I always thought there was a distinction between POV and narration. You can have 1st-person POV with either 1st-person narration or 3rd-person narration. So I think the discussions here (http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/glossary/g/firstperson.htm) and here (First person pov with more than one main chars) are conflating two separate issues. Am I confusing terms?

  • And what about "perspective"? Is that the same as POV, the same as narrator, or something else? It seems like not everyone is using the same terms for stuff, which makes it hard to have a discussion.
    – dmm
    Commented Nov 8, 2013 at 17:34
  • 2
    "Perspective" is a synonym for "point of view", @dmm. "Point of veiw" is the technical term in the context of narrative writing, "perspective" is the technical term in the context of visual arts. Both mean the same: the direction from which the recipient (viewer or reader) perceives the events or objects described in the work of art. 1st or 3rd person is the mode of narration.
    – user5645
    Commented Nov 8, 2013 at 22:42

2 Answers 2


These are tightly connected.

POV (Point of View) tells about the person, "through whose eyes we look". "Perspective" is the name for that style of view. An autobiography will be written from the author's POV, in 1st person perspective - or from POV of some protagonist. A guide will be written in 2nd person, from the reader's POV. 3rd person will be just 3rd person POV - or it may be a book which is technically 1st person, but practically 3rd person, a relation of a witness. In this case you're not stretching the truth saying it's 3rd person from given witness' POV.

Now, for the narrator: this is the person, who tells the reader everything that is not said by the characters. Traditionally, and usually this is the person, whose POV is used, although not always.

For example, in theatre dramas, there is often an explicit narrator, a person who walks onto the scene to deliver a passage, e.g. connecting two acts. This is still a 3rd person experience, as we look at the scene without participating, but it's not us who are the narrators. Another example: there are two narrators, in two nested stories - a story tells about a person who tells a story. That person becomes the narrator, but they could still tell any perspective story, e.g. from some virtual protagonist's POV.

There's also a finer distinction between types of narrators, reaching beyond point of view. You can talk about unreliable narrator, omniscient narrator, partially omniscient narrator, and so on. This tells more about the style of narration than just "who says it, and is it us?"

  • So, perspective and POV are basically the same thing. And POV and narration are different things, although they often line up. That's what I thought. Anyone disagree?
    – dmm
    Commented Nov 8, 2013 at 20:54
  • 1
    Not entirely; Perspective is the class name, POV is the instance name ;)
    – SF.
    Commented Nov 8, 2013 at 20:56
  • LOL, we are such nerds! You made the joke, and I get it.
    – dmm
    Commented Nov 8, 2013 at 21:19

I strongly disagree with SF's answer.

1) There is fictional 2nd person narrative. It's rare, but it exists. An example is given on the Wikipedia page to 2nd person narrative:

You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy. ~ Opening lines of Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City (1984)

2) There are different theories of narrative perspective or point of view. The most common differentiates between:

  • auctorial narrator: a narrator who knows everything
  • personal narrator: the story is told from the perspective of a person who experiences the events
  • neutral narrator: like an observer, this narrator does not take part in the events, but he does not know everything (like the auctorial narrator) either

3) All narrative perspectives can be told in any grammatical person! This is called the narrative mode.

  • 1
    I never claimed 2nd person can't be narrative. It's rare but not unseen. Conversely though, it's fairly common in guides and manuals, so I gave that as a representative example.
    – SF.
    Commented Nov 8, 2013 at 23:52

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