The Fiction Writing Workshop: Point of View

This post, from Kristin Bair O’Keefe, originally appeared on Writers On The Rise site on 9/15/09.

When I ask a student, “In which point of view is this story written?” I often get a blank stare, a long “uuummmmm,” or a wrong answer with a question mark tacked onto the end (for example, “First person?”).

When making decisions about point of view, you must consider two important questions:

From whose perspective is this story going to be told? (In other words, whose story is it?)

Who is going to tell the story?

The Breakdown

First Person: an “I” (or sometimes a “we”) tells the story; everything in the story is filtered through that narrator

          Example: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
           1.   This is Holden Caulfield’s story. No doubt about it.
           2.   Holden is the first-person narrator. He is the “I” in the story.
Advantages: strong sense of intimacy; constant opportunity for characterization; a strong voice that draws readers into the story
Challenges: a first-person narrator walks a fine-line between interesting and self-indulgent; readers might doubt the narrator’s interpretation of events (thus creating an unreliable narrator); readers can only climb into the head of the narrator

Read the rest of the post, which includes a breakdown on second and third person POV, on Writers On The Rise.