Types of narration and POV play a crucial role in your story’s overall dramatic effect.
What is a narrator?
The narrator is the character whose point of view frames the entire story.
Here is a handy infographic explaining 6 kinds of narrator. When you’re finished reading, try the The Now Novel ideas finder – it will help you plan your narrator and other characters.
Read more on the different kinds of narration:
If you want to know more about types of narration, read our best posts on the topic. Go here to read all about the unreliable narrator and how to use this narrative device. Another of our best articles on narration examines the difference between unreliable and omniscient narrators. And here are 5 examples of narrative from famous books that show how to use narration for core story purposes such as characterization and creating rich setting.
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68 replies on “Types of narration infographic – 6 narrative POVs”
hey, some of these things ive never heard of before, and i wanted to know, which is the BEST idea for these things to i don’t know- make a story interesting?
Hi there, thank you for your question. Do you mean which POV is the best to use? One isn’t necessarily better than another, it depends on the context and the effect you’re trying to achieve. For example, first person is useful for creating a sense of close intimacy with the narrator and is part of why it’s typical for memoir/autobiography (though Roland Barthes wrote an autobiography in third person – there are no fixed rules other than the basic rules of grammar and such).
There are only four of the six which are, first-person, second-person, third-person, and omniscient. that is correct.
Hi Jasmine, thank you for your feedback. There are in fact additional types of narrator, what you’re referring to specifically is points of view with regard to person (Ursula K Le Guin differentiates between ‘involved omniscient’ narration, where the narrator knows what characters are thinking, and fly-on-the-wall which does not have access to any character’s thought process but can only describe what a camera or fly-on-the-wall could see, hence the name). Thank you for reading our blog!
Hi, could you share where Ursula K Le Guin shared her ideas on narrators? Much appreciated!
Hi Nika, with pleasure. It’s a slim but excellent writing manual called Steering the Craft, which you can find on Goodreads here.
hi I think your article was really true and I think the first person is very correct I mean I have seen many articles but this one is my favorite.
Hi Nathan, thank you for reading our blog and sharing your thoughts!
hi, your story was very interesting but there was one thing I didn’t really get. The picture that showed the 6 types of narrator has something called a ” Fly-on-wall”? And then it defines the word, but it didn’t really define it that well. Can you explain it further?
Hi Emily, thank you for sharing that and asking. A ‘fly-on-the-wall’ narrator you can think of as a security camera – it can only show what’s happening, passively observing (but not pass judgment or evaluate, it has no persona/viewpoint/interpretation). So for example, a limited third person narrator might say: ‘She shifted in her seat uncomfortably, dreading the interview’. A fly-on-the-wall narrator could only say ‘She shifted in her seat’ for the same sentence, not telling us any emotion directly that a character is feeling, as this narrative viewpoint cannot access what characters are feeling and thinking, only report the signs of these things (so this viewpoint relies heavily on inference and suggestion – on implying, for example, emotion through actions and movements and gestures). It is often referred to as an ‘objective’ viewpoint in contrast to ‘subjective’ (which, like first-person, is coloured by what the narrator thinks, feels, wants, likes, dislikes, etc.) I hope this helps!
Is that all the types of narration I am struggling with point of view.
Hi Matthew, perhaps not all, but I’m sure we can help. What aspect of POV are you struggling with? If you want feedback on narration or other aspects of your WIP, please do feel free to share it in our crit community on Now Novel that you have access to with a basic/free account. You’ll find it a constructive group of writers of all ages and genre interests. Thanks for reading our blog.
this was really helpful
Harry had taken up his place at St Paul School where he and his scar were famous but now the school year was over and he was back to the dursleys for the summer, back to being treated like a dog who had rolled in something smelly. The dursleys hadn’t even remember that today happened to be Harry’s 12 birthday. Of course, his Hopes hadn’t been high they had never given him a real present, let alone a cake …. Please which type of narrators is this. I’m so confused
Hi Emmanuel, this is third person limited. This means that characters are referred to in third person (‘Harry had taken up his place’) rather than first or second, and the limited means that the story and narration is filtered through Harry’s own perspective – the reader can only know what Harry knows. ‘Back to being treated like a dog who had rolled in something smelly’ creates a sense of Harry’s own thoughts about the way he’s being treated by his aunt and uncle. In limited POV narration, the narration tends to be coloured by the viewpoint narrator’s thoughts and feelings. I hope this helps!
Hello! I’m writing a short story, and according to my friends who are reviewing it for me, I’m accidentally flip-flopping between narrative types (3 person limited and omniscient), and I’m not sure how to pick one and stick to it. Would you say it’s accurate to describe Omniscient as 3rd person for all characters? Wouldn’t omniscient be a form of 3rd person? The piece is historical fiction, and follows several lead historically accurate characters as well as cities and political events, many of which I want to be able to “explain” to my readers to really make them understand the demographic (which I think has to be the omniscient narrator), but I also want the narrator to be able to make biased comments… Like “he was called the ‘the great’ but he was the greatest fool’ ” or ” I guess that’s why they call it a circus”. What feedback can you offer please?
Hi Sarah, thank you for your great question. Omniscient does allow all characters’ subjective experience, though you could technically have a first person narrator, like a God who knows everything, knows what every character is thinking/feeling. However it is much more common to have omniscient in third-person where a non-involved narrator (a narrator not involved in the story) tells the story moving freely between different characters’ thoughts, feelings and experiences.
The key difference between omniscient and limited is that in limited third-person, only what the viewpoint narrator knows, assumes, feels, understands may be shared, because it’s as though the reader is seeing things through their eyes. Unless they’re a mind reader, they can’t know exactly what another character is thinking/feeling unless that person tells/shows them in some way.
You could write this story as a multi-narrator story in third person, where each character’s narration is in limited third person and any commentary is given by a character with a point of view (for example, if one narrator is a non-supporter of the character called ‘the great’, you might give them the line ‘he was called ‘the great’ but he was the greatest fool’). Then if the leader has his own narrative point of view, he might just prattle on about how great he is.
Omniscient would mean that either your narrator is involved in the story and knows everything, or is not involved in the story (like a fly on the wall) but knows everything. It is harder to do, though is a common viewpoint in older historical novels (e.g. Tolstoy). It is hard to pull off though. I’d strongly recommend Ursula K. Le Guin’s writing manual, Steering the Craft as it has an excellent section on points of view.
I hope this helps!