Point of View

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Point of View
by leigh_

Point of view is defined as "the narrator's position in relation to a story being told". The narrator could be one of the characters in the story (first person), viewing the characters as an outsider (third person) or addressing the reader directly (second person). These styles have varying effects, depending on how and where they are used.

First person

This narrative involves telling the story as one of the characters. It involves the use of "I", "me", "my" and "we", and is one of the most common perspectives used in fan fiction. Here is an example of a passage from one of my own pieces, which has been re-written into first person:

"The decision for Harry to quiz us had, in hindsight, been a bad idea. My preparation for the test was no match for Hermione's, and there was no competition between us. On every question so far she'd cut in with perfect answers, while my mind went blank, which was not doing anything for mine nor Harry's confidence."

First person tells the reader exactly what the character is thinking; it feels more personal, as the reader knows what's going on in their head. It can therefore be easier to evoke an emotional response. The reader is there, experiencing the story from inside the character's head, understanding the reasons behind decision-making and how this impacts the plot. This style of writing will be used naturally in some cases - for example, a character's diary. Writing from the perspective of a single character, however, can be limiting. The reader only sees what the protagonist does, which may mean important scenes are left out in the character's absence. It can also be difficult to describe what the main character looks like, so aspects of their physical appearance may be left unclear. First person can be a good starting point for an author new to fanfiction.

Second person

This is the rarest of all perspectives; it is not often seen in fiction pieces but, when used, can be pulled off well. It uses "you", "your" and "yours". Second person puts the reader right into the action of the story. When combined with the usage of present tense, it can create a sense of urgency, as shown below:

"Your heart is pounding. You can hear the footsteps on your tail, a rapid rhythm over the sound of the rain hitting concrete, and you know they're coming closer. Heaving desperate breaths, you quicken your pace, clinging onto the hope that you can outrun them. But then, suddenly, the hand lands on your shoulder, and you know the game's over."

The main advantage of second person point of view is that it makes the reader feel an immediate connection with the story; often, they are imagining themselves as one of the characters, which can give a personal touch. It's like they are actually taking part in the story rather than just reading it. However, second person can be difficult to pull off. If not written with care, it can end up feeling more disconnected than first person if the reader feels like they can't relate.

Third person

Third person involves telling the story via an outside narrator. It uses the character's names, as well as "they", "he" and "she". Here is the same example as shown above, written in third person POV. The fanfiction was originally written in this point of view. "The decision for Harry to quiz the other two had, in hindsight, been a bad idea. Ron's preparation for the test was no match for Hermione's, and there was almost no competition between the two. On every question so far she'd cut in with perfect answers, while Ron's mind went blank, which was not doing much for his nor Harry's confidence."

Third person can be useful in pieces where there are a large number of characters, or where it is important to see the story through more than one person's eyes. A wider overview of the plot is given, which works well for some stories. With a third person piece, there can be various levels of attachment. In some cases, thoughts and feelings of the character are clear, but in others there may be a sense of detachment where what they're thinking is kept secret. With third person, it's a lot easier to describe character's physical appearances, and the plot can often be more developed. However, it's more difficult to evoke empathy from the reader, and the reasons behind decisions characters make is not always clear.

Alternating POVs

This is a type of first person, but involves switching between the perspectives of multiple characters. An example of this in a published work can be seen in My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. In each chapter, the story is told by a different person. Alternating point of views can be useful to give a wider overview than is typically shown in first person, but it should be used carefully. Switches within a chapter should be avoided as they can be choppy and confusing. Instead, use each chapter as a place to change point of view.

 Instead, use each chapter as a place to change point of view

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What is your favourite point of view to write in?

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