How to Choose a Point of View When Writing Fiction?Posted In Literature | Posted By Kristy Robins
How Do I Teach My Homeschool Student to Choose a Point of View When Writing Fiction?
When writing fiction, one of the most important features to consider is point of view. Many famous works of literature are defined by the narrative technique chosen by the author. Can you imagine Catcher in the Rye if it were not told through the perspective of Holden Caulfield? What if F. Scott Fitzgerald had gone with his original manuscript and told The Great Gatsby from Gatsby’s perspective instead of Nick’s? When it comes to creating imaginary worlds and characters, perspective is everything! Learning about point of view will allow your homeschool student to make purposeful choices when crafting imaginative narratives and to discern more clearly how authors use literary tools to create compelling works of fiction.
What is Point of View in Writing?
Point of view describes the perspective from which a story is told. When writing a work of fiction, the writer must choose a narrator that will best showcase the plot of the story. There are three main types of point of view: first-person, second-person, and third-person. Read on to learn more about choosing point of view in writing.
First Person Writing
In first-person point of view writing, a character tells the story from his or her perspective using “I” pronouns. By choosing this point of view, the writer can deeply explore the character’s personality through his or her own words that reveal thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the events that occur in the story. When done well, the reader feels a sense of connection to the character and becomes deeply invested in the plot of the story.
The Unreliable Narrator
Like humans in the real world, characters in stories are often flawed in their reasoning and understanding. That means that first-person narrators are sometimes unreliable in their interpretations of people and events. In most cases, an unreliable narrator adds to the dramatic irony of a piece of fiction, accentuating conflict and suspense within the story.
For example, in To Kill a Mockingbird, there is a moment when Scout, the child narrator, innocently interjects herself into a volatile situation in which angry townspeople are on the verge of violence. While Scout doesn’t realize the danger she puts herself in, the audience reading from her perspective sits on the edge of their seats and breathes a sigh of relief when she comes out of the situation unscathed.
In second person point of view writing, the writer uses “you” to put the reader in the hot seat. This method is difficult to sustain in long works of fiction, but it has the effect of putting the reader in the action of the story. R.A. Montgomery’s Choose Your Own Adventure series is a famous example of this type of narration. In this popular series, the reader is plopped into the action and must make choices to solve mysteries and survive. The reader can then re-read the book, and by making different choices, can change the outcome of the character’s actions. In general, second-person writing in fiction is highly experimental and difficult to pull off, but when it’s done well, it can add an extra dash of excitement to the plot.
Third Person Writing
In third-person point of view writing, the author narrates the story from an outside perspective, referring to characters by name or using pronouns like “he,” “she,” and “they.” Third person point of view writing provides three different approaches: third-person omniscient, third-person limited, and third-person objective.
In third-person omniscient point of view writing, the narrator has an all-knowing and all-seeing perspective that can enter the mind of any character. With this point of view, the narrator knows everything there is to know about everyone in the story and is able to explicitly communicate this knowledge to the reader.
In third-person limited, the narrator only has access to one (or sometimes more than one) of the character’s thoughts and feelings, while other characters are revealed only through their words and actions. This perspective allows the narrator to present an insider’s view of a certain character or characters while also making judgments on the character’s thoughts or actions. Through this point of view, the writer can use what the reader doesn’t know to build suspense.
In third-person objective, the narrator reveals only outward actions and events and does not include any of the characters’ internal thoughts and feelings. The narrator does not provide any commentary about the characters or plot. This technique is almost like a video camera, recording what happens without judgment and allowing the readers to process the story on their own.
Why Choosing the Most Effective Point of View is Important When Writing Fiction
Considering point of view is important when writing or reading a work of fiction. Students need to know the various options available to them as they craft stories about imaginary worlds and characters. That way they can make purposeful choices that best showcase the plot and characters. Who knows?
One of your homeschool students may be a famous novelist some day! Regardless, putting on their “writer’s hats” can help your homeschool students become more perceptive in understanding the literary tools that professional writers use to create great fiction.
Tips for Choosing an Effective Point Of View When Writing Fiction
If you or your homeschool students are trying to decide which point of view to choose when writing a work of fiction, consider the effect you hope to achieve.
If you want your audience to identify strongly with one of the characters, choose first-person. It’s easier for the audience to feel connection and compassion with a character when he or she tells the story in his or her own words.
If you want to add a strong sense of suspense, choose third-person limited or first-person. By giving only one of the character’s perspectives at a time, the writer can carefully unfold details of the plot and withhold information from the audience. This technique can heighten the audience’s curiosity.
If you want to create a sense of dramatic irony, in which the audience knows more than the characters, try third-person omniscient point of view. The literary tension created by this technique will keep your readers thoroughly engaged in the story.
If you want to write the entire story in the main character’s unique voice, choose first-person. The word choice and style will contribute to the audience’s understanding of the character’s background, personality, and motives. Plus, it’s so much fun to “become” the character through your writing!
If you want your reader to become part of the action, try using second-person narration. This technique allows the reader to become the main character.
If you need to communicate a lot of back story or context to set up your plot, give third-person omniscient perspective a try. This point of view allows the narrator to move seamlessly from conveying the action in the plot to providing commentary that helps the reader to better understand the story.
If you want the audience to draw their own conclusions, use third-person objective point of view. By presenting only the events of the story and withholding a narrator’s or character’s commentary, the readers are left to draw their own conclusions and interpretations.
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