When writing a novel, the author needs to choose a point of view (POV). And point of view is one of the major problems new writers have to contend with. What point of view or POV means is – someone must tell the story. It could be the main character or several of the characters taking turns; it could be a narrator who knows a certain amount of information about all the characters or it can be the author’s voice itself narrating the story.
What was that? Isn’t the author telling the story anyway? True, but read on to find out how and why you need to decide on a specific POV before you even begin writing.
Certain forms of genre fiction also lend themselves to certain POVs. For example, Young Adult is almost always written in first person.
Different Points of View
- First Person
In this, the perspective of the story unfolds through the eyes of one specific person – the narrator. This is the type of novel that uses the word “I” to recount the action. For ex: “I stood up, my chest heaving in frustration.” The author only needs to worry about defining the narrator’s voice and since the narrator tends to be the main character, the voice is distinctive. The narrator has to be in every scene and the reader is limited to knowing only what the narrator sees or senses. It is not possible to have other characters’ views except as seen or experienced by the narrator. There are exceptions of course where you can use another POV separated by a chapter or scene break, but for all intents and purposes First Person POV is only the person telling the story.
- Second Person
This POV is almost never used.in fiction as it doesn’t work very well and gets fatiguing to read very quickly. Second person POV is when you use “you” to tell the story. Ex: “You find yourself out cold on the floor and when you open your eyes, your head feels like several drummers are banging on their drums inside.” Use second person POV as an exercise to find out how difficult and cumbersome it is. NEVER use it in a novel.
- Third Person Limited (he, she, it, they, them)
This is, perhaps, the most common POV used by novelists. Like in first person, the reader experiences the thoughts and actions of one person either throughout the novel or per chapter or scene. However, instead of using “I” third person pronouns such as “he, she, it, they, or them” are used. In this POV, the story is told strictly through the eyes of the person narrating – so nothing can happen that he or she has not seen or experienced.
This is probably the easiest POV to write in especially for novice writers. Master this POV before attempting any of the others.
- Third Person Omniscient (he, she, it, they, them)
In this point of view, the narrator acts like an all-seeing, all-knowing God who can pop into the heads of any of the characters at any given time. In this POV, the author’s voice usually shines through whenever there is a narration or exposition. This POV can be difficult to carry out because, unless done correctly, the reader can become confused about who is talking.
Also, in this POV the narrator’s voice actually is part of the story and has a specific and unique voice of its own. It may sound like it’s the easiest POV to use since you can just tell the story, but in actual fact it’s probably the most difficult. Do not attempt until you have become a more proficient writer.
Which POV do you feel works for you?