writingtips

Point of View

This article is about how to choose the best Point Of View for your story.

View point examples

Here are some examples of the view points you may consider using for writing your story.  It helps to understand these when making your decision.

NB:  These examples have a Halloween horror theme…

  • First person:  when the whole story is told from their view point.  A good way to show their inner emotions and thoughts.  Uses “I” and “We”.
My clammy hand shook as I pushed open the door and gagged at the vile stench.
  • Second person:  rarely used in fiction as it can sound like you are giving instruction but good for those choice-adventure style stories.  Uses “You”.
As you enter the dimly lit room, the sharp smell of rotting corpses makes you gag.
  • Third person:  the story is told as if you are an observer watching what is taking place – very useful for stories with many characters.  Uses “He”, “She”, “It” and their name.

There are different types of third person.

  • Limited Third Person:  This will follow a MC but will give the reader the experience of watching what is happening, although it is still possible for the writer to share the MCs thoughts and feelings.  Sometimes called “Close Third Person”.
Her sweaty hand opened the door.  As she entered the room, she gagged at the vile stench.
  • Omniscient Third Person:  The reader watches the scene as the writer tells them all the characters thoughts, feelings and background and can even share their own thoughts during the story.  Sometimes called “Distant Third Person”.
If she had any sense, the stench should have deterred her from entering the room.

Single Character

If you decide that the story will follow a single character then you will want to choose either:

Single Character POV.pngFirst person:  Choose to write in first person view if it is important for your reader to know your character intimately.  You will need to share their inner most thoughts and feelings and they will have no secrets from the reader.

Limited Third Person:  Alternatively, you can choose to write in Limited Third Person view.  This isn’t as intimate but the reader is watching what the MC is doing and you can share their thoughts and feelings with the author.

Readers enjoy stories with a single main character because they can get to know them and understand their actions and reactions.   It easier to form an attachment as they will care whether your character succeeds or fails and this keeps them engaged.

Multiple Character

If you choose to tell the story from multiple characters this can enable you to show more of what is happening and is less restrictive.

Multiple Character POVFirstPerson:   If you chose tell the story in first person, make sure that when you switch between characters it is easy for the reader to follow. For example, you could start a new chapter or section that is headed with the new person’s name i.e. “Gwyn’s Point of View”.  In addition, you will need to ensure each character has a strong and unique voice so they are easy to identify.

Limited Third Person:   Similar things to consider as in first person, although, it can be easier establish who is being followed as the writer can give the characters name within the narrative.

Omniscient Third Person:   This point of view is often described as being ‘god like’ as the writer knows and shares everything about the characters.  The writer can move from character to character within a chapter and is particularly useful when writing action.

Mixed:  You could use different view point styles for different characters to make it clear when the voice has changed.  The risk of this is that readers get comfortable with a certain POV style and if it is suddenly changed, it can throw them out of the story.

Readers can struggle with attaching to multiple characters as it doesn’t allow them sufficient time to get to know them and care about their conquests.  In addition, if they may like one voice and not be able to stand the other voice which could ruin the story for them.

Which to choose?

Consider how many MC’s you need:  Look at the advice above on single or multiple voices.

Popular POV for the Genre:  Read books similar to the one you are writing.  For example, if you are writing a Historical Romance check what methods have been used successfully within the genre.  There will be a reason why that POV is popular with the audience or works well for the genre.

POV that works for you:  There is likely to be a POV that you find easier writing and this might be because it is the right one for your story.

Pros for each POV

  • First person:  Gives the reader a very intimate experience of the character.  They will see all the character thoughts, sensations and feelings.  Good if you need your reader to have a deep connection (i.e. for romance stories).
  • Limited third person:  Enables the write to develop a bond with your character as they will know their thoughts and feelings.  In addition, the writer can share details the MC may not know so it is more objective.
  • Omniscient third person:  Writer can share the view of multiple characters at once as they are able to share all their thoughts and feelings and even include their own thoughts.

Cons for each POV

  • First person:  It is limited to what the MC sees and knows.  The MC may be bias or compromised so the reader is never sure if they can trust them.  Some writers have flipped between characters in First Person to illustrate misunderstanding.
  • Close third person:  It is limited to following the MC and what they experience, however, the writer is able to give a more objective view.
  • Omniscient third person:  The writer runs the risk of overloading the reader with too much information that they cannot follow what is going on or connect to any of the characters.

Re-write

If you write a chapter and it’s not working, simply re-write it in another POV or from another characters perspective.  The change in voice could solve your problem.  Don’t be afraid to try a POV you’ve never tried before.

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