Point of view refers to who is telling or narrating a story. A story can be told from the first person, second person or third person point of view (POV). Writers use POV to express the personal emotions of either themselves or their characters. The POV of a story is how the writer wants to convey the experience to the reader. Reviewing point of view examples for each type is a great way to understand the different approaches.
First Person Point of View
With first person point of view, the main character is telling the story. Readers will see the words "I," "me" or "we" in first person writing. It is commonly used for narratives and autobiographies. First person POV can be singular or plural. The singular form uses "I" or "me" and the plural form uses the word "we." Both are used to give the writer's personal perspective.
- I always look forward to my summer vacation at the beach. I like to collect seashells and swim in the ocean.
- We love walking the dogs in the woods. We all think it is so much fun.
- If it was up to me, I would choose the white car.
- We didn't want to drive so we took the train to the city and back home.
First Person Peripheral POV
First person peripheral is similar to the standard first person POV in many ways, but there is one significant difference. The story is conveyed to readers by a narrator, but the narrator is not actually the main character. When a story is written in the first person peripheral POV, “I” or “me” refers to the narrator, not the protagonist. When “we” or “us” is used, the term refers to the narrator and one or more individuals, which may or may not include the main character.
- I always admired Jim, and fully expected him to accomplish great things. I look forward to sharing his accomplishments with you.
- I hope that you will come to understand just what it is about Jim that sets him apart from other politicians.
- Something Jim said to me when we were children led me to believe that he would one day change the world.
- We should all be so lucky as to have someone like Jim in our lives.
Second Person Point of View
When writing from a second person POV, the writer has the narrator speaking to the reader. The words "you," "your," and "yours" are used from this point of view. Some common uses for second-person POV are directions, business writing, technical writing, song lyrics, speeches, and advertising.
- In just a few simple steps you can make a big change in your life!
- To make a great chili, you must season it early and often.
- Management is very happy with the progress you are all making.
- You gotta fight for your right to party! - Fight for Your Right, Beastie Boys
Third Person Point of View
Third person point of view has an external narrator telling the story. This perspective can be singular or plural, as well as gender specific or gender neutral. Words like "he," "she," "it," or "they" are used in this point of view. Third-person POV is often used in academic writing and fiction. There are three types of third person POV.
Third Person Omniscient POV
With third person omniscient POV, the narrator has insights into what all of the characters are thinking and doing at all times.
- While Bob was planning a special night out with Millicent, she was quietly making plans to break up with him. All of their friends would be shocked to discover her plans.
- Amy was looking forward to girls night out, but the others in her group of friends were secretly hoping that the monthly outing would get cancelled.
Third Person Multiple POV
With third person multiple POV, the narrator knows the thoughts, motivations and actions of more than one character in the story, but they don’t share this same level of insight with all characters.
- Ed’s teacher knew how much potential the teenager had, but the reality is that he just was not interested in school. He had too many obligations at home.
- Jane was really looking forward to her upcoming vacation. Her boss knew she had earned the time off, but was concerned about some upcoming deadlines.
Third Person Limited POV
With the third person limited POV, the narrator only has insight into one character’s thought processes.
- He knows that he is a great football player. He is proud to have scored the most touchdowns this season.
- She was the one who knew all the answers on the test. She had the highest grade in the entire class.
- She heard a loud crash in the middle of the night. She was so scared that she didn't know what she should do next.
Using Different Points of View
What point of view you choose to use in writing depends on how you want the story directed to the reader. If you are telling a story from the writer's perspective, use the first-person point of view to provide a sense of intimacy. To direct the writing at the reader, say, for a recipe or speech, use the second person as a way to separate the writer from the narrative. To tell the story from an outside perspective, with the ability to have an overview of the piece, use the third person.
Always be consistent in your writing and stick with one point of view throughout. This makes it easier for the reader to understand your angle. To further enhance your skills, review how to use point of view in your writing.