Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Victoria Lucia

First-Person, Second-Person, and Third-Person Point of View

In fiction writing, many different points of view can be utilized to tell a story. What exactly are the various points of view?

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Keep reading as I explore first-person, second-person, and third-person points of view!

First-Person, Second-Person, and Third-Person Point of View

What is First-Person Point of View?

The first-person point of view is when the story is told from one of the character's perspectives, commonly the protagonist or a character closely connected to the protagonist. First-person utilizes the pronouns "I,” "me,” "we," and "us" to tell the story. When the protagonist is telling first-person POV, this is often referred to as "first person central perspective."

First Person Peripheral Point of View is when the story is being told by a character other than the protagonist.      

First-person POV can create a feeling of intimacy, as it feels like the character is sharing their thoughts and feelings with the reader. This POV can be limiting as you're restricted to telling the story based on only what the narrator knows.

Examples of First-Person Point of View

The Catcher in the Rye,” written by J.D. Salinger, is a first-person POV example that showcases the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, as the narrator. Interestingly, Holden is also an unreliable narrator. An unreliable narrator is an approach used in first-person POV, where the writer lays clues that what the narrator is saying may be skewed, unfairly colored by their opinion, or flat-out untrue. In this case, Holden's mental instability makes him an unreliable narrator.

A popular example of first-person peripheral is “The Great Gatsby,” written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, told from the perspective of Nick Carraway, a friend of the protagonist, Jay Gatsby.

What is Second-Person Point of View?

Second-person POV is one of the less commonly used narrative perspectives in fiction. Second-person point-of-view breaks the fourth wall, ascribing the reader as either the protagonist or another character in the story. Second-person point-of-view utilizes the "you" pronoun. Writing from this perspective can create an interactive feeling for the reader, making them part of the story.

Examples of Second-Person Point of View

Self-Help is a collection of short stories by Lorie Moore that features six of the nine stories utilizing second-person narration.

Second-person POV is commonly used in non-fiction, song lyrics, or video games.

The Beatles' "She Loves You" is a song that clearly shows second-person point of view.

"You think you've lost your love
Well, I saw her yesterday
It's you she's thinkin' of
And she told me what to say"

The video game “Undertale” utilizes a second-person narration referring to "you," the player, throughout the game.

What is Third-Person Point of View?

The third-person point of view features a narrator that exists beyond the story's action. Third-person utilizes the pronouns he, she, it, and they.

  • Third-Person Omniscient

    This is the least limiting perspective for writers to write from. As the name implies, the omniscient narrator is all-seeing and all-knowing. There are no limitations to what this narrator knows; they can move through time and know the characters' inner thoughts and feelings. This perspective is often described as "god-like." 

  • Third-Person Limited

    This is when the narrator is privy to the perspective, thoughts, and feelings of one character. While still in third-person, this perspective can provide a closer connection between the reader and the character whose thoughts and feelings are presented. The rest of the characters are seen from that one character's perspective.

  • Third-Person Objective:

    This occurs when the narrator presents the story without knowing any of the character's thoughts or feelings.

Examples of Third Person Point of View

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen uses a third-person omniscient point of view. The narrator is privy to the protagonist’s thoughts, feelings, and the thoughts and feelings of other characters.

This excerpt from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone” by J.K. Rowling demonstrates how the Harry Potter books are written in third-person limited POV. The narrator only knows the protagonist, Harry Potter's inner thoughts and feelings.

The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson can attribute its detached storytelling to its use of the third-person objective POV. The narrator doesn't share any thoughts or feelings belonging to the characters but simply describes the story's events.

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In Conclusion

Hopefully, this blog was able to teach you a thing or two about first, second, and third perspectives! Learning about the various storytelling perspectives can be helpful to all writers. If you're used to only writing from one perspective, thinking about a different one can help you to change things up and discover new things about your writing!

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