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How do you know what point of view to choose when writing a story, book, or even a school essay? Is there a right or wrong answer? What are the differences between points of view? In college you’re almost always told to write in third person point of view, and rarely second person point of view. This helps, and pushes a student, to be factual and not biased. So just like this, you can choose your point of view based on your bias or facts, but let’s dig deeper to find out what “point of view” really means.

If you took a standard creative writing class, or even a composition class, you know the points of view. If not, there is first person, second person, third person limited, and third person omniscient. But what does this mean? Point of view (POV) is the narrator’s view of events and can also be the perspective of a character.

Points of view and the differences between them:

First person point of view is when your character is telling the story. Using first person is one of the most common POV, and is as easy as talking about yourself. This form of writing is in the and Me perspective, so saying “I was walking to the grocery store when suddenly realized I forgot my wallet” would be first-person point of view.

Second person point of view is when the narrator makes “you” the target protagonist. This point of view is not as common as first point of view but is still valuable. When writing in second person POV, you’ll want to write using You, You’re, and Yours. This rids the writing of I and Me and puts the center of attention on the reader. An example: “As you’re walking to the grocery store, you suddenly remember you’ve forgotten your wallet and retreat back home in frustration.”

Third person point of view is the most common writing perspective. There are two types of third person writing: third person limited and third person omniscient. We’ll focus on third person limited for this portion. Third person limited means your character is the subject and you, the narrator, are telling their story for them. But because it is limited, this means you’re only seeing one perspective and not many. You can use He or She, Him or Her, or even use your character’s name. This means you’re talking about someone else’s experience, like your character’s. A great example of this would be: “Martha had to get to the grocery store as soon as possible, but when she found her car wasn’t working, she decided to walk.”

Third person omniscient is still like third person limited, but with a twist. As a third person omniscient, you know everything. This means you know every perspective; you know every timeline, and you’re not limited to one character’s point of view. You still use he or she, him or her, or your character’s name, but now you can switch between characters’ perspectives, and you can move around on your timeline. This perspective is one most of us know and are familiar with because we want to tell every detail of a story. An example: “Martha retreated back home from the grocery store to find her wallet. Frustrated she called her husband Scott to help look for it. Scott answered the phone assuming it was an emergency but couldn’t help but laugh when his wife told him what had happened.”

How do you choose?

So how do you choose your point of view? This important step will lay out the path for how you write or tell your story. If you’re a beginner and want an easy point of view, first person is as easy as talking about yourself. But if you’re an experienced writer and need a new challenge, third person omniscient can be tricky and a fun way to tell a story.

When picking a point of view, stick with it. Don’t start with second person then switch to first or third. This is an easy way to confuse a reader and hurt your story’s outline or plot. Ask yourself which character has the best point of view this could help you decide because sometimes you need all of the characters’ perspectives to tell a story or just one. Is your story non-fiction or fiction? Although non-fiction can be written in any point of view, knowing your target audience can help you pick accordingly as well as pull them in better.

First person point of view is common for younger audiences of fiction, because it allows for little distance between the reader and the character. They get to hear the story from one point of view, and it lets them feel like they are becoming the character.

Second person point of view is common for “choose your adventure” type stories and is less common. It can be a difficult point of view to write, but not impossible, so don’t count it out if this is what you want to do! A good way to prepare for writing in second person POV would be to research writers who have used it before. Just remember to keep the same tense throughout the story. Overall, you’re making the reader see everything as if it were their own story, so don’t forget to make it exciting and relatable.

Third person point of view, limited or omniscient, can be used for many different types of writing. This allows for a great range between fictional or non-fictional. Writing in third person omniscient allows for multiple perspectives, giving a more rounded experience to a story. While third person limited still allows for a full experience, just from one perspective. While third person omniscient can be difficult to write in, it gives information that a first person or third person limited POV would not give.

In conclusion...

So whether you choose first, second, or between the two thirds, you have to remember to choose which fits your story best. Would a story about a dog make sense from second person POV? Probably not, but remember the story is yours to write, and however you take it you have the creative freedom to make it exactly as you’d like.

Whose POV is it Anyway?

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