Point of View: Writing with Hats and Movies


Did you know that each time you sit down to write a story you’re using “Point of View?” Well of course you knew that…but nobody really likes to think about it much because it gets confusing–and all like “high school English-classy”


Hello, what?


That was about to get really boring…

I like to explain the various usages and approaches as hats. Yes, hats. And I believe that if you become proficient in changing hats from time to time, you’ll become a better writer for it. And while we’re at it, let’s throw in movies too. So, today we’ll think about Point of View, Hats and Movies. Yes, a little something for everyone!

Writing to describe the life and times of an Ancestor is a work of the heart. It takes at least a general historical frame of reference, some psychic channeling, a bit of nuttiness and a heavy dose of serious research and documentation. With all the electronic helpers available to us for spelling corrections, word use and plagiarism checks, you really don’t have to be a scholarly type to get the words into a sensible and readable string known as a sentence.

To make your hard work into enjoyable and treasured stories though, you have to employ some artful touches from the world of the writer.

And that Dearest Darlings, Dumplings, and Word-Cobblers to the Stars of Days Gone Past, is what the Point of View with Hats and Movies is all about.

There are Three basic hats to fixate on. You may choose the movie that you feel best suits the time and place of the tale. If somethings get too hard to speak of wearing a certain hat, time-outs and trade ins are totally acceptable–but you must go back to the beginning and start over. No mid-story switcheroos are allowed. That’s a storyteller’s Cardinal sin, and Cardinal hats are not up for grabs!

Hat #1. Conveniently, this is also known as 1st Person Point of View. In choosing this story hat, you are basically saying to your readers…Huddle up now, I’m going to tell you a story I know…

This is a great one for relating stories about people who you have or had a direct personal interaction. I like to pretend that I’m wearing a Mother Goose Bonnet if I am telling this story to my (mostly imaginary) grandchildren about growing up in the 1970s in rural Indiana. I think I like the bonnet because images of Holly Hobby Kids, the Bicentennial and such are linked vividly into my head from those times. My sentences often begin with “I” or “We” or “Our.” Movie-wise, I relate to the kids and events portrayed in “Stand by Me” and the female version of the same “Now and Then.”  An example could look something like this…

Our home was built on a county road amid a big stretch of farm fields. When giving someone directions we always made sure to say that our house was the one between the two bridges. We never needed to say whether it was on the right or the left, just that we lived in the only house between the bridges (the only two on the long road).

Hat #2. By now you will notice that you’ve been duped by the hats and movies into playing along for the sake of the grammar lesson!  Wearing this hat puts you into the action via 2nd person point of view. You’ll recognize it as the one your teachers tried to beat out of you when you first started learning to write reports and essays. They tried pretty hard to get you to write with totally artificial (to a kid) phrases like–“One would think that having a pet is all fun and games.” When really, all you wanted to say in your paper about “How to Train a Puppy” was that you had to be patient and be prepared to wipe up a lot of pee-pee accidents.

The stories told in Number 2, are great when you are writing about the person who will be reading the words (telling a child about the day they were born) or when you would like to tell the story wearing the hat and seeing life through the eyes of a child. or as a more intimate conversational setting with the reader. Wearing my favorite childhood baseball cap ( you’d probably guess that Mom was a bit of an enigma~ a prissy Tomboy)you would tell the story above while thinking about scenes from Little House on the Prairie–technically not a movie, but a picture filled simpatico motivation and mood-setter–like this:

You could easily figure out which house you were looking for. Dad put us right between the only two bridges on the whole road. All you had to do was find Shepardtown Road from either end, and you could find our house if you just kept going. If you passed a bridge no matter what direction you came from, you were about there. If you kept going and saw another bridge, you just missed it. If you never saw a bridge, either you weren’t lookin, or you were on the wrong road.

It’s the same info, given via a totally different style and effect. Second person helps lend a more colloquial flair to whatever you’re saying. Colloquial is a fancy way of saying “down-home and local-like.”

