Why is point of view important in writing? To be honest, why won’t it be important to your work?
Based on how it is used, the point of view can make an enormous impact on the overall reading experience. The best storytellers not only know the importance of the right point of view but also understand just how to use it.
It’s not something you want to dismiss or overlook. Understanding this tool in writing will turn you into a master of plot points and storytelling. It’s a major element that shapes the entire story so learning more about it is necessary.
What is Point of View?
Most writers are encouraged to understand and figure out their point of view before they’re done working on the first draft of their work. This is because a lot of elements such as the plot or the characterization can be easily edited.
However, if you ever need to change the point of view, it will require a major edit which in some cases can be a rewrite of two to three pages or more. By definition, point of view, also known as POV, relates to two major elements in writing:
- In the fictional setting of a story, it relates to the narrator, their position and their description of the events and characters.
- In non-fiction writing, point of view relates to an opinion or the person’s insight about a particular subject.
We’re going to be focusing largely on points of view in a fictional setting for this article. You’ll be happy to know that many of the rules discussed here also apply to non-fiction writing.
But, before we start discussing why is a point of view important, we’re going to take a closer look at the different kinds of point of views in writing.
The Points of Views in Writing
In writing, there is only a maximum of four points of view. The following are the ones that you can include in your writing process.
This is when the narrator is the storyteller and often the protagonist as well. However, the first person point of views can also be applied to secondary characters in the story too. Nonetheless, in this point of view, “I” am the one who tells the story to you.
The pronouns which are commonly used with this point of view are:
In writing, the first person viewpoint is actually pretty unique. There’s no first person usage in theatre or film. Certain shows like Modern Family and The Office present a first person narrative, in a dominantly third person show.
However, when it comes to fiction novels, the first few ones in history were written largely in the first person. The authors drew inspiration from the writing style of autobiographies and popular journals before they started experimenting with other writing styles.
In this point of view, you’re the character in the story and “you” are the one whom the tale is being narrated to. This isn’t a very commonly used point of view in fiction writing. It’s popularly used in non-fiction.
While it can be used in some stories, it is rare to find the second person used for the entirety of the story.
Pronouns commonly used for this point of view are:
The third person point of view is when you’re being told a tale about he or she. The narrator is also not someone who is in the story. They’re usually someone who is relating the story, thoughts and experiences of the characters.
This is also the most commonly used point of view in commercial fiction stories.
As a rule, the third person is usually divided into two subsections, namely:
1. Third Person – Limited
In this point of view, the narrator can only reveal the feelings, thoughts, and the understanding of one character at a time.
2. Third Person Omniscient
In this point of view, the narrator is all-seeing and all-feeling. They can understand, know and share what is going on with all the characters in the story.
Pronouns commonly used for the third person point of view are:
Due to the subdivision of the third point of view, it is believed that there are four points of views in writing only. Interestingly, if you’re an avid reader, you might have seen one or all of these points of views in action in the work of your favorite authors.
Why is Point of View Important?
Now, that you know what the different points of views are, we can focus on the major question here: Why is point of view important in writing? The following are a few major reasons that highlight the answer to this question:
Allows You to Build a Connection
Building a connection with your readers is possible based on the point of view you are using in your work. In this case, building a connection means how well can your readers empathize with the characters.
The following are the different levels of connection you can build with readers, based on the point of view you are using:
1. First Person
In this narrative, you can establish a “close intimacy” of sorts with your readers. It is commonly chosen for fiction writing. Since the character is speaking directly to or acting as the guide to the reader, it establishes a certain degree of trust for them.
This makes reading them more interesting, particularly when there is an unreliable narrator. Since the narrator is telling a story from their perspective, there is believed to be a certain bias but it gives a creative challenge in storytelling. Despite this fact, the first person view is often considered to be very limiting.
2. Second Person
In theory, the second person point of view is said to be more intimate than the first person, but it can also have the opposite effect if used poorly. The narrator, in this case, is talking straight to the reader and is expecting them to imagine themselves as a character.
However, some readers can find it off-putting, particularly if it is not executed properly. In this case, it can feel like how a persistent stranger you barely know is telling you to come closer because they just want to talk. It’s annoying and you won’t want to stick around.
