I sat down this morning to write about Point of View, the way our choices about whether we write as I, Me, Or She affect how close the reader feels to our story . . . how closely they connect.
And then two gunmen killed 14 people at a center that trains people with developmental disabilities. Then, 17 people were physically injured and countless more traumatized. . . .
So because I don’t have any words about limiting access to guns that are wiser than those other people have shared, because I cannot get the images of my friends Erin and Deanna, two young women with Down Syndrome who could have been in that space, because I don’t know what to do besides answer to what I can do – work with words and people who love and want to use them well . . . I am going to continue with my plan, slightly altered.
Third Person Point of View
Third person point of view uses he, she, it, and they as its pronouns. In this point of view, a narrator is talking about the people in the story. “She did this.” “He said that.”
In this point of view, the reader is a bit of distance away from the story, an observer or sorts. I think of it as watching the action from a balcony.
The shooters entered the Center’s holiday party and began shooting. Two men with weapons killed 14 people and injured 17 others.
This it the point of view of journalism.
Second Person Point of View
Second person point of view uses you as its pronoun. In this point of view, the narrator and the reader become conflated on some level. “You did this.” “You did that.”
In this point of view, the reader is both a participate and an observer. We understand that the actions are happening to the characters in the work, but on some level, we are also being asked to step into the story. I think of this point of view as watching the events unfold on the floor with the characters. Second person is a very intimate point of view, but given that it is not used very often, it still creates a sort of psychological distance for the reader.
You are enjoying a visit with Santa, perching on his lap and whispering about the Xbox game you want, when a loud bang clangs against your ear. You scream and scramble to the floor. Trying to get away from the noise. Confused. Where are you? Where is your dad?
This is the point of view of empathy.
First Person Point of View
First person point of view uses I and me as its pronouns. In this point of view, the reader is experiencing the story as if s/he is the protagonist. “I did this.” “She did that to me.”
In this point of view, the reader is very close to the story, as if a dear friend is telling them what is going on. The story becomes about us because we are reading as the “I.” It’s as if we are not only on the floor with the characters but we also are moving with them, becoming them. Thus, first person is the most intimate point of view, the one that pulls the reader close by her lapels and says, “Look.”
I don’t know what happened. Why is everyone screaming? Where is my dad? I see a closet in the corner and slap my palms on the floor and slide over to it. I can feel something sticky on my tummy, but I can’t stop. I have to hide.
This is the point of view of experience.
As you consider your point of view in your next work, think about how close you want the reader. . . . and think about what point of view carries the emotional experience you want to convey. . . do you want distance so people can engage analytically and emotionally? do you want empathy as well as psychological involvement so that the reading experience is a little more deeply absorbed? or do you primarily want emotional involvement that writes the story on the reader’s heart?
Any point of view is good. . . . but some are better for your story. It’s something to consider.
Which point of view do you choose most often? Why that point of view?
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