Monday, July 25, 2016

WRITING TIP: Point of View by Alexis O’Neill


My challenge as a writer is always to find the best way to express a story to readers to capture the maximum emotional impact.

And to tell the truth, I had a two-year struggle trying finding the best story format as I gathered research for my latest book, The Kite That Bridged Two Nations: Homan Walsh and the First Niagara Suspension Bridge.

This true story took place in January 1848, when Homan Walsh, an ordinary boy from Niagara Falls, New York made history by flying his kite in a contest. His kite string, which he was able to anchor across the Niagara River Gorge, was the first line of the first suspension bridge over the Niagara River.

Many challenges faced Homan during his attempt: traveling across an icy river by ferry to Canada, walking along the top of a frozen cliff, flying his kite until midnight, suffering a line break just before reaching the other side, becoming stranded by river ice for eight days when he tried to reach home, and deciding whether or not to reenter the contest to finish what he started.

When it came time to pull all my research together, I tried different paths - including various narratives told from third-person point of view and a story in poems - but none captured the excitement of the event, the spirit of the moment, the emotions of flying a kite, failing and then succeeding.

But when I tried telling Homan Walsh’s story from his point of view, the story began to come alive. Here’s how the book begins:
Whenever wind lifted off the river
and sent the trees to dancing,
I’d itch to fly a kite.

As writers, we have to play with approaches to stories until we find the one that fits best. By changing the point of view (first person / second person / third person), we can discover fresh ways to tell our tales -- and the best way to connect with readers.

ACTIVITY: [NOTE: Kite Flight template attached as PDF and JPG]
Try telling a story from the point of view of a kite.
Print this activity, KITE FLIGHT and have fun imagining how a kite might view the world.
For more activities and resources, go to



Alexis O’Neill’s picture books include The Recess Queen, Loud Emily, Estela’s Swap and The Worst Best Friend. A former elementary school teacher and museum educator, Alexis teaches for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and visits schools around the country. Her newest book, The Kite That Bridged Two Nations, is a 2016-2017 California Young Reader Medal Nominee and a winner of a 2014 EUREKA! Silver Honor Book Award for Nonfiction.  Visit Alexis at


  1. Thank you so very much for popping in over at My Word Playground, Johnell. So good to have you here, and would love to feature you when your book comes out! XOXO

  2. Can't wait to read this book!

  3. Can't wait to read this book!

    1. Thanks for stopping by My Word Playground, Kristi Ventheimer. Stop by anytime for more treasures in our sandbox!