Difference between First-Person and Third-Person Point of View

By: | Updated: Nov-25, 2021

A Basic Guide for Choosing Point of View

One of the most important choices to make when writing an essay is point of view. That choice will decide the tone and pace of the story.

There are three different types of point of view – first-person, third-person omniscient, and third-person non-omniscient. Being an essay writer free, I know that this is often not an easy choice. Students should keep in mind various factors that affect the choice.

Difference between First-Person and Third-Person Point of View

First-Person

This type of point-of-view is known as the character who is also telling the story.

The story is told from the point-of-view of a single character. The story unfolds through their eyes. This is both the greatest strength and the biggest weakness of this particular point of view. You don’t get to see what might be happening elsewhere, but the character will give you an insider’s version of the story.

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Stories written in first-person read like this – My husband is going to kill me when he finds out what I’ve done.

Third-Person

Stories written from the third-person point of view are what we think of when we think of fictional stories. Mary got up and answered the phone.

However there can be two different uses to this particular style – omniscient and non-omniscient.

Third-person omniscient is also known as the God style, because the writer can leap from one character’s viewpoint to another’s, and can often know exactly what is going on at all times in a story.

Third-person non-omniscient, however, is like a combination of third-person and first-person. You can tell the story or just a scene from a particular character’s point of view without being limited to that one character.

Choices, Choices – What POV Will Work?

This apparently simple choice is often not easy to choose. But there is a fairly simple and easy guideline to use.

When writing a short story, it is often best to stick with one point of view. But with novellas and full-length novels, one can play around a little bit with point of view, although it is best to stick with one point of view. For instance, JK Rowlings wrote the entire Harry Potter series from third-person non-omniscient, using just one character view point. But there are options when changing point of view is necessary.

For instance, you can have the story start in third-person, then a character finds a diary and starts to read it, then you can go into first person. Anne Rice’s Queen of the Damned uses this technique.

Another possibility to consider when changing points of view is alternating first person, in which the story is told from first-person, but alternates between characters, usually when a new chapter starts. This is an unconventional but hardly unheard-of technique to tell a story. Wilkie Collins uses this technique in The Woman in White. In more contemporary examples, Eric Jerome Dickey wrote several of his novels in alternating first-person, including Friends and Lovers and Cheaters. Terry McMillian also used this technique in her early novel Disappearing Acts.

So how do you choose? It often depends on what type of story you are writing, but it also depends on how you want to tell the story. If you don’t want the reader to know everything right off, and want them to instead find out things as the character does, then first-person would work well. Detective stories are often best told from first-person, as are romance novels.

It is often useful just to start writing and see which point of view works best. But you might want to go with these simple guidelines instead.

 

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