What Point of View Should I Use?

As an author, one of the decisions you will need to make about your work is the point of view. Should you use first person? Third person? Which version of third person? There’s so much to consider!

One word of caution: never use second person when writing fiction. Using second person takes the reader out of the story by inserting the author’s voice into the narrative.

There are a number of reasons to use first person, including creating a specific voice. First person uses the pronoun “I” and is a subjective viewpoint in which the story is told entirely from one character’s point of view, usually the main character. We see other character’s reactions and filter their words through the lens of the main character. First person draws the reader in and allows for an emotional connection with the character. When writing in first person, you will want to ensure that you retain the character’s voice throughout. Do not allow your own voice to come through as the entire story will be told through your character’s point of view. An example is Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

Third person allows for a more objective viewpoint. All characters are referred to with the pronouns “he,” “she,” “it,” “they.” After you decide you want to tell your story in third person, you will need to decide if you prefer third person limited or third person omniscient. Advantages and disadvantages exist with each.

In third person limited, the story is told through the eyes of the main character, and like first person, we only see what that character sees and know what that character knows. Third person limited allows for a little more freedom than first person in that the reader often knows more than the character does. This allows for dramatic irony. A classic example is Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Third person omniscient allows the reader to know everything that is happening. In third person omniscient, the author will switch from one character’s viewpoint to another’s. This is effective when you want to include the thoughts of each character. An example is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter.

Third person omniscient is the most difficult point of view to write and should be avoided if you are a beginning writer. It takes lots of practice to be able to write well from multiple viewpoints.

Which point of view do you prefer? How do you decide which one to use? Share your thoughts with us!