First, Second, Third: Points of View and Which is Best.

Point of view is the perspective from which your story is told; the person who is holding the camera, if you will.

The person could be an active participant in your story, present but not active, or not present at all. While there are three main personas, within those three are variations which hold their own advantages and disadvantages.

Today, we’ll be going into each perspective and looking into how to use them effectively, and also what they’re good for.


First Person

First person point of view is characterised by the use of ‘I’ and ‘me’ in relation to the narrator. 

Advantages of writing in first person:

  • First person allows the reader access to the inner-most thoughts and feelings of the narrator. For this reason, it is great for providing your story with intimacy. Intimacy will help your reader feel whatever emotion it is you’re trying to convey, particularly sadness or, contrastingly, lust. Romance stories are often best equipped to utilise first-person perspective to the best of its ability; from the build-up of sexual tension to the inevitable heart-breaking conflict and following resolution.

Disadvantages of writing in first person:

  • If you’re not careful, your first-person narrators across different stories could end up sounding like the same person. Writing in first person gives you a great opportunity to characterise your narrator’s narrative voice, and it’s important that you don’t squander it. Read my post on how to do exactly that here.

  • First-person narrators are limited to their own perspective and opinions. You should ensure you’re not describing things that your narrator can’t realistically see, and also should make sure you aren’t delving into the minds or assuming the emotions or thoughts of other characters. If you want your character to assume another's emotions, justify how they are able to do so through body language. For example, instead of saying “John didn’t believe me,” say, “I could tell by the way his left eyebrow raised that John didn’t believe me.”

  • It is worth noting that there is a percentage of readers out there that adamantly dislike novels written in first person and won't go near them. Some say they find the voices bland, and other find the intimacy an issue; they feel uncomfortable being so close and personal, and much prefer reading stories written in third limited for that reason. Some publishing houses will reject adult fiction simply because it is written in first person. In fact, first person perspective is arguably the most popular perspective for YA Fiction.

First Person Multiple is when you write from multiple characters’ eyes across your story, usually separated by chapters or scene breaks. This is growing more and more common in today’s novels; especially in the YA Fantasy and Romance genres. And it can be tricky to get right, for the same reason I said above in that your characters’ voices can end up all sounding the same.

However, you do get the benefit of deep insight into more than one character, which can come in handy if their plot lines separate. When those two characters end up in the same scene, you also need to be wary of head-hopping; just because you’ve been inside both of their heads before doesn’t mean you can do so in the same scene.

Keep to one mind at all times, and if you want to switch, do so after a scene break or at the end of a chapter. 


Second Person

Second person point of view centres around the pronoun ‘you.’ This perspective isn’t very common in novel-length works as it can be quite claustrophobic and is widely known as the most difficult point of view to master, as you have to ensure you story doesn't come across as instructional.