It All Depends

on your point of view.

Wise words, I suppose. So let me do a little thinking about Point of View. Or, P.O.V., as we writers say.

Every story that's told is from someone's point of view. Even works of non-fiction are told from the point of view of the writer, who sifts through mounds and mounds of information and selects those pieces that fit, in some crucial way, into the telling of the tale. Everyone from Herodotus to Gibbon to Caro, from Dante to Melville to George R.R. Martin, has a tale to tell. And every one of them has a point of view.

Let's review:

First person. I. I did this, I did that. The reader is offered one perspective, that of the narrator. Examples: .

Second person. Rare. You. You did this, you did that. The reader is made the primary actor in the story. Difficult to do in non-fiction, unless you (using this blog as an example) are reading a self-help book. In which case, you are both supposed reader and main character. makes the reader a co-conspirator of sorts. At least one living out the action with the narrator.

Third person. S/he. He did this, she did that, they did it together. Examples comprise most of the books already on your shelf.

I am currently reading a most interesting novel with a most interesting point of view. It reads like third person. He does this, he does that. And yet, it reads like first person. As if the protagonist is narrating his own biography. The reader is not so much inside of him as he is in the same room. Maybe taking dictation. The reader is looking up from her computer/typewriter/notebook/scroll, waiting to take down another line of narration.

The novel is Hilary Mantel's , a fictional biography of Thomas Cromwell. There may be a technical term for the P.O.V. she utilizes here. I don't know it. But I'm finding it very effective. In this novel, I am Cromwell's best friend, at his elbow in all things, seeing Henry VIII's court through his eyes. I'm sitting down with him over dinner. I'm getting his point of view.