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How To Write Point Of View In A Screenplay

Adam Scott

This article will discuss how to write point of view in a screenplay from the point of view of a reader. A first draft that does not explain point of view makes for a disconcerting read, since a great deal of narrative action takes place in the first person, which prevents us from getting into the heads of the characters.

Let’s walk through an example of how one might use a first-person narrator for a story that includes the first-person speaker.

For our example, let’s say I want to have two lead characters in the story, Guy and Fred. Then I would like the reader to be able to know who the speaker is through the actions he or she performs.

The character Fred thinks this way:

Guy says something like, “We have to find a safe place.” Fred says something like, “Okay, let’s check under the desk.”

Now, while this is a great example for a reader to have a sense of who Fred is, he or she may be confused as to why the character Guy is calling Fred’s actions stupid. In this example, he is doing so for a reason.

Let’s take another example.

Let’s say I want to have two characters, Guy and Gordon. Then I want the reader to be able to know who the speaker is through the actions they perform.

I would want my first-person narrator to take each situation as he or she sees it and say something like, “I understand how Gordon feels about what I said.”

Now, the first-person narrator won’t be coming up with all these thoughts about who Fred is. It will be me, the writer.

But the reader will see these thoughts as thoughts coming from the character. Once this happens, it will feel like the character is thinking these thoughts.

In a way, the reader will be inside the character’s head. So by describing the thought process through the actions, this first person narrative style will enhance the reader’s ability to enter the mind of the character.

Another thing to keep in mind with first person narration is that a first-person narrator is not limited by how much we know about him or her. Think about all the books you’ve read with the first-person narrator.

You know him, of course, and there is some understanding of what he is thinking or feeling or how he came to be there, but you don’t have intimate knowledge of his inner thoughts and feelings. This is where having a free voice gives the writer some flexibility, and perhaps that is where the author leans toward third person narrative.

But having the character feel what he or she is feeling is one of the advantages of first-person narration.

Some of the best thrillers and action movies use first person narration. Films like Lethal Weapon or the original Star Wars movies use this technique to increase suspense.

But I will be the first to admit that I dislike it when it is used gratuitously.

So how do you write first person narration? Here are a few tips:

If you are going to create a new character, make sure you know him or her very well, and if you do not know a lot about your character, use your best guess.

If you are writing about a character that has been created for you, have the character talk to himself or herself in the third person. If you do not know this character’s inner thoughts, this technique should serve you well.

First personwoman seated near table holding phone

The first person POV, the 'I' POV, is probably the most common POV. It's the POV used by most of the protagonists in stories.

It's one of the easiest POVs to understand.

All of your narrative actions are shown from that POV.

In many cases it's the POV that you'll use to show your story. You can't have people talking to each other without an action happening through that first person's eyes.

Second personorange and black automatic scooter

The second person POV, the 'you' POV, is much harder to write. You will sometimes have to show that a character is thinking about an action, without showing what they are thinking about.

This can be a difficult skill to achieve.

The third personUW-Madison, Memorial Union, 1991

The third person POV is, like the third person narrator in a novel, a fairly uncommon POV. It's only used by a few characters in films.

The most common is the third person omniscient, or third person omniscient. It's the POV used by the narrator in most detective fiction. It's an extremely unusual POV, with its own strengths and weaknesses.

The best way to use it is to show that the narrator is a unique character. That is, show the narrator thinking about a topic that isn't a topic that's relevant to the scene, like a character who's just lost someone they loved.

The best example of this is the conversation between Bill and Jake in "A Clockwork Orange". It's both very entertaining and very thought-provoking.

Third person limited

The first scene to use this POV is usually a conflict scene. It's when you have two characters who are having a conversation. Each character only has one viewpoint.

The problem with this POV is that you usually can't change what the POV character is thinking or doing. You can only show what they're thinking.

A good example of this is the first scene in Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction". It shows that Jules and Vincent are talking, when it is made clear that Vincent is planning on killing Jules.

It's not about the discussion. It's about the character's motives.

There are also problems with the third person limited, and they're the same problems you have with the third person omniscient. It's difficult to write, especially if you've written your story in the first person.

When it comes to writing action scenes, you often have to write in the third person limited, so that the action looks more like what you would have written in the first person.


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