How Does a Subjective Point of View Affect the Story?

When it comes to storytelling, the narrative point of view is an essential element. After all, the point of view determines through whose eyes the reader will experience the story and, subsequently, how much the narrator can and will reveal about the plot. Subjective point of view, which is also known as a limited point of view, filters the story through the lens of one single character.

The Subject of My Affection

Typically, there are two types of subjective point of view: First-person limited and third-person limited. As the name implies, these points of view are limited to a specific character. First-person limited uses the pronouns “I” and “we” to tell the story, so that everything the reader sees, hears and feels is being funneled through that one character, who is also part of the story. Third-person limited, on the other hand, uses “he,” “she” and “they” to tell the story; the details of the plot, therefore, are limited to what one specific character is experiencing.

I Want to Get Close to You

One of the major benefits of using a subjective first-person point of view is that it creates immediate intimacy. The “I” telling the story can be the protagonist or a witness; either way, this point of view allows a character to serve as an involved and active element of the plot. Moreover, first-person subjective can help readers identify and sympathize with the main character more than any other point of view, since they are experiencing every plot development through that single character’s eyes.

The Way He Makes You Feel ... and See ... and Hear

Third-person limited point of view is often considered the default point of view in fiction, and for good reason. This point of view still limits the narration to a single character, but allows for a degree of distance between the writer and the reader. For instance, using third-person subjective, an author can maintain a sense of intimacy with the reader while still allowing room for his own personal biases and judgments. This flexibility can help readers understand how they should feel about the character or at least how the author expects them to feel. It also allows authors to create suspense and tension, since the reader is limited to what the point-of-view character knows.

Time Travel Not Allowed

A narrow subjective point of view is not without its disadvantages. By relying on only one character to tell a story, the author can only allow the plot to unfold through the eyes of one specific character. Unlike an omniscient or all-knowing point of view, in which the author can tap into the minds of multiple characters at the same time, the subjective point of view significantly limits an author’s flexibility when it comes to the chronology of events. A subjective point of view also calls into question the reliability of the narrator, especially if he or she is untrustworthy, biased, or suffering from a mental disability.

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