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Writer's Point of View Study Guide

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Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Writer's Point of View Practice Exercises

LESSON SUMMARY

This lesson is about point of view: the perspective that writers use to tell a story. You'll learn the three main points of view and the effects each point of view has on the reader.

Imagine that you're at a magic show. On stage, the magician is sawing his assistant in half. From the tenth row, it looks like he really has cut her in two! But she's alive and smiling. Magic!

Now imagine that you're still at the magic show, but this time you're not in the audience—you're backstage. From where you are, what do you see now? The trick looks quite different. From this point of view, you can see the assistant open a trap door for her legs. You can see the magician place a curtain over part of her body. You can see, in fact, how the "magic" works—and it's no magic at all.

In both cases, the magician and his assistant did the same thing. But what you saw was very different, because what you saw depended upon your point of view.

Point of view (also often called perspective) is the person or position through which you see things. You can look at an object, for example, from many different points of view. You can look at it from above, below, behind, beside, and so on. How you see the object and what you see often depend on your position as you're looking at it.

You can look at ideas and events from many different points of view, too. At the magic show, there were two different points of view: that of someone in the audience and that of someone backstage. Both people saw the same event, but they saw two very different things. This is true of most things in life, and that's why it's so important to be aware of point of view.

In writing, the point of view is like a filter. It's the voice through which the writer shares his or her ideas. What readers hear depends upon who is telling it to them. Thus, point of view is an important decision for writers to make. Who will talk to the reader? Who will narrate the story? (In stories, the person who tells the story is called the narrator.)

The Three Points of View

There are three points of view writers can use: the first-person, second-person, and third-person point of view. Each point of view is available to writers, but only one of them will create the exact effect that the writer desires. That's because each point of view works differently and creates a different relationship between reader and writer.

The First-Person Point of View

The first-person point of view is a very personal point of view. The writer uses the pronouns I, me, my, we, and us. Thus, the writer or narrator using the first person point of view shares his or her own feelings, experiences, and ideas with the readers. Here are two examples.

I couldn't wait for the weekend. I would finally get to meet my relatives from Romania, the people I'd been writing to for years but had never seen.
We wandered around for hours and finally admitted that we were hopelessly lost. What were we going to do now?
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