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The Short Story: Point of View Made Simple

POINT OF VIEW (POV) SIMPLIFIED Point of view is the most difficult decision the short story writer has to make. It can be very complicated. Simply put--WHO tells the story from WHERE in the story. Who speaks? To whom? In what form? At what distance from the action. With what limitations? Once you have established the persona, you must then decide what POV is best--through which character will tell the story. This is the easiest POV to write.

In FIRST person the story is told from the view of “I.” This is the camera POV—everything the character sees the reader sees. Draw back—not able to get into the characters thoughts and can only speculate the other character’s thoughts. “I knew that John was angry by the way he kept clenching his fists.”

In SECOND person the story is told directly to “you” the reader as a participant in the action.

THIRD person can show a character’s weakness, report the main character’s thoughts and actions, establish conflict by sharing the main character’s thoughts and feelings, observe only what the main character says and does, and builds suspense by reporting what is happening. Because of the flexibility of third person POV this has traditionally been the most popular.

POV can be told in either present (“is”), past (“was”) or future (“would.”)

Do not shift POV in a short story. Shifting POV results in a lack of focus to the narration and shows there is a lack of unity in the work.


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