5 Types of Narrators in Fiction Writing Explained

Hello Writer Bees!

Today, we are going back to basics in story writing. What point of view is best for your WIP? Let’s break down the different types of narrators in a story.

First Person Narrator

Pronouns: I, my, me.

Example: The Narrator from Moby Dick. ” Call me Ishmael.”

First Person is a very personal perspective. A first person narrator tells the story from their point of view. The reader has a front row seat to this character’s thoughts and feelings as they go about their day. This type of narrator can be either a main character or a distant observer. By using the first person narrative, it puts a limit to what the narrator, and the reader, knows and doesn’t know. For example, first person narrators don’t know what is plotted on behind closed doors, hindering their insight.

Second Person Narrator

Pronouns: You, Your.

Example: If I’m remembering correctly, Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern has some chapters using second person that are utterly enchanting.

A Second Person Narrator talks directly to the audience, enveloping the reader into the story itself. Think of it like playing a choose your own adventure game, where the reader is a character. “You do this, you see that.” This one is quite rare in fiction; It’s more for technical writing. It’s difficult to perfect, but not impossible, so don’t be discouraged to experiment with this style. This narrating style makes you feel like you are part of this fictional world.

Third Person Narrator (Limited)

Pronouns: He, she, they.

Third person narration gives the writer more freedom to move around, follow multiple characters and explore multiple rooms of the house, so to speak. Usually, the third person narrator isn’t an actual character at all. It’s a more objective viewpoint. Keep in mind, this may lead to a lack of connection with the reader. The audience is privy to more information about the plot, information the main characters may not even be aware of, but not the characters personal thoughts and feelings.

Omniscient Narrator

Usually third person. Uses ‘he, she, they’ pronouns.

With this one, the narrator knows everything, from feelings to inner thoughts. Imagine an all knowing, all seeing God-like being, looking down at the world. They have no stake in the story, they simply retell the story to the reader. Omniscient narrators know everything, from plot events to character’s motives to unspoken thoughts. Some would argue that it’s the author themselves, telling the story. I’ll let you be the judge.

Unreliable Narrator

Usually first person, usually undependable.

Some narrators just can’t be trusted, can they? The viewpoint of this narrator is very biased, clouded by their own -possibly flawed – judgement. Other characters in the story may not be described accurately because of the narrator’s own perception. Certain events can be skewed. Even the narrator himself could be not what he appears to be

Example: Check out the narrator from The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. He may know more about the murder than he is letting on. Hint Hint.

Choose Your Narrator Wisely

Really take the time to think about whom the narrator will be and how well they can tell your/their story. It’s important for the reader to really connect and be engaged with the character or viewpoint chosen. Think of it like this, the narrator is the reader’s vehicle as they ride the rollercoaster that is your story.

If you are struggling to decide which narrative you want to use, try multiple styles. No harm in experimenting. It’s like reading an essay for school out loud before handing it in. You’ll know what fits your story best when you read it.

How did you decide the narrator for your story or WIP? What is your favorite kind of narrator to read? Talk to me in the comments.

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

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7 thoughts on “5 Types of Narrators in Fiction Writing Explained

  1. DLTDGB is first person. It’s told from the perspective of a modern-day fortysomething looking back on his days as a university student in the 1990s, so that was really the only point of view that made sense. I think I tell the story pretty objectively, though, so it’s not an unreliable narrator.

    The other works of fiction I wrote were often first person as well, because so many of them are based on things that really happened to me, or the character is based on me. I know I’ve written some in third person, though. I think I remember once writing a story in first person where there was a character based on me, but the main character and narrator was a different character. And it was a female character, so I don’t know how accurately I wrote as a female narrator. I can’t find that one now, I’ll have to dig through the files on my computer later when I have time…

    Liked by 2 people

      1. You’re welcome. Of the two books, Halting State is better, as it was written before Charles Stross contracted his bad case of Martian Brain Fungus.

        If I remember correctly, the reason why “you”/second person is used in VN/text games is to help with immersion. After all, you are the main character in this story, or at least you’re a major part of it.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m really picky when it comes to this. I only write and read 3rd Person Deep POV. In 3rd Deep, we’re in the character’s body and get to experience everything they do (including their thoughts and feelings). This works well with co-protagonist stories like romantic suspense, where you might want the antagonist’s POV included where we’re privy to their motivations.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Finally, somebody explains the different types of narration. It took me forever to realize that I write in third person limited I write and that narration for all of my books. How did I decide? I never really thought about it. It just came out naturally like that. I Ike letting the reader know what’s going on beyond what the main character sees, hears, etc

    Liked by 1 person

  4. For years, I wrote in limited third-person. Then I was discussing with my husband what I liked to read and realized all my favorite stories were told in first person. I switched to first-person and have never looked back.

    Liked by 1 person

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