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Offline evilgrin

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The 3 Points of View in Writing
« on: Mon, Nov 03, 2008, 07:47 PM »
The 3 Points of View in Writing
Writing in First, Second or Third Person
© Vickie Britton  Jul 19, 2007

This article describes the three points of view and which ones work the best for writing mystery, thriller, and other types of fiction novels.

Basically, there are three points of view:
  • First Person
  • Second Person
  • Third Person (limited, subjective multiple viewpoints, or omniscient)

First Person
First person means the story is told from the “I” viewpoint. This point of view brings the reader up close and personal with the narrator. Many detective and private eye novels are written in first person because this viewpoint immediately puts the reader “in the shoes” of the crime-solving hero. The reader can quickly identify and derive pleasure from experiencing the events in the book as if they are seeing them through the eyes of the main character.

First person viewpoint is also effective in a thriller. A first person viewpoint can provide immediate empathy with the main character and enhance suspense because the emotions are deeply felt by the reader. First person gives the effect that each twist and turn, each setback or sensation of joy, fear or pain seems to be happening to the reader personally.

Many “confessional” novels or ones with a gothic atmosphere are written in the first person point of view. In this case the hero may actually be a villain. Seeing the story unfold through the eyes of a narrator who may be self-deluded and not entirely truthful in his account can be very effective. First person can also create a sense of foreboding because the emotions are deeply felt by the reader. Of the books listed below, The Meaning of Night, which begins with the narrator’s confession of the murder of a total stranger, would be much less effective if written in third person.

Examples of mysteries and thrillers written in first person:

The Woods by Harlan Coben (thriller)

Shattered by Dick Francis (investigative)

The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox (psychological mystery, confessional)

Second Person
Second person is told from the “you” viewpoint and is most often associated with literary works. It would be rare to find an entire mystery written in this point of view. However, second person can be very effective in small doses, such as in a prologue or in italicized scenes interspersed throughout a first or third person novel. But an entire novel written in this tense can quickly gets tiresome unless the author has mastered the technique. Two authors who consistently employ this point of view are Joyce Carol Oates and Thomas H. Cook. Thomas H. Cook writes both literary novels and mysteries. Many of his novels contain a blend of tenses, including second person.

An example of a novel which contains scenes written in second person:

The Orchids Thomas H. Cook

Third Person Limited
Third person limited means that everything is seen through the main character’s eyes and in past tense. A book written in third person has the phrases “he said, he thought,” all coming from the same person’s head. The reader sees, thinks and feels only what the main character experiences. There are no shifts at any other time to other character’s thoughts or emotions. Many detective novels are written in this simple, straightforward tense. This POV is comfortable, easy to read, and readily accepted by most publisher.

Third Person Subjective Multiple Viewpoint
A change in viewpoint can heighten suspense. Many mystery writers use subjective multiple viewpoint to tell their story. In the Tony Hillerman Navajo mysteries, there are two main narrators, officers Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. When the reader is in Leaphorn’s mind, the viewpoint stays with Leaphorn until it shifts to Jim Chee in an alternating section or chapter. (Some portions of Hillerman’s stories, such as a murder scene, may also be told in an omniscient viewpoint, from no particular character’s point of view, however the larger portion of his work is seen through the viewpoint of one character at a time.)

Books written in third person limited or subjective multiple viewpoint

The Case of the Daring Divorcee by Erle Stanley Gardener

A Taint in the Blood by Dana Stabenow

Cold in the Grave by Peter Robinson

Coyote Waits by Tony Hillerman (alternating narrators Chee and Leaphorn)

Third Person Omniscient
In the third person omniscient point of view, the author takes a panoramic, bird’s eye view of the characters and in describing the overall picture. The story is not shown through the eyes of any one character, but an invisible, all-knowing, all-seeing narrator. This point of view works best in a story with a complicated plot and multiple characters. Most of popular author Stephen King’s works are written in third person omniscient.

Novels written in Third Person Omniscient:

A Time to Kill, The Partners by John Grisham

And then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Mixed Points of View
There is no solid rule that a book must be written from a single point of view. Many authors mix points of view, alternating from third person limited to third person omniscient. In this case, part of the book is usually seen through omniscient eyes, the other through the eyes of the detective. Some authors may also switch from first person to third person viewpoint, using first person for the hero and third for the villain.

