How an Author Develops & Contrasts Points of View

Instructor: Monica Sedore

Monica holds a master's degree and teaches 11th grade English. Previously, she has taught first-year writing at the collegiate level and worked extensively in writing centers.

The point of view an author uses to tell a story is of great importance. Adding just one point of view can change a narrative completely. Read on to find out how authors use point of view in writing!

Tools of the Trade

An author may use different techniques to develop and contrast points of view, but the first technique is simply deciding which point of view to use for the story: first person, second person, or third person. Using multiple points of view can give greater dimension to a story. While a story that is told solely from a single point of view may lack the layers of a story told from multiple points of view, it can be easier to follow.

Depending on the type of story that is being written, an author may choose different points of view for various reasons. For example, a mystery may be told in a single, limited point of view to create suspense, while a piece of science fiction may be told from various points of view to give the reader a better understanding of the fictional world. Choosing a point of view is one of the first and most important decisions an author makes in the development of a story.

Changing the point of view can change a story completely.
perspective from sidewalk

Three Points of View

The three points of view from which an author writes are first person, second person, and third person.

A story in first person is told using 'I,' 'me,' and 'my.' The narrator is the main character in the story. The events and thoughts that are described are those that are seen or experienced by the narrator firsthand, from his or her perspective. In Stephenie Meyer's wildly successful teen vampire novel, Twilight, the main character and first person narrator, Bella, describes herself in the first chapter. She says, 'I was wearing my favorite shirt -- sleeveless, white eyelet lace; I was wearing it as a farewell gesture. My carry-on item was a parka.' The description is told from Bella's perspective using the first person pronouns 'I' and 'my.' First person point of view is common in young adult literature.

When thinking about point of view, readers should be careful not to confuse it with perspective. Point of view is how the story is being told (first person, second person, or third person), while perspective relates more to who specifically is telling the story and how they're experiencing it. For example, Stephenie Meyer wrote Twilight in the first person point of view from her narrator Bella's perspective. Authors can use characters' perspectives, their attitudes and personalities, to help develop point of view.

Second person stories, which are the least common of all points of view, use 'you' to tell a story about the reader. For example, the 'Choose Your Own Adventure' stories written for children allow readers to decide how the story about 'them' will proceed. Because it can be presumptuous for an author to pretend to know a reader's thoughts and actions, books written in second person are not very common.

The most common story-telling point of view is third person, which talks about the characters using third person pronouns 'he,' 'she,' 'it,' and 'they.' The third person point of view is divided into two categories: limited and omniscient.

The third person limited point of view is shaped by the perspective of either one or a couple of characters. In third person omniscient, a narrator knows the thoughts and feelings of all the characters in the story. Some very well-known examples are Harry Potter (told from Harry's perspective) and Lord of the Rings, in which the narrator relays to the reader the thoughts and feelings of most of the main characters in the story.

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