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First person vs. Second person vs. Third person - Rebekah Bergman


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Who is telling a story, and from what perspective, are some of the most important choices an author makes. Told from a different point of view, a story can transform completely. Third person, first person, and second person perspectives each have unique possibilities and constraints. So how do you choose a point of view for your story? Rebekah Bergman explores the different ways to focus a story.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

When authors sit down to start writing a story, they have to choose a point of view. Every point of view offers distinct possibilities and challenges. So how do writers pick, and how can you?

A story’s opening must orient and immerse the reader while establishing a point of view. Here is a guide of ten of literature’s greatest first lines.

Novelist TaraShea Nesbit analyzes a trend in contemporary fiction: first person plural. In novels like Justin Torres’ We the Animals and Julia Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic, a “we” tells all or part of the story while individual characters still distinguish themselves. This point of view helps foreground human connectedness and convey collective experiences.

Shifting the point of view for no reason will disorient the reader. But when used intentionally, a shift can be incredibly powerful. Jessica Stoffer’s “Beginning, End” opens as if in second person before a first-person narrator emerges. The resulting tale is made all the more heartbreaking and intimate because it is told not just from an “I” but also to a “you.”

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Rebekah Bergman
  • Director Jérémie Balais, Jeff Le Bars
  • Narrator Susan Zimmerman
  • Animator Jérémie Balais, Jeff Le Bars
  • Music Fred Roux
  • Sound Designer Raphaël Pibarot
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Editorial Producer Elizabeth Cox
  • Fact-Checker Eden Girma

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