of first-person point of view:
- First-person central. In this point of view, the story is told from the main character's perspective. They're in the thick of the action, and their perceptions and feelings drive the story. An example of first-person central narration is, "I got the Instagram post uploaded just in time."
- First-person peripheral. In this first-person perspective, the story is told from the point of view of a secondary character observing the main character. An example of first-person peripheral narration is, "I watched John scramble to get his social media posts together."
Second-person point of view 👀
The second-person point of view directly addresses the reader as "you." This interactive storytelling style engages the reader directly in the story. It's often used in choose-your-own-adventure books, instructions, and experimental narratives. An example of second-person narration is, "You walk into the dimly lit room, the air tingling with excitement."
Third-person point of view
The third-person point of view offers a panoramic perspective, allowing writers to explore the narrative from outside the confines of a singular character. This category is broad, comprising a few different points of view, each with a different lens:
Third-person limited 🙈
This third-person narrator tells the story from the perspective of a single character using pronouns like "he/she" and "they." The most common point of view, this style allows for a blend of personal and detached narration, and it's important to note that this character is the only one whose thoughts and feelings are accessible by the narrator. An example of the third-person limited point of view is, "Henry sat at the computer and booted it up to start his workday."
Third-person omniscient 🔬
The third-person omniscient point of view is open and flexible; the all-seeing omniscient narrator knows and can reveal everything about the characters, plot, and events. This includes the thoughts and feelings of multiple characters, potentially offering a broad scope for storytelling.
An example might be, "Jessica was eager to take the marketing promotion, unaware that her manager, Kaylee, was unsure she'd succeed."
Third-person objective ✍️
The third-person objective narrative perspective weaves the story from an external, neutral viewpoint without revealing the thoughts or feelings of the characters. Similarly to a camera recording events, it provides an unfiltered narrative lens, giving few details on what drives the individuals in the story and lending itself well to building tension.
An example of this point of view is, "The car screeched to a halt. The driver jumped out, sprinted up the stairs of the office building, and knocked hurriedly on the door."
Considerations for creating a point of view 📒
Establishing a point of view in your narrative is about so much more than just choosing between first, second, and third-person. It's a complex process that requires thoughtfulness and creativity. Here are a few essential things to consider:
- The genre of your writing. Different genres, like personal essays, self-help books, novels, and journalism, often lean toward specific points of view. To help your writing, review works within your chosen genre to see how they're written — which POV is used in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, or Herman Melville’s Moby Dick?
- Your characters' complexity. How well do you know your characters? Writing from different points of view requires different levels of knowledge of your key players.
- Timing. Establish your story's point of view early on, ideally within the first two paragraphs. This orients your reader and gives them a clear perspective from which to engage.
- Your instincts. Always trust your gut. For example, if you're undecided between the first and third person, experiment with both to figure out which feels and sounds the best.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) 🙋
Navigating the terrain of point of view in writing can be tricky, and it's natural to have some questions along the way. Here are a couple of common queries and their answers:
When do we need to use point of view in writing? ✒️
Every piece of writing employs a point of view, so the short answer is always. Point of view is an inherent part of storytelling; whether you're writing a novel, short story, essay, or news article, you choose a perspective from which to spin the tale.
Can I change the point of view? ⌨️
You can change the point of view within a story but do so purposefully. Switching perspectives can offer fresh insights or reveal new information. Still, it's important to make these shifts crystal clear to the reader to avoid confusion. Use clear narrative cues or chapter breaks to signal the change and avoid changing the point of view frequently, as this can damage the story's balance and flow.
Promote your freelance writing services on Contra 📋
As you continue your professional and creative writing journey, remember that point of view isn't just about technical mastery, it's about transforming your narratives into compelling experiences for your readers. It's about inviting them into your characters' minds and making them feel the emotional tug of your creations. As you refine your skills, share your work with the world on Contra. Join our commission-free platform for Independents to showcase your freelance writing services, reach potential clients all over the globe, and find valuable information on marketing and more.