Point of View refers to the perspective from which a story is being told. It answers the question: Who is telling the story?
This is important because who is telling the story has a lot to do with what gets told. Let’s take a look at the three different points of view and how you might use them in your writing. They are first-person, second-person, and third person.
First Person Point of View
This is similar to a toddler’s vocabulary – I, me, mine, me, me, me, me ME!
When you tell a story using the pronouns I or we, you’re using first-person point of view. Some think that this is the most intimate perspective and is the friendliest towards the reader. When a story is told in the first person, the reader can feel like you’re their friend and that you’re confiding in them.
That’s what we aspire to, isn’t it?
We certainly strive for intimacy with the reader, but using first-person point-of-view can give rise to a couple of problems:
1. You talk about yourself so much that you sound like a narcissist
2. You fall prey to telling the reader everything instead of showing them
For example: “ I did this and then I did that, and then I went here, and then I bought that, and now it’s mine, and this was my problem… blah, blah, blah. Who wants to hear that?
Well, I don’t and neither do your readers. Your readers want to hear your story, but if you take that approach, you’ll lose them for sure. Your job is to deliver your audience to the purpose of your book, and if they get sick of you halfway through, you’ll never accomplish that.
It’s actually simple to fix that. You don’t tell the reader what happened or what you did, you show them! Write your story in scenes where the reader sees what you saw, hears what you heard, smells what you smelled, and then feels what you felt. The reader experiences your emotion and becomes bonded to you through that shared experience.
Second Person Point of View
This POV uses the pronouns you, your, and yours.
The second person point of view addresses the reader and makes direct comments to them. This point of view is rare, but when it’s used, the reader snaps to attention because the writer is speaking directly to them.
Here’s an example: “If you are planning a low-budget wedding, then use paper products at the reception.”
“If you’re like me and are tired of struggling to make ends meet, then sell everything you haven’t used in the past year and pocket the cash.”
Before you get all excited about speaking directly to your readers and capturing their attention, let me offer a word of caution. Whenever you tell someone what to do, it can sound rather preachy, like you know it all and the reader knows nothing. No one likes to be told what to do, and not many appreciate the “you should” approach.
It’s far easier to influence the reader by showing them what you did. When you tell them what to do, it can cause them to resist you and your message. Respect your readers. Every time they turn the page, they make a choice to either continue with you or to drop off the path. Lead them along the path, and they will follow. Force them and they may jump ship.
Third Person Point of View
The third person point-of-view is a he said/she said narrative, and the associated pronouns are he, she, and they. The story is still being told from the perspective of an outsider looking at the action. This point-of-view is for when the story isn’t about you.
If you’re writing a biography about Abraham Lincoln, you might write something like this:
“When he was twelve years old, Lincoln was growing into what would eventually become his long, lanky frame.”
In third person, you would use the pronoun “he.” If you wrote the same passage in first person, it wouldn’t make any sense. In first-person, it would say “When I was twelve years old, I was growing into what would eventually become my long, lanky frame.” That wouldn’t make sense if you were writing a biography about Lincoln.
If you’re writing your own story, it doesn’t make any sense to write it in third person. But if you’re telling a story about someone else, then third person is appropriate.
Pick and Stick
The trick is to pick a point of view and stick with it, which is challenging for many new writers. If you’re writing in first person, stick with first person, if you’re writing in second person, stick with second person, etc.
If you shift the point of view, it confuses the reader and dilutes your message, which is a common mistake that new writers make. Learn this technique and you’ll keep your readers engaged!