Today we're going to give you a quick run-down on the basic types of perspective you can use when writing a story.
Perspective in grammar refers to who's telling the story. You've probably heard people talking about 1st person and 3rd person, and occasionally even 2nd person. These are all kinds of perspective. Often you'll see it abbreviated as POV: point of view.
1st person: Is always centered on the 1st person in the room. It's your main character. If you're having a conversation with someone else, you use 1st person to refer to yourself. (Unless you're Elmo. Please don't be like Elmo.) 1st person pronouns: I, me, my; we and us, if you're using 1st person plural.
3rd person: Imagine you're having a conversation with a friend, but you're talking about someone else; a third person who's not in the conversation. This is the most common POV for novels, with 1st pretty close behind. 3rd person pronouns: he, she, him, her, they/them (nonbinary); also they and them as plural.
2nd person: Imagine you're having a conversation with another person. The person you're talking to is addressed with 2nd person, because they're the second person in the room, after you. Writing in 2nd person is extraordinarily difficult to pull off, because you're telling a story as if the reader is the main character. For an excellent example of how this can be done well, try N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy. And even there, not all chapters are in 2nd person, because it's a multi-POV series. 2nd person pronouns: you, y'all, ye, thy... (There are too many regional and dialect-based variations to list them all here.)
To figure out which point of view you're using, ask yourself a simple question:
Who's telling this story?
(No, the answer isn't you, the author.)
On the page, who's telling the story? Whose perspective are we seeing everything through?
Is the main character talking for themselves? Then it's 1st person.
Is someone else (a narrator) speaking for the characters? Then it's 3rd person.
Is one perspective better than the others? Not really. Some people have preferences, but the thing that matters most is that you use your chosen perspective well, to let your reader engage with the characters. And you can always change your perspective during edits if you decide it isn't working. It takes a lot of effort, but it's possible. Just remember that whichever perspective you choose, you still have to get deep inside your main character's head to understand what's going on and create a compelling story.
Every Wednesday and Saturday we bring you an edit tip of the day. Be sure to check out the archives for our popular summer series of SHOW DON'T TELL workshops!