Different Points of View

There are many things that an author must do before he or she begins writing their story. A plot must be formed, even if it’s just the bare bones of the story, characters need to be placed, and a world needs to be built.

But before the actual writing begins, the author needs to decide on which point of view style he or she wants to use in conveying the story to the readers.

First person POV will tell the story from within the head of (typically) the main character. Everything will be conveyed as if the character was telling you what they are or were doing.  “I ran down the street…”

Second person POV tells the story as if someone was relaying the reader’s actions to them. “You ran down the street…”

Third person POV involves a narrator bringing the story of other people to the reader. “He ran down the street…”

Different genres will lend themselves toward one point of view or another, but there’s always the option of going against that. First person is very popular in YA novels and third person is popular in fantasy.

But what effect does the choice of POV have on how the story is written?

Authors can use POV to reveal, disguise, or outright hide information from a reader. First person POV is going to be very limited in its scope just by the very nature of it. The character in whose head the reader is placed will naturally have a restricted view of the world, unless they’re an omniscient being or a major player who has access to all of the relevant information. This can be used to surprise the reader by springing things on the character.

Personally, I have a very hard time reading first person novels. I don’t know if it’s because so many of the books I read growing up were 3rd person or if I like having a overview of the entire world. And first-person/present tense novels usually don’t survive the first chapter before I end up ditching them.

George RR Martin is very adept at using his third person point of view to hide the actions of certain characters until those actions come into direct conflict. In my own work, I’ve used third person POV to portray multiple sides of the same battle, showing on a lack of information from one side can lead to disaster.

I really would like to try writing a short story in second person, maybe conveying a story to the reader as if they have suffered amnesia. Video games (especially first person shooters) tend to use second person very heavily, perhaps that could be used as an advantage.

So what’s your favorite POV and why?

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3 comments on “Different Points of View

  1. I’m not a fan of first person either, but don’t dislike it as much as you, Joshua. I actually made it through the Twilight series (hangs head in shame). I do prefer 3rd person limited though – and for almost the same reasons. I love that it provides the author limitations to hide information and actions, which certainly helps build tension!

  2. 1st-person only works if the viewpoint character is incredibly interesting. In most cases, I prefer 3rd. I wrote two pieces of horror flash fiction in 2nd. It helps vamp up the tension quite a bit, in my opinion.

  3. I write in both first and third person, though not at the same time. I find first lends itself well my urban fantasy series because it allows the voice of the main character to come through, while my epic fantasy trilogy is in third person.
    If you want to get a real sense of what can be done with POV, I invite you all to pick up the story “Fondly Fahrenheit” by Alfred Bester…careful, though, it may blow your mind.

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