"I am an invisible man." "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself." "You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel." These three opening lines, from Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, and Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, each establish a different point of view.
「我是個隱形人。」「達洛維夫人說她會自己去買花。」「你現在即將要讀的是 Italo Calvino 的新小說。」這分別是三部小說的開場白，Ralph Ellison 的《隱形人》、Virginia Woolf 的《達洛維夫人》和 Italo Calvino 的《如果在冬夜，一個旅人》，每一部都用不同的視角書寫。
Who is telling a story and from what perspective are some of the most important choices an author makes. Told from a different point of view, a story can transform completely. Take this fairy tale.
"Rapunzel, Rapunzel," the prince called, "let down your hair." Rapunzel unbraided her hair and slung it out the window. The prince climbed her tresses into the tower.
Rapunzel is typically told like this, with the narrator outside the story. This point of view is called "third person." But Rapunzel can also be told by a character in the story—a first-person narrator.
The tail end of Rapunzel's locks plopped down at my feet. I grabbed on and began to climb. Ugh, I couldn't untangle myself. Strands came off all over me, sticking to my sweat.
In a first-person narrative, the story can change dramatically, depending on which character is the narrator. Say Rapunzel was narrating instead of the prince.
I hope he appreciates how long it takes to unbraid 25 feet of hair, I thought. Ouch! I'll be honest; I thought my scalp would stretch off my skull. "Can you climb any faster?" I yelled.
我得花大把時間才能解開這 7.6 公尺長的辮子，希望他知道要感激，我想著。噢嗚!沒騙你；我一度覺得頭皮快從頭蓋骨上被扯掉了。「你可以爬快一點嗎？」我大喊。
In second person, the narrator addresses the story to the reader.
He calls your name. He wants you to let your hair down; you just finished braiding it. But, hey, you don't get a lot of visitors.
Third-person, first-person, and second-person perspectives—each have unique possibilities and constraints. So, how do you choose a point of view for your story? Constraints aren't necessarily a bad thing. They can help focus a story or highlight certain elements. For example, a third-person narrator is necessarily a bit removed from the characters. But that can be good for stories where a feeling of distance is important. A third-person narrator can be either limited—meaning they stick close to one character's thoughts and feelings, or they can be omniscient—able to flit between characters' minds and give the reader more information.
A first-person story creates closeness between the reader and the narrator. It's also restricted by the narrator's knowledge. This can create suspense as the reader finds out information along with the character. A first-person narrator doesn't necessarily have to represent the character's experience faithfully. They can be delusional or dishonest. In Kazuo Ishiguro's novel, The Remains of the Day, Stevens, an aging British butler in 1956, recounts his many years of service but fails to acknowledge the flaws of the man he serves. The cracks in his narrative eventually draw the readers' attention to the under-acknowledged failings of the culture and class system he inhabits.
第一人稱的故事拉近讀者與敘事者間的距離。這種方式也會因敘事者的所見所聞而有所限制。這能讓讀者跟著角色一起發現事件，創造懸疑感。第一人稱敘事者不一定要忠實呈現角色的體驗。他們可以是幻想且不誠實的。在石黑一雄的小說《長日將盡》中，主角 Stevens 是一位上了年紀的英國管家，他在 1956 年回顧了自己多年擔任管家的經驗，卻絕口不提主人身上的缺點。他敘事中的缺漏最終讓讀者注意到當時他身處的文化與階級體系下的隱憂。
Justin Torres' novel, We the Animals, begins with a plural first-person narrator."We were six snatching hands, six stomping feet; we were brothers, boys, three little kings locked in a feud for more." Partway through the story, the point of view shifts to first person singular, from "we" to "I," as the boys come of age and one brother feels alienated from the others.
Justin Torres 的小說《我們這些動物》是以多重第一人稱敘事者開始。「我們是六隻不斷搶奪的手、六隻重踩地板的腳；我們是兄弟、男孩、 三個長期相互爭奪的小王子。」故事進行到一半時，敘事視角變成單獨的第一人稱敘事者，從「我們」變成「我」，此時男孩們剛成年，而其中一人覺得自己被其他兩個兄弟疏離。
Second person is a less common choice. It requires the writer to make the reader suspend disbelief to become another "you." Placing a reader in a character's perspective can build urgency and suspense. Sometimes, though, second person is intended to distance the narrator from their own story rather than bring the reader closer to the story. In these cases, second-person narrators refer to themselves as "you" rather than "I."
Writers are constantly experimenting with fresh variations on point of view. New virtual and augmented reality technologies may expand the possibilities for this experimentation. By placing people at a particular vantage point in virtual space, how might we change the way we tell and experience stories?