Your Study Guides and Strategies content starts here!

Truth is more
of a stranger
than fiction.
Mark Twain 1835 - 1910
American author


Reading and research series

Reading fiction: narrator and character types

An exercise in narrator types or point of view in fiction:

First person | Second person | Third person

Limited | Omniscient

Summary of exercise:

Point of view: narrator and character types
An author creates a person to tell the story, and this person is the narrator.
The narrator delivers the point of view of the story.
Multiple narrators of the story can also present multiple points of view.

A first person narrator
uses the pronoun "I" to tell the story, and can be either a major or minor character.
It may be easier for a reader to relate to a story told in a first person account.

A subjective narrator is generally unreliable
because he/she is in the story,
and can only speak to his/her experience within it.

A second person narrator
uses the pronoun "you" and is not used very often since it makes the reader a participant in the story (and you, as reader, may be reluctant to be in the action!).

A third person narrator
uses the pronoun "he" or "she" and does not take part in the story.

An objective narrator is an observer
and describes or interprets thoughts, feelings, motivations, of the characters. Details such as setting, scenes, and what was said is stronger with an objective observer

An omniscient (omniscient = all knowing) narrator has access to all
the actions and thoughts within fiction

A limited narrator has a restricted view of events,
and doesn't "know" the whole story

Questions:

  • How much does the narrator know?
    Does he or she know everything, including the thoughts, feelings, motivations, etc. or present just limited information?
    Do you (the reader) know more?
  • Time?
    Do events take place "now" (verbs in the present tense)?
    or in the past (verbs are in the past tense)?
    Are past recollections fresh, or distant, and maybe hazy?
  • Is the narrator a participant in, or a witness to, the action?
    Is the story second-hand, related "as told to" the narrator?
    Think of yourself telling someone something that happened:
    How much of the event do you know, and how does that affect the story?
  • Why is the story being told, and why now?
    What is the motivation?

Reading and research series

Reading critically | Prereading strategies | SQ3R reading method |
KWL reading method | Marking & underlining | Reading difficult material | Interpretive reading |
Reading essays | Reading fiction | Narrator/character types | Speed and comprehension |
Researching on the Internet | Evaluating websites | Organizing research: computers |
Organizing research: note cards

Flash exercise contributed by Sam Wiebe and Louise Lystig Fritchie, Interactive Media (DHA 4384) School of Design, University of Minnesota.