3. Third Person – Limited
This is a great point of view because it allows you to establish a close enough relationship with your readers. In this case, it will be like if they were taking a look over the shoulder of the character. It allows them to be a part of the action, without getting hurt.
When done skillfully, this point of view can be more intimate than a first person point of view. This is also an easy point of view to master. It’s the main reason why it is so commonly used in commercial fiction books.
4. Third Person – Omniscient
If you’re looking to create a connection, the third person – omniscient point of view is not the one to always pick. This is the most aloof point of view where the reader will always be kept at an arms distance. Since there’s no narrator present in the story, the reader is truly on their own here.
It’s a good point of view to use in connection with other points of views. If you want to get the readers invested quickly in your work, the omniscient point of view might not be the best option for you. The points of view you pick also depend on the nature of the story so, try it out and see if it adds or subtracts from the reading experience.
Makes an Impact on the Reading Experience
We’ve mentioned how the point of view can build a connection but this is the main answer to your question of why is point of view important in writing. It makes a direct impact on the reading experience.
Whether you just want to make a connection, tell a good action story or just make your readers laugh, the point of view will make an impact here. Some authors want to make stories where readers can dive into or that are challenging to read. All this can be done with the point of view you pick.
1. First Person
The first person view is generally viewed as being biased because you’re so close to the narrator. There can be a certain element of distrust added here because you’re relying on the narrator who can hide their character flaws from you. You’re then thrown into turmoil because who do you trust here?
This allows for writers to add an unreliable narrator to the mix. This allows writers to truly capitalize on the limitations of the first person point of view. In this case, you can then expect the unexpected when reading these stories. It makes for a very interesting and unique reading experience.
2. Second Person
This point of view can often make the readers feel like they’re alienated from the protagonist. Readers are often put into the shoes of the main character. It will feel like they’re mirroring the protagonist which can be an uncomfortable and eerie experience.
If used skillfully, this point of view can actually appeal to certain readers and it builds an odd twist. Readers might often project how they would handle different scenarios but the author has the freedom to make their characters do whatever they want them to do.
3. Third Person – Limited
The third person point of view makes the reader develop a sense of camaraderie. If you feel like you’re looking over the shoulder of the protagonist, you will also begin to develop a connection with the character.
It’s a major way that writers can allow their readers to connect with the main protagonist of their stories.
Don’t think so?
Take a look at the stories that have inspired fandoms. Most of them are written in third person limited.
4. Third Person – Omniscient
Another popular point of view that is used to challenge the readers, is the third world omniscient which is a great way to remind readers that they’re not the ones in control here. The narrator has a strong voice in the stories and can add comments which can either foreshadow events or explain an action more.
Authors such as Douglas Adams deploy the third person omniscient voice very noticeably. His skill here is really evident because not only does his narration disrupt the reader’s attention, it also takes them deeper into character history, development and other areas.
Try to think back about the books you liked and observe what point of view is being used. It’ll help you understand how it enhances the reading experience.
Helps to Reveal Plot Points and Twists
Setting up plot points and twists in a story can be quite challenging and require a definite amount of skill. Plus, the point of view you pick can either give away the story or make it difficult to incorporate the right twist you have in mind.
Some authors deliberately pick a certain point of view because they can then play with the different twists and plot points they can add here. Again, picking the right point of view matters.
1. First Person
The viewpoint of the reader is definitely restricted with the first person point of view. You only know what the narrator is sharing with you. That’s why you’re often forced to rely on the narrator and trust in them. When an unreliable narrator is added to the mix here, the shock of the twist is felt at a greater capacity which can make the reading process interesting.
2. Second Person
The second person point of view also matches with the first person in this case. Both of them have narrators who are telling readers a story. It’s not always clear if it is their story but they’re going to tell the reader as much or as little as they think they need to know.
The narrators are the ones who can reveal back story but only through flashbacks or dialogues.
3. Third Person – Limited
In this point of view, the narrator knows and sees everything in relation to the main character only. It gives them a certain blind spot, particularly when there are other characters involved. However, they’re able to share a lot more insight about the narrator than would have been previously expected.
In this case, knowledge of the character makes it easier to see the plot points or the betrayals being plotted.
