first, second, or third person?

As a writer, you need to make a decision about whether to use first or third person to tell your point-of-view character’s story. Authors have used second person, but it is rare, and it takes a skilled writer to make it work. It has the effect of distancing the reader.

  • First person: Example: “I had heard my mother say “black sheep” about other people often enough to know that I would pay a family price for believing the doctor’s faulty pronouncement.” Memoir is generally told in the first person, and sometimes novels, as well.
  • Second person: Example: “You had heard your mother say “black sheep” about other people often enough to know you would pay a family price for believing the doctor’s faulty pronouncement.”
  • Third person: Example: “She had heard her mother say “black sheep” about other people often enough to know she would pay a family price for believing the doctor’s faulty pronouncement.” Third person is commonly used for novels–it is what readers are most familiar with.

In each of these choices, the writer is limited to describing only what the “I,” “you,” or “her or she” character can taste, touch, hear, see, smell, know and feel. This limitation also brings a strength: the reader identifies with the point of view character, and feels intimate with them.

You can also tell a story from an omniscient point of view–flying high above the characters. I’ll address this in another post.

© Skye Blaine, 2015

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