Hey all! Sorry about the slight delays between posts. I’m busy with multiple things – but I’m doing alright. I’m making progress on Opus Crescendo, even if it’s slower than I want to be moving.
Anyway, I