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1st, 2nd and 3n1 person explained:
Q. Can you please explain to me the differences in 1st, 2nd and 3rd person narration
and how they can be used to increase the pace and speed of a novel?
1st person narration is given away by the use ofT or 'we'; 'my' or 'our'. A diary would
be written in the first person; a confession heard by a priest would be in the first
person - it can appear in spoken (dialogue) and written forms.
Writers use 1st person when they want to give a strong sense of the character of the
narrator. A lot depends on whether we believe this narrator (how credible are they?).
Sometimes a 1st person narrator is reliable and can give us 'genuine' eye-witness
account direct from the horse's mouth em their own words). Sometimes writer's
deliberately use an unreliable narrator who reveals himself to us without being aware
of what he's saying. Remember also that when a writer includes dialogue in an
otherwise 3rd person narrated story, the dialogue will be in 1st person and will have
all the advantages of freshness and immediacy (rather than using reported speech).
2nd person narration is when the narrator 'speaks' directly to the reader and uses the
word 'you'. This is often found in adverts and has a challenging, persuasive effect. It's
not often found in literature, but 'Complicity' by lain Banks has a narrator who
addresses the reader directly in an attempt to make them feel that they too share his
murderous tendencies (!)
3rd person is the most commonly found form: 'he', 'she', 'they, 'it' are all in the 3rd
person. A 3rd person narrator can move in and out of the minds of different
characters, and can be in different places at the same time. It can also comment on the
characters by the way in which it describes their actions, appearance, or thoughts eg
"When Raymond (wearing his trademark Gucci loafers) walked into a room, everyone
else walked out." It is highly 'pass-remarkable' ! A 3rd person narrator like this is
called 'omniscient' - all-knowing. As markers think that they are all-knowing, it is a
good term to slip into an essay to impress them - as long as you make a point about
why this type of narration is used as well!
3rd person narration is often delivered through the point of view of a particular
character as well - we see the action and events through their eyes; their thoughts are
revealed to us. Some novels are completely limited in this way - 'Jekyll and Hyde' for
instance uses mostly a limited narrator who knows as much about the link between
Jekyll and Hyde as the original Victorian reader would know - thereby adding to the
suspense. At other times, writers may use a mixture of omniscient and limited third
What narrative point(s) of view do your texts use?
In terms of pace, sentence length and word choice strongly determine the speed of a
piece of writing, but out of the three types of narration, 1st person can lend a faster
pace to a piece of writing as it more closely follows the short, often minor sentences
of direct speech.
Hope this is useful. Happy studying!