1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Person Point of View in Storytelling

So, you’ve got an iron-clad, impenetrable storyline, well-rounded characters, and the right setting, but who will be telling the story? This is where point of view (POV) comes in. Do you let one character take the wheel of storytelling? Or use 4th person of point view narrative? 

In this article, we’ll dive down to four types of point of views so you can ultimately select the right POV your book deserves. 

What Is Point of View in Storytelling?

Before diving down to 1st or 4th person point of view. Let’s define what point of view or POV is.

Point of view is about who is telling the story. The storyteller or narrator can be the protagonist, another character, and even someone not in the story. You, the author, select the POV that is best suited for your book. 

Confused? Here is an example: 

J. K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series using a third-person limited POV, wherein the narrator is not part of the story but focuses on Harry’s perspective. Here’s an excerpt from Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone for our British friends): 

“As seven o’clock drew nearer, Harry left the castle and set off in the dusk toward the Quidditch field. He’d never been inside the stadium before. Hundreds of seats were raised in stands around the field so that the spectators were high enough to see what was going on. At either end of the field were three golden poles with hoops on the end. They reminded Harry of the little plastic sticks Muggle children blew bubbles through, except that they were fifty feet high.”

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Notice Rowling used “He.”

On the other hand, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games (Book 1) is a first-person POV narrative wherein Collins gives Katniss Everdeen the power to tell the story. Here is a snippet from The Hunger Games: 

“When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping.”

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Instead of using her, Collins used “I.”

Tip: Don’t confuse perspective with point of view or vice versa. Perspective is about how the character perceives the world, while POV is who is telling the story. 

Why POV Is Important?  

Many aspiring novelists spend the majority of their time crafting the perfect setting, characters and plotline, giving little attention (or none at all) to the storytelling aspect. And that can be a problem.  

Here are several compelling reasons why POV is important and why you shouldn’t disregard it: 

  • It sets the characters apart
  • You are able to show (not tell) the details of your book  
  • Readers are able to understand the thought process and perspective of the protagonist and characters 
  • Creates the flow of the information you want the readers to know and experience throughout the book 

What Are the 4 Types of Point of View?

Picture showing the different types of POV - 1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person and 4th person point of view

As mentioned earlier and in the examples above, there are different POVs you can use for your novel. You can use first-person, second-person, third-person (limited and omniscient), and even fourth-person point of view in your book. All of which have their own pros and cons. But don’t worry! The most popular types of POV are easy to use and tell apart. 

First-Person Point of View

An illustration showing an example of 1st person point of view.

In a first-person narrative, the narrator is either the protagonist or other main characters of your book. This character will tell the story in his own words. He can describe his surroundings, experiences, actions, and even his feelings and thought process. 

Unlike other POVs, this first-person POV is the easiest to apply. Plus, you build rapport and intimacy or connection with the readers by granting them access to the protagonist’s thoughts and emotions. 

Since you are limiting access to only one perspective, there is intrigue and interest, which is highly suitable for books in the thriller or mystery genres. However, it’s a double-edged sword. 

You will need to match your voice with the personality and behavior of the chosen narrator. Let’s say your character is a high school dropout who still lives with his parents. It would be odd and out of place if he started using vocabulary fit for a business executive.  

How Do You Write in First Person Point of View?

Like Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, to write in first-person you’ll be using “I” and other first-person pronouns such as: 

  • Me
  • My
  • We
  • Us
  • Our
  • Myself
  • Ourselves

First-Person Point of View Examples

1. “I volunteer!” I gasp. “I volunteer as tribute!” – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

2. “I don’t remember much more than that because I started crying really hard and after a while my dad had my mom take me to my room.” – The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

3. “When I was almost six and Jem was nearly ten, our summertime boundaries (within calling distance of Calpurnia) were Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose’s house two doors to the north of us, and the Radley Place three doors to the south.” – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 

Books that are written in 1st Person POV

  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Hunger Games (Book 1) by Suzanne Collins
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Second Person POV

An illustration showing how 2nd person point of view works

If first-person POV is the easiest, 2nd person POV is the hardest to master. In this point of view, you are directly speaking to the reader, drawing them in and making them feel a part of the story. In fact, you can make them the protagonist or another character of your book! 

However, this POV is confusing and awkward for full-length novels because it limits character and plotline build-up. That’s why there aren’t many novels written in this POV type. 

The good news is 2nd-person POV works well with self-help books and short stories. 

How Do You Write in Second Person Point of View?

As you might have probably guessed, a second-person point of view requires you to use second-person pronouns like “you” and “yours.” 

Second Person Point of View Examples

1. “You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy.” – Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney

2. “You will need to make this work because nobody else would do it for you.” 

3. “Your access to the building is no longer valid. You will need to reapply.” 

