What's the difference between an omniscient and limited point of view in a novel? Here's an at-a-glance guide on how to tell what kind of narrator you're dealing with in the book you're currently reading (or any other one you're curious about!). Below are examples of different types of narrators and quotes so you can see what pronouns are associated with each style of narrator.
What is first person point of view?
Usually the main character speaking directly to the reader using “I”, “me”, and “we” to tell the story. Often this builds sympathy with the reader as we are only limited to their viewpoint and feelings.
Example: The Sherlock Holmes series by Arthur Conan Doyle. "To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name" (A Scandal in Bohemia).
What is second person point of view?
This is when the ‘author’ intrudes into the telling of the story. By using “you”, “your”, and “yours” there is a sense that the reader is welcomed into the story.
Example: You by Caroline Kepnes (yes, the book the incredibly popular Netflix show is based on!). "You’re so clean that you’re dirty and you murmur your first word to me—hello—when most people would just pass by, but not you, in your loose pink jeans, a pink spun from Charlotte’s Web and where did you come from?"
What is third person limited point of view?
While this type of narration allows the reader to get into the head of a character by using “he”, “she”, and “they”, it is limited to a single character at a time. However, authors can play with this approach by switching perspectives between chapters, allowing the reader to gain knowledge from each character’s perspective and feelings, but only one at a time.
Example: The sections of The Guest List by Lucy Foley that are set in the present (at the wedding) are in third person limited. "It is a few moments before the witness begins consciousness. She is, it appears, uninjured, but whatever she has seen out there has struck her nearly mute. The most they can get from her are low moans, wordless nonsense" (77).
What is third person omniscient point of view?
You’ll come across this type of narration often as it allows authors to give the reader more information by accessing the inner workings of characters. This narrator is all knowing and can show the feelings and experiences of many characters (even if the characters aren't yet aware of the feeling). Often comes across as the author telling the story.
Example: Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. Here's a sample with dialogue:
"The child raised her head quickly, revealing a tear-stained face and trembling lips.
'You would cry, too, if you were an orphan and had come to a place you thought was
going to be home and found that they didn't want you because you weren't a boy. Oh,
this is the most tragical thing that ever happened to me!'
Something like a reluctant smile, rather rusty from long disuse, mellowed Marilla's grim
What is fly-on-the-wall point of view?
This narrator is an observer outside the main action. The narrator presents the action in a matter-of-fact way, giving an impartial relay of events as they happen to the reader.
Example: “The Lottery”, a short story by Shirley Jackson. "The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green. The people of the village began to gather in the square, between the post office and the bank, around ten o'clock..." (291).