What’s your point of view?

Standard

Point of view (POV) is defined as the person who is telling the story and from where s/he will tell the story. Ideally, it should be one person – two at the most – protagonist (hero or heroine) and antagonist (villain). Occasionally, a second hero’s or heroine’s point of view is also used. If you do decide to use two or three people, it is imperative that you keep their POV’s separate. This is done by having each POV confined to either a chapter or scene or, at the very least, a lengthy paragraph. The point of view should not skip from sentence to sentence. That’s called head hopping and, like watching a never-ending tennis match, becomes tedious and gives you a headache.

The first person point of view is told by “I”. This gets the reader immediately into the character’s head, but it limits you in perspective because you can only tell what’s going on from his or her perspective. Do you have some vital information that only the bad guy or the best friend knows? It doesn’t matter. Unless the hero finds it out for himself, you can’t use it. Nothing can happen that “I” doesn’t know. It limits who the reader gets to know, but it does allow the reader to get to know the main character really well. Note: the main character must be a strong individual in order to carry the entire story.

Third person POV is a story told by he/she. It allows you to be in the minds of multiple people and to see what’s happening in other areas away from the main character. This is the most common point of view used in today’s writing. It limits how well you get to know any one character in particular but allows you to know a little bit about a lot of things.

The omniscient point of view was common in books of the nineteenth century. In this one, the narrator of the book can directly address the reader. You’ll find it common in books by Lewis Carroll and Charles Dickens when they address you, “dear reader”. It is rarely used in modern writing.

I’ll mention second person or ‘you’ point of view. I’ve seen this once in literary fiction – and hated it. But, it is used effectively in the “Choose your own way” YA books. These are the types of books where you read a page, then are given a choice in answer to a question or what to do next. Your choice determines what page you go to. They are popular YA books and are fine for that genre, but I do not recommend this for general fiction writing.

Vicky Burkholder

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2 responses »

  1. I cringe when I read some of my early work where I changed POV at random though I was always in 3rd. Some authors write first person with a real talent for it. I don’t feel confident doing it.

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