Who's Telling the Story: Exploring 3 Point of View Methods

Who is telling your story?  The answer to that question identifies the story's point of view.

When I first started writing, I didn't know anything about point of view, so I tended to do something called "head hopping."  Head hopping occurs when you tell what different people are thinking within the same scene.  It can get very confusing for the reader because they don't know whose thoughts they are reading.

Point of view lets the reader know who is narrating the story.  Some of the common forms used today are:

  • First Person
  • Third Person
  • Third Person Deep


First Person

First person is told from the "I" point of view.  It feels like the point of view person is talking to you. To pull off a successful first person point of view, you will want to find a way to avoid the overuse of "I" especially at the beginning of sentences. The following first person excerpt comes from Pieces, a short story of mine published in moonShine Reviw, volume 7, 2013:

What was that? My ears ring. 
He’s yelling at me.  I can’t understand him over the ringing. His voice comes to me muffled, like he’s far away.
What was I doing?  My head feels thick, heavy, jumbled.
He’s still yelling.  I see his red, angry face, his mouth roaring.  I think I should care, but I’m not sure why.

Notice that everything said is deep within the mind of the person experiencing the event.

As a side note, I wrote this story in present tense.  Most stories occur in the past tense, but I liked the immediacy of experiencing the action in the here and now.  I don't suggest doing this often. Many people find present tense difficult to read.

Third Person and Third Person Deep

Third person point of view tells the story from a particular character's point of view, but the character isn't speaking directly to the reader.  Instead of using "I," the pronouns "he" or "she" are used as well as the character's name. The key to third person is remembering what that person can and can not know.  If the story is told by a character named Ben, then Ben doesn't know what Judy is thinking, he only knows what he's thinking. Third person only shares what Ben can see, hear, do, feel, taste, smell, etc. If Judy is upset, we must know this through how Ben interprets her behavior.

The third person deep point of view invites the reader into the mind of the character to the point that the reader becomes the character.  In a deep point of view, readers experience the innermost thoughts of the character in addition to what they see, hear, feel, taste, smell, etc.

Often in third person, a character's direct thought will be italicized by the writer, but in third person deep we don't need the italics because we are already embedded in their thoughts.

Below is an example of third person deep from my short story, Prayers for Bethany, published in The Pettigru Review, volume 9, 2015:

“Mrs. Albright?” A nurse in teddy-bear-covered smocks stood in the doorway. “I need to change her bandages. Why don’t you get something from the cafeteria? It will take me a while.”
Jane heard the unspoken words.
You don’t want to see these injuries, the damage done to your daughter’s arms, legs, her soft belly where Jane gave her zerberts as a baby. Her back, shattered, the skin scraped from the surface.
No. She wasn’t ready to see those things. Not yet. Not ever. She wasn’t ready for any of this.

We see and hear what Jane experiences, but we go deeper, into her innermost thoughts as she realizes the nurse's implications and reflects on her daughter's injuries.

Most authors use third person deep point of view. Some take this one step further and write in multiple points of view.  That choice takes extra effort and consideration, so we will explore it in next week's post.

Do you have a favorite point of view or a technique that helps you stay in point of view?  Please share it in the comments.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.


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