Narrative Modes Made Simple


There are four common narrative modes (viewpoints) in Literature:

First-Person, Second-Person, Third-Person and Alternating Person View.

                                       Here’s a quick guide:

1st Person

This is telling the story from the perspective of one of the characters within the story.  You can usually spot this by the use of or (in rare cases) We.

E.g.` I ran through the streets as fast as my legs could take me. ‘

Conclusion: The reader feels closer to the character but it limits the perspective to that of the narrative character. Many popular novels are written in 1st-Person – Good for novels, short stories or poetry.

2nd Person

 This is not one of the most common viewpoints to use as it is very difficult to pull off. It’s as if the narrator is talking about another person and is usually identified by the use of You.

E.g. `What a fool you are. You smashed through the glass spraying shards everywhere.’

More unusual and can lead the reader to strange places. Can, however, be confusing and difficult to maintain.   Unique, good for poetry. Could use for satire.

3rd Person

This is my favourite and allows the writer more freedom to change perspective and place. It is written as He, she, they or it.

E.g.  Shards of glass flew everywhere as they ducked down behind the bar covering their ears. Ivy leaned over and  grabbed the bottle of gin, taking a few gulps for courage before making a run for it.

Can change places, characters, viewpoints with little limitation but can be more distant if not closely following the main character. This is great for epics and fantasy novels!

Alternating View

This is where the viewpoint changes from one character to another. The only problem with this is that it can be difficult for the reader and should not normally be done in the same scene.  You can also alternate 1st person and third person or first person and second etc but, again, it’s difficult to pull off well.

E.g. Shards of glass flew everywhere as they ducked down behind the bar covering their ears. Ivy leaned over and  grabbed the bottle of gin, taking a few gulps for courage before making a run for it.

I ran through the streets as fast as my legs could take me. I could the high pitch vibration screaming through the large public house, shaking the very brickwork.

Similar to 3rd person but can get too confusing. This is good for novels or stories with numerous character perspectives.

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