Point-of-View: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 Definition of Point of View
  • 0:55 Examples of Point of View
  • 1:29 Variations on Point of View
  • 2:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Mary Firestone
Find out what 'point of view' means and how it's used in literature. Learn about some points of view that are used less often, then test your knowledge with a brief quiz.

Definition of Point of View

The term point of view, or POV for shorthand, refers to who is telling a story, or who is narrating it. The narration of a story or novel can be told in three main ways: first person, second person, and third person. To determine point of view, ask, 'Who is doing the talking?' If the narrator refers to him or herself as I or me, you'll know the story is being told from a first person point of view. First person narrators are characters inside the story, and will provide most of the narrative. If the narrator speaks directly to the reader as 'you,' the story is in the second person point of view. This style is used more rarely in literature. If the narrator refers to all characters in the story as 'he' or 'she' and knows their thoughts and sees their actions even when they're alone, the story is in the third person point of view.

Examples of Point of View

Let's say you've written a story that opens with your main character going out for coffee. In the first person POV, your narrator might say, 'I've come to this coffee shop so often, the barista knows me.' Your narrator in the second person POV might say something like this, 'You've come to this coffee shop so often, the barista knows you.' The third person POV knows what all the characters are thinking. This narrator might report what someone sitting at a table in the coffee shop is thinking, 'He has come to this coffee shop so often, the barista knows him.'

Variations on Point of View

There are several variations on these three main points of view.

For example, multiple first person. Using multiple first person points of view is a style choice authors can make. Multiple first person narratives are a collection of points of view. Each character might have one or more chapters devoted to their point of view, where they describe an event that the other characters have also described, adding details or reflections of their own. Or, they might advance the plot as temporary main characters.

Third person omniscient is another variation. This allows the most narrative flexibility. It's the POV you might have if you were God. You not only know what everyone is doing and thinking, but you could also include references to future and past events not known to characters in the story.

Then there is third person limited omniscient. This view allows the narrator to get inside of the mind of one character, reading the character's thoughts. All other characters are viewed from outside.

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