Hat #3 should be the go-to. This is the Narrative 3rd person voice.  The slightly remote, detached and ace reporter style is one that’s suits most situations and reading audiences.

This is the one to be done wearing a ball cap, front bill popped up, with a “press” pass pinned to it. Or, maybe see-thru green visor hat, worn with a vest and rolled sleeve dress shirt. One could expect to be surrounded by overflowing ashtrays as the writer two-fingers their way toward a column deadline on a shiny black Underwood. Detective films Noir starring a Sam Spade character work well as background. However, a period romance, musical or Sci-Fi fantasy, or contemporary drama could serve equally well for inspired writing. Take note of the difference:

The house between the bridges stood alone without neighbors on Shepardtown Road. Built in 1965 by Francine and Armand Pukismell, it was surrounded only by large rolling farm fields, along a segment of the road accented via the fork of Whitelick Creek causing the need for more than one bridge. A 20 year veteran of the US Postal Service drove out six days a week to bring mail addressed using only a surname and “RR#1” on the envelopes. Outsiders, such as appliance deliverymen, had to be given concise directions to find the home without becoming lost on the old country back roads.

This hat delivers the  information in a very different manner. The reader generally has no curiosity about the author, and rarely wonders about who they are, or why they are telling the story.

So play around with the Point of View, Hats and Movies available to you as you write! I highly recommend switching POV when you’re feeling a bit “stuck” in a story. Sometimes, this simple switching of the way you’re seeing something in your head can make all the difference you’re seeking. Just like the examples above, there’s a huge array of styles and viewpoints…don’t let the same ol’ movie run on continuous loop!

 No matter which hat you choose, we both know there’s so much to say. So~ 

Maybe someone should write that down…


Author: Mom

I am a writer who just happens to love family trees. As the self proclaimed Family Historian and Writer in Residence at my house, I blog to others about family history writing. When I first began this journey, everyone was bored silly with my "family tree stuff." Once I started writing the stories down, everyone willingly joined in. Now the whole family pretty much participates! Imagine that ! Follow along, and you can gain a little family appreciation for all your hard nosed genealogical research while learning a little something about the craft of writing too.

13 thoughts on “Point of View: Writing with Hats and Movies”

  1. Of all the things I was taught in my writers’ course with the Christian Writers’ Guild, it was POV. I have worked with the 1st Person ‘hat’ and the 3rd person ‘hat’, and have to always remind myself who I am taking to, and from what person in telling the story and what ‘he’ or ‘she,’ or ‘I’ cannot possibly know until it is revealed and told.


    1. Excellent point Joyce! I love your take (pov) on POV! What a great way to think it through as you’re writing…until it is revealed and told–fantastic! Everyone write that one down!


  2. I wrote the first two books in 1st person. I wrote the third in…third person. 🙂 and I found that I really like working in that POV. However, as I sit here contemplating the fourth book, I’m intrigued by using a 2nd person POV. It’s close to 1st (IMHO) because you’re in the head of the person “speaking,” but sort of detached, like they’re observing other people and talking to them in their heads. I think it’s kind of creepy. I’m not completely sold on it just yet…I’ve got more thinking to do for the general story first…and character development, before I can know if it’s right or not.

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with you on the 2nd person can be creepy thing. If you consider it as like a deranged stalker talking to the image of his current focus…that would be a super creepy and great way to convey their madness. Using the 2nd person could really show a lot of projection and derangement! On the other hand, it also works well when talking about the positive aspect of someone…looking at a yearbook…Oh Donny (Osmond) you were always the dreamiest brother! It’s fun to play around with really

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My thoughts exactly on the creep factor. And…I want this fourth book to be like that. Where you have this, (I’ll just cop your excellent word) “deranged” person having these conversations about various “victims.” Can we say, “eek!”

        Liked by 1 person

  3. What a great post! I wish I had read this a bazillion years ago when I started writing. I’m mixing things up these days. Trying first person, present tense for my ya fantasy. But for my creative non-fiction I love second person! To each their own, I suppose.
    I tip my hat(s) to you!

    Liked by 1 person

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