"A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings but a cat does not." -Ernest Hemingway

Monday, January 31, 2011

Who Should Tell Your Protagonist's Story?

Simply put, your protagonist has a story to tell and it’s up to you as the writer of that story to figure out whose viewpoint will tell it best.

Have you ever followed writers who write from the same viewpoint no matter the story or the character telling it?  Usually you’ll find the consistent viewpoint being used is third person or third person omniscient.  Sure it allows for viewpoints from other characters besides the protagonist and it even allows for building suspense because the reader knows more than the main character, but what about the story?  Is it being told from the best viewpoint possible?  What about you, have you experimented writing your story from different viewpoints?

Let’s explore genre.  Genre is a particular style in writing (or movies and art) which can be recognized by certain features.  Do you find most genres are told in a certain way?  Rarely do you find a horror story being told in first person because the main character is limited by their own understanding of what is happening.  Same goes for mysteries and thrillers.  Memoirs tend to be told through the eyes of the person telling the story; in other words, first person is the most popular voice for this genre.  One question begs to mind:  Are there writing rules when it comes to deciding what viewpoint to use?  I’d like to argue, no.

Every story has a face, but not all faces are alike.  It is important for every writer to discover their inner voice for each of their characters, therefore, every story they write can be unique in style regardless of genre.  So if I find my protagonist running through the woods half naked because a half baked lunatic is chasing them with a homemade chain saw and the best way to show their fear is through first person, then I should write it in first person!  If you find yourself writing about your self-proclaimed fame and it reads better from someone else telling it, then write it in third person limited or third person omniscient!  The point of my argument being, the next time you find yourself questioning why the story you are writing somehow doesn’t seem to sound right, try changing viewpoints, it just may be you haven’t discovered who can tell it best. 

Next week we’ll explore voice.

Until next time,

Keep on thriving, keep on striving and keep on writing!

T.K. Millin
The Unknown Author      


  1. Excellent post. I think it depends on the story, the genre and just about everything else.
    I generally write in third person for short stories, but wrote a novel recently that was in the first person.
    For that particular story, it just had to be done that way.
    An interesting experiment is to try different narratives, just a couple of paragraphs will generally tell you what the right pov is for your story/novel, in my humble opinion!

  2. Thank you Carole. It is interesting trying different points of view for the same story. It is amazing how the true narrator will show up!
    Thank you for visiting T.K. Millin, The Unknown Author!