4. Third Person – Omniscient
With the third person omniscient point of view, the narrator is all-seeing and all-knowing. The omission of details, withholding information and foreshadowing will play a major role here because your readers can see just as much as you can.
Execution of good plot points has to be done carefully here because if it looks too predictable, readers can lose interest in the story.
As you can see, the point of view in writing is pretty important and you will be able to pick the best one for your work.
41 Major Examples that Show Why is Point of View Important
Now, it is one thing to know how important the point of view is and quite another to see it in action. Plus, not everyone has the time to start hunting their favorite books and trying to identify the point of view used.
To make things easier, we’re going to take a look at some major examples in writing that show why the point of view is important:
First Person View
This is commonly used, even though it’s one of the earliest points of views to be used. Despite its age, it is still used by modern writers. Many compelling stories have been written with the help of this point of view.
The following are some of the best examples of books that were written in the first person view:
1. Hunger Games by Susan Collins
Read it here: Hunger Games
2. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
3. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Read it here: Moby Dick
4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Read it here: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
5. Room by Emma Donaghue
Read it here: Room
6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Read it here: The Great Gatsby
7. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Read it here: Never Let Me Go
8. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Read it here: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
9. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Read it here: Flowers for Algernon
10. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Read it here: Gone Girl
11. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Second Person View
The second person view is more personal than first person but it can be difficult to use in fiction. Luckily, there are many authors who have successfully used it in both fiction and non-fiction stories. The following are some of the biggest examples of second person point of view in writing:
1. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid
Read it here: How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia
2. Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney
3. Orientation by Daniel Orozco
Read it here: Orientation
4. How to Become a Writer by Lorrie Moore
Read it here: How to Become a Writer
5. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
Read it here: The Reluctant Fundamentalist
6. Black Box by Jennifer Egan
Read it here: Black Box
7. Girl by Jamaica Kinciad
8. The Cheaters Guide to Love by Junot Diaz
Read it here: The Cheaters Guide to Love
9. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Read it here: The Night Circus
10. If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino
Read it here: If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller
Third Person View – Limited
Popularly used for commercial fiction books, the third person limited point of view is often used. It gives writers more creative freedom, they’re able to build their characters well and also pull the readers deeper into the story.
The following are some of the biggest and best examples of third person limited point of view in writing:
1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Read it here: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
2. 1984 by George Orwell
Read it here: 1984
3. Austen Land by Shannon Hale
Read it here: Austen Land
4. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
Read it here: A Storm of Swords
5. You Will Know Me by Meghan Abbott
6. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
7. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Read it here: I Am Legend
8. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – WTF by David Shafer
Read it here: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
9. Enders Game by Orson Scott Card
Read it here: Enders Game
10. Hills like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway
Third Person View – Omniscient
This point of view can be a bit tricky to master but it is not impossible. It’s also used in commercial fiction and if mastered, it can elevate your story in a manner that no other point of view can. The following are some of the best examples of point of view books.
1. Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx
Read it here: Brokeback Mountain
2. Discworld – Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett
3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Read it here: Pride and Prejudice
4. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien
5. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
6. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
7. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Read it here: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
8. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Read it here: Jurassic Park
9. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Read it here: Crazy Rich Asians
10. Hard Times by Charles Dickens
Read it here: Hard Times
All these examples can help you understand different views and also see just why the point of view is important in writing.
Can You Pick the Point of View?
It is one thing to keep reading about it and quite another to try and identify the point of view in your favorite works. This exercise will also help you see why the point of view is important.
So, if you feel like you have a good grasp of the point of view, try and pick out which one was used for the following stories:
1. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
Read it here: Shutter Island
2. Home Going by Yaa Gyasi
Read it here: Home Going
3. The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe
Read it here: The Masque of the Red Death
4. Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas by Tom Robbins
5. The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
Read it here: The Tell Tale Heart
6. Shelter by Jung Yun
7. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Read it here: Eleanor & Park
8. Self Help by Lorrie Moore
Read it here: Self Help
9. The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks
Read it here: The Zombie Survival Guide
10. You by Caroline Kepnes
As you can see, we’ve got a mix of book excerpts and examples here for you. Try to identify the point of view and if you get things wrong, don’t worry! You’ll get the hang of it soon enough!