Books that are written in 2nd Person POV include:

  • Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney
  • Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume
  • The Book of Rapture by Nikki Gemmell
  • You by Nuala Ní Chonchúir
  • Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty

Third Person Point of View 

Picture showing how to write in 3rd POV

Third-person storytelling is the most common point of view. Think of yourself like a sports announcer. You share every detail of the play, who scored, who was kicked out from the game, and so on. Basically, the author is in charge in a third-person narration. Only you can share and describe the characters’ experiences, psyches, and emotions.

Why should you pick this POV over first person and second person? The answer is simple. It’s flexibility – you can describe anything and everything! 

Writing in the third person point of view allows you to impart details that will provide the readers with the information they need to understand the protagonist better. And, since you are not limited to one perspective like in first person, you can dig deeper into the minds of every character and, of course, have a broader perspective on the story.  

There are even three kinds of third person point of view so you can find the perfect match for your book. They are: 

  • Third Person Omniscient Point of View: This variety of the third person POV gives you the ultimate freedom to tell your book’s story from different perspectives. Of course, you, as the narrator, should know each of your character’s thought processes and psyches to have a well-rounded and cohesive omniscient narration. Many authors use omniscient POV for introducing and building characters throughout the book and give equal importance to each one. So, if you have multiple strong main characters, omniscient POV is what you need.

    Be extra cautious when opting for this POV, though. Multiple perspectives can lead to what writers call ” head-hopping” wherein you suddenly shift or fluctuate from one perspective to another, making readers confused and disoriented. 
  • Third Person Limited Point of View: This type of third-person POV is the exact opposite of omniscient. Instead of sharing multiple perspectives from different characters, you’ll only focus on one, typically the protagonist. One common example is Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Except for the first book’s first chapter, the story unfolds from Harry’s perspective.

    There are also disadvantages to choosing this POV. Similar to first person, you are limited to one perspective. There is a workaround, though. You can dedicate one chapter to each character of your story. One example is Colleen Hover’s Reminders of Him. One chapter is told from Kenna’s perspective and then to Ledger’s experience.
  • Third Person Objective Point of View: In this type of point of view, you are reporting the events, but you won’t be diving down into the characters’ thoughts, or as the name implies, you’ll stay objective. And, yes, that means you’ll be a “fly-on-the-wall.”

    It may seem like an odd choice, but this POV works with mystery, thriller, or suspense because the concealment of feelings or thought processes can make the plot more intriguing. Of course, there are a couple of downsides when you pick this POV. One obvious disadvantage is it can alienate the reader because of the distance you’ve placed between them and the characters. 

How Do You Write in Third Person POV?

Whether you choose to be a limited or an omniscient narrator, using third-person pronouns is necessary: 

  • He/him/his
  • They/them/their/theirs
  • She/her/hers
  • It/its

Third Person Point of View Examples

1. “As seven o’clock drew nearer, Harry left the castle and set off in the dusk toward the Quidditch field. He’d never been inside the stadium before.” – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

2. “Aegon of Dragonstone was of a different mind. Once he had joined his power with that of Edmyn Tully and the other riverlords to ring the castle, he sent a maester to the gates under a peace banner, to parley.” – A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

3. “Frypan looked up at his nurse, though nervousness filled his gut, he knew he was doing the right thing and forced himself to relax.” – The Maze Runner Files by James Dashner

Books that are written in 3rd Person Limited POV include:

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  • The Giver by Lois Lowery
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling 

4th Person Point of View 

Picture showing how to write in 4th person point of view

Rather than one point of view and perspective, this new emerging point of view is a collection of perspectives. In a 4th person point of view storytelling, there are multiple narrators, but they are telling the story as one. That means you will be using generic referents to refer to all the members of the group.

How Do You Write in 4th Person Point of View?

With 4th person point of view, you will use the words “we” or “us.” Remember, 4th person functions as a collective. You should not confuse it with “we” in first-person POV, wherein there is a clear first-person narrator. 

Fourth Person Point of View Examples?

  1.  “We repeat this to ourselves, but it helps us not.” – Anthem by Ayn Rand
  2. “When she arrived at the front porch, we instinctively ran to our rooms.” 
  3.  “We took it upon ourselves to steal the gold.”

Books that are written in 4th Person POV include:

  • Anthem by Ayn Rand

What’s the Right POV for Your Book?

Now that you have a better understanding of what perspective is and the different types of point of view, the next step is figuring out what works for you. Remember, your goal is not only to convey information but also to make your readers believe and understand the world and characters you’ve created. 

And, if you’re wondering if there is a 5th person POV, the answer is it doesn’t exist…yet.

Let us know if you’re looking forward to practicing 4th person point of view storytelling or third-person limited narration.

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