University of Iowa

First, Third, and (Sometimes) Second: A Point-of-View Fiction Workshop

Weeklong July 22 to July 27 2018

“The house of fiction has many windows, but only two or three doors. I can tell a story in the third person or in the first person, and perhaps the second person singular, or in the first-person plural, though successful examples of these latter two are rare indeed. And that is it. Anything else probably will not much resemble narration; it may be closer to poetry, or prose-poetry.”     

 —James Wood, How Fiction Works


When we first begin to write fiction, selecting point-of-view feels about as casual as choosing which pair of socks to wear: blue or darker blue? Maybe brown? As we develop our writing, though, point-of-view gradually begins to reveal itself for what it truly is: the most important element of fiction, period. Everything orbits around point-of-view: detail, imagery, conflict, characterization, dialogue and plot. In this workshop, we will come to a deeper appreciation of point-of-view through in-class writing exercises, selected readings, and workshop of student short stories or novel chapters. Together we will explore the pros and cons of first, third and (sometimes) second person narration. Be prepared to write a lot, have fun, and walk away in awe of point-of-view. Required: participants will bring copies of an original short story or novel chapter of 12-20 pages in length.

Short Story