What is narrative voice?

Narrative voice is the perspective the story is told from. The writer chooses a narrative voice carefully, as it can have an important effect on the story and the reader’s response.

Different types of narrative voiceExample
First personA character within the story is telling the story. Some of the main personal pronouns used are I, my, me, we.I watched as the boat sank. I felt a mixture of relief and guilt. I turned to take the rudder, pushing away the thoughts that crawled like ants into my mind.
Second personNot commonly used by writers. The personal pronouns you and your are used throughout.You watch as the boat slowly sinks. You feel relief mixed with guilt. You turn and take the rudder, pushing away the thoughts that crawl like ants into your mind.
Third personThe story is being told by the voice of someone who is not a character in the story. The main personal pronouns used are she, he and they.George watched as the boat slowly sank. He felt relief mixed with guilt. He turned to take the rudder, pushing away the thoughts that crawled like ants into his mind.
Third person omniscientThe story is being told by a voice who shows they know more than the characters in the story – the narrator is all knowing. The main personal pronouns used are she, he and they.George watched as the boat sank. He felt relief mixed with guilt. Six miles away a group of fishermen watched the horizon, looking for signs of the storm they could feel in the air.

When thinking about narrative voice, think about the following:

  • How does the reader feel about the narrator?
  • Does the reader trust the narrator? Do they seem reliable?
  • Is the voice of the narrator the author or someone else?
  • How does the narrator choose to show us this fictional world?