If you have been a voice actor for any length of time, you have probably heard how important it is to have a unique "point of view" (POV) when delivering a script. But what does it really mean, and how does a script's point of view affect your storytelling ability and authenticity as a voice actor? Understanding the POV of the copy - whether it be first person, second person, or third person, or a combination therein - is the first step in delivering your story. In this blog post I'll explain what each one is and how you can use each POV to your advantage.
Point of view refers to the perspective from which a story is being told, and voiceover to the actual storytelling voice. In communication, tone of voice determines how the speaker comes across to the listener. In a first-person narrative, the narrator is the character telling their own story. When assessing the copy, the pronouns I and we are first-person pronouns; they refer to "me" or "we." Other pronouns used in first person narrative are my (singular), mine (singular), myself (singular), and ourselves. These all refer to something that belongs exclusively to you/yourself as an individual person rather than being shared with other people around him/her/them like nouns usually do.
Here's an example of first-person copy:
VO: Some might say I couldn’t care less about you, but I guess that would be a myth. I am me because of you. Since you do point out all my personal boundaries. A hundred times I gave up or never started in the first place, thanks to you. Some might say I am your best friend because I accept you for who you are. No matter if your outbursts hit me or your lovely warmth caresses my soul. Whether you’re my friend, no matter how you are. Let´s walk. Side by side.
First-person VO Tips
When addressing casting specs that call for 'conversational" "natural" "authentic" and/or believable, first-person copy is typically the most intuitive to voice conversationally. Don't let that make you lazy, however. Lean into it and make sure to include your own POV (emotion) on behalf of the company to support the intimate message and to enhance your believability. First-person may sound more casual than other copy that has a different POV. Keep in mind you will more than likely have lots of competition on these spots as most people will find it easier to fit the specs as requested, so make sure your take and POV are uniquely yours! Think about entering the scene with a reaction or emotion that may not be as obvious. Have fun with the copy!
Point of view refers to the perspective from which a story is being told, and voiceover to the actual storytelling voice.
Copywriters use a second-person point of view to establish a bond and intimacy with the reader, to make them believe the writer really understands their situation. The narrator describes what "you" do and lets you into your own thoughts and background. Look for the pronouns you, your, yourself, and yours being used in the copy.
For businesses, the second person is a powerful point of view for connecting with the customer and is the most popular style used for advertising copy. The second-person perspective in sales and business writing is inclusive and persuasive. You’ll see it in slogans and adverts that make a bold statement or are trying to make you take action, as well as using rhetorical questions for impact:
Do something different today (Nike)
Got plans tonight? (Pizza Hut)
Share your secret recipe with us! (Bertolli Cooking Oil)
Everywhere you want to be. (Visa)
Melts in your mouth, not in your hands. (M&Ms)
Here's another example of second-person copy:
VO: Ahhh, it’s coming back to you now. Real pants. Find AmEx offers to save on the brands you love. One of the many things you can expect when you’re with AmEx.
Copywriters sometimes break the formal rules of writing, and they do so deliberately. For example, they might shift between second-person singular ("you") and first-person plural pronouns (like "we" or "us"). By shifting to an inclusive first-person POV (we), they create a relationship with their reader and avoid sounding superior or aggressive.
Here's an example of second-person shifting to first-person copy:
VO: You call it getting up; we call it getting ahead. You call it breaking a sweat, we call it a breakthrough. You call it time wasted; we call it time well spent. Meet the Blinkist app, and read or listen to key ideas from bestselling nonfiction books in just 15 minutes. Discover thousands of titles to help you learn and grow every day. Anytime, anywhere. Download the Blinkist app now and fit learning into your life.
Second-person VO Tips
When adding your unique POV to second-person copy, try to envision a real conversation with the listener. Create a scene where you are addressing them directly, and keep the conversation flowing through the entire script, even if the copy changes POV. Think of it as a continual conversation where you speak both parts - one as the voice and the other as the listener asking questions or reacting between the sentences to create a believable read.
Third-person narration allows a writer to control what information is presented while maintaining an objective tone. The third-person narrator can be omniscient (knows everything) or limited (knows only what the characters tell him). The third person pronouns—he, she, it, they—refer to someone or something being referred to apart from the speaker or the person being addressed. Other pronouns used: Her, hers, herself, him, his, himself, their and theirs.
A third-person narrator creates the most distance between events and the listener and can be good for company taglines, company history, or for relaying a customer storyline or testimonial. However, for the majority of sales copy, it can come off as too authoritative or bossy. The biggest complaint I see from voice actors happens when there is an obvious disconnect between this type of copy POV and the casting specs - especially when it calls for a natural or conversational read.
Here are some examples of third-person copy:
The happiest place on earth (Disneyland)
It keeps going and going and going (Energizer)
Takes a licking and keeps on ticking (Timex)
Here are some more examples:
VO: Lash impact goes sky high. New lash sensational sky high mascara from Maybelline New York. Limitless length plus volume. Sensational from every angle. New lash sensational sky high mascara. Only from Maybelline New York.
VO: Eric and a sloth use Etoro to trade Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies. While Eric gets the latest crypto news and trends on his feed, sloth is feeding on an apple. Eric does research on crypto trading opportunities, and sloth is still doing this. When Eric follows and connects with other crypto traders on Etoro, sloth is following his precious apple. So why are they both such great traders? Because Sloth accidentally used Etoro Copy Trader to automatically copy all of Eric’s trades. So whenever Eric makes a trade, so does sloth. Trade like an Eric or copy like a sloth on Etoro.
Third-person VO Tips
For third-person copy that tells an obvious story with he/she/it/they pronouns, make sure to read the copy thoroughly so that you are familiar with the entire story. This will help you evolve your POV as the story develops. Try to dissect the backbone of the story and lead into each part of the story with a POV that draws your listener in. Sometimes this can mean slowing down a bit and putting on an air of mystery or emotion that prefaces what is to come.
Many times, voice actors will get copy or auditions written in the third person that is super sales-y, and they will be asked to voice it conversationally, "as if talking to a friend." To do this effectively, you will need to really flex your acting muscles and create scenes to play off your listener, as well as generate some lead-in lines to help you voice more conversationally. The shrug can also be very effective at getting you into a more natural, believable tone. The last thing you want to do is announce or hard sell the copy - even if it is written that way. Remember it is your job as the actor to tell the story effectively - even when the copy is not written to spec.
I hope this article has given you a better understanding of how to determine the narrative point of view of your copy and how it can work together with your unique POV in voiceover to help you tell more compelling stories. Do you have a favorite script that helped you tell a compelling story? I'd love to hear in the comments below!
Thanks for reading!
Keep on rocking your business like a #VOBOSS
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Anne Ganguzza is a professional voice actor and award-winning director and producer who works with students to develop their voiceover and business skills - including voice over Coaching and Genre-based Demo Production. She specializes in conversational Commercial & Narration styles, including Corporate, eLearning, Technology, and On-Hold Messaging. Located in Orange County, California, Anne offers private coaching and mentoring services to students via ipDTL and Zoom.