Characters and Point Of View
Who's Telling This Story, Anyway?
• The point of view is the perspective, or vantage
point, from which an author presents a story.
– how you choose to tell your story determines the
voice of your writing.
• Children's stories are told from the viewpoint of
the main character.
• Who this character is -- his or her personality,
temperament, strengths and weaknesses -- will
affect how the story is told.
Different Points of View
DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW
POINT OF VIEW PRONOUNS USED
• FIRST PERSON: I, me, my, mine, we,
a character within the story tells the story
• SECOND PERSON Pronouns used you, your
Rarely used. Direct communication from
the writer to the reader
• THIRD PERSON Pronouns USED: He, his,
hers, her, they theirs
– LIMITED – tells the story through the experiences,
thoughts and feelings of one character.
• Most widely used.
– OMNISCIENT – tells the story knowing all characters’
thoughts and feelings as well as all that is happening
in the story.
First person: The first person viewpoint
uses the pronoun "I".
–Your main character is telling the story
in his or her own words.
–This point of view allows the writer to
• easily show the character's personality
because every thought, feeling and
opinion expressed in the narrative
comes from that character.
FIRST PERSON POV
–The author must know
the main character very
well before starting the
story; a flat, undeveloped
character will not hold
the reader's interest.
Limitations to 1st person viewpoint
• The character must remain actively involved in
the story at all times, otherwise he ends up
standing on the sidelines and describing the
action in long, telling passages.
• Physical descriptions of the main character come
through dialogue from other characters ("I've
always loved your curly hair, "Sue told me) or by
the main character comparing himself to another
person (I have my dad's blue eyes).
• Rarely does a character stop and describe herself
for no reason.
First person POV
• You can only show the thoughts of your main
character, and you can only see the events
your main character sees.
• The thoughts of other characters must be
expressed through dialogue.
• First person, past tense is the most common,
and effective, narration technique.
Third person, Limited:
• With third person you use the pronouns "he" and "she,"
but you are still telling the story through one character's
• You get close to your main character by showing only his or
her thoughts and feelings and following that character
through the story, but you don't have to write the narration
as if it's coming out of your main character's mouth.
• This is often the easiest point of view for beginning writers
• Be careful not to comment or editorialize upon your
character's actions (Billy should have known better), or
speak directly to the reader (Can you guess what happened
Third Person Omniscient
• The omniscient point of view is like looking at the
story through a movie camera.
• You can show the reader what's happening in
several places at once, but you don't get close to
any one character or see their thoughts.
• This can be useful at the beginning of a chapter to
set the scene (as E.B. White does in Charlotte's
Web), but after a paragraph or two switch to the
viewpoint of your main character. An entire book
written with the omniscient point of view does
not allow the reader to identify with any one
character or know whose story you are telling.
Charlotte’s Web 3rd person omniscient
As the runt of the litter, Wilbur struggles to survive from
the very beginning. Fern begs her father, Mr. Arable, to
raise Wilbur and nurse him to health. Fern succeeds and
Wilbur moves to Zuckerman Farm, where he learns the
true meaning of friendship from the wise gray spider
Charlotte. When it becomes apparent that Wilbur is being
well fed for a reason, Charlotte and Wilbur are
determined to foil Mr. Zuckerman’s plans. With the help
of Charlotte and her “terrific” webs, Templeton the rat,
and other barnyard friends, Wilbur becomes the prize-
winning pig of the County Fair and the most famous pig
ever. Lessons of friendship, loyalty, and truth bind this
story together and show readers that friends come in all
shapes and sizes.
• Most children's books encompass one main
character and one point of view
• Some young adult novels alternate points of
view between two or three main characters.
This is best done when entire chapters focus
on one character and one viewpoint.
• It's difficult to do this successfully in books for
younger children unless each character has a
very different role in the book, and you are a
talented writer (as in Natalie Babbitt's Tuck
Changing the POV
• How does changing the point of view affect
the mood of the story?
– Is it still funny, serious, thoughtful, etc.?
Types of Point of View
• First Person Point of View
In the first person point of view, the narrator does participate in the
action of the story. When reading stories in the first person, we
need to realize that what the narrator is recounting might not be
the objective truth. We should question the trustworthiness of the
• Third Person Point of View
Here the narrator does not participate in the action of the story as
one of the characters, but lets us know exactly how the characters
feel. We learn about the characters through this outside voice.
A narrator who knows everything about all the characters is all
knowing, or omniscient.
• Limited Omniscient Points of View
A narrator whose knowledge is limited to one character, either
major or minor, has a limited omniscient point of view.
PRACTICE 1 Goldilocks
Goldilocks was a proud and defiant little girl who’d been told many times by
her mother to stay out of the woods, but she paid little attention to others,
especially her elders, giving lots of attention instead to herself and her own
desires. One day, just to show that she could, she wandered deep into the
center of the forest, farther from home than ever before. In a clearing she
noticed a small cottage, smoke issuing from the chimney. She thought it was
quite an ugly little cottage, but she also thought it might be a place where she
could get a little something to eat and drink.
The front door swung open when she touched it. “Hello,” she said. “Is anyone
home?“ No one answered, but she stepped inside anyway. Immediately the
smell of fresh-cooked porridge drew her toward the kitchen, where she saw
three steaming bowls sitting on the counter.
Make your bed, she says. Read your lessons. Fold your clothes. Stay out of the
woods. Blah blah blah. Ha! I'm in the woods now, dear mother, and going
deeper. As if anything out here would dare to harm a girl like me.
I've followed the weaving trail through the trees farther than ever before, and
what can she do about it? I'm deep in the woods now, and there's a cottage in
a clearing, a muddy-looking wooden thing so small I almost miss it. What a
hovel! Who could stand to live there? I want to get inside and see. Besides, I'm
thirsty, and a little bit hungry after the long walk, and these country folk do so
love to share.
They don't use locks out here, of course, and as soon as I touch the door it
swings wide open for me. I say hello, but no one answers. Even if they catch
me here, who would care? A proper little girl like me can't harm a thing. I step
They must have known I was coming, because someone’s made a tasty-
smelling porridge. When I see the brown bowls steaming on the plain wooden
counter, I feel so hungry I could eat all three.