Choosing your Point of View
What kind of novel are you writing, suspense, detective, confessional? Take a look at some of these author’s books and familiarize yourself with the different points of view and their variations. Try writing the first few pages of your novel in first person, then switch to third. Which seems more comfortable to you? Once you have “found your voice” you will be well on the way to writing your novel.

The copyright of the article The 3 Points of View in Writing in Fiction Plots & Pacing is owned by Vickie Britton.
http://fiction-plots-pacing.suite101.co ... ts_of_view
Fair Use
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.


« Last Edit: Sat, Jun 28, 2014, 03:11 AM by Montgomery Burns 13, Reason: forematting fixed »

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Offline NorthernLights

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Re: The 3 Points of View in Writing
« Reply #1 on: Sat, Dec 06, 2008, 10:29 AM »
I don't think I've ever considered this before when writing (at least not since english lit class).  Looking back through some notebooks and google docs, however, I have a definite pattern.  One shots and shorts are almost always first person narrative, the more involved stories are third person omniscient.

I think I'm going to try to make a conscious effort to shake things up a bit in the future.  I might even try to throw in a little second person pov.

Thanks, e!   :)

Offline evilgrin

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Re: The 3 Points of View in Writing
« Reply #2 on: Sat, Dec 06, 2008, 10:43 AM »
:above snorks. I do that as well. First person is really hard for me to sustain for long
Elaine:)

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Offline silver

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Re: The 3 Points of View in Writing
« Reply #3 on: Sat, Dec 06, 2008, 09:09 PM »
I know I replied to this before, at length, but it seems to have disapppeared.
No matter.
I LOVE this kind of stuff!  I must be a writer-nerd.
I hoard all this info like good dictionaries.
 :b
thanks a bunch!


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Offline evilgrin

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Re: The 3 Points of View in Writing
« Reply #4 on: Sun, Dec 07, 2008, 07:58 AM »
I think we had something like this before but the article got pulled.
Sometimes it's good to have it spelled out because I think we do a lot of it by the seat of our pants :)
Elaine:)

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Offline Bitten

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Re: The 3 Points of View in Writing
« Reply #5 on: Sun, Dec 14, 2008, 07:27 AM »
This is always tough for me. I remember discussing this topic with you guys before, and you all offered some good advice. My problem is with using first person in one chapter, then third person in the next chapter. Being consistent is not my forte!

Offline evilgrin

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Re: The 3 Points of View in Writing
« Reply #6 on: Sun, Dec 14, 2008, 08:36 PM »
I think remaining consistent within a chapter is a way to get around that (and leaving a note in author's notes should probably help in letting people know, if they get confused).
I think it's good to be aware of the rules...and then it's good, once you know them, to throw them out the window and do something different. If no one ever did anything different, English would be a dead language. It changes all the time because we keep adding stuff to it and doing weird and fucked up things with it. If you can make a story work, make it work, with no matter what sort of weirdness. Here is definitely a great place to try stuff out. It's not like we're getting paid. The house mortgage isn't riding on whether something you're playing with works or not, so why not play with it?
Personally, i find it easier to really soak up a character if there's some sort of consistency but who knows what I might like if I read it?
Elaine:)

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Re: The 3 Points of View in Writing
« Reply #7 on: Sun, Jul 26, 2009, 06:22 AM »
First and second POV?  Anyone ever do this.  Write in first and then kind of like a flash back in 2nd?  Can this be done? Should I do 1st person past?  WTF??? I'm so confused???

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Offline silver

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Re: The 3 Points of View in Writing
« Reply #8 on: Mon, Jul 27, 2009, 06:47 AM »
That's a tough one.
You could do 1st person for a chapter, that's easy enough.
Are you trying to show a different character's POV in the 2nd chapter?
You could do it...

1st chap: Riddick--That really pisses me off.  Well, I'm always pissed. But sometimes I just wanna jump on somebody.
2nd chapter: Joe--Joe watched Riddick.  He could tell the big guy was pissed.

Or are you doing different POVs for the same character?  
 :think
Flashback in 2nd?  I have trouble w 2nd. I'd probably do a flashback either in 3rd, for distance, or with a lot of immediate, confrontational dialog to bring it up close & personal.


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