Empowering Writers

Quick Writes – Point of View / Tense

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Have you ever had a student begin a story in third person point of view (about a character they name, let’s say Jenny) and several sentences in revert to first person (I)? Makes a lot of sense for younger kids, as they craft their stories they “pretend”, putting themselves into the head of the main character. Understanding point of view is a critical narrative writing skill, one that is necessary for the kinds of literary analysis tasks kids are being asked to write in response to narrative texts. In terms of author’s craft, first person tends to be easiest for younger students. A first person point of view also provides a greater sense of immediacy and less “psychic distance”. Look at this sentence: Jenny headed out the door. In first person, we’re more closely inside the main character’s head: I headed out the door. Tense is also another tool that authors intentionally select – present tense being the most immediate – to use the same example as before – compare these sentences – I headed out the door vs. I head out the door. A valuable exercise is to take a paragraph from a book written in 3rd person past tense, and rewrite it in first person present tense. Compare. Authors do this all the time, sometimes after the first draft of an entire novel. The short exercises in this Quick Writes section provide opportunities for students to experiment with point of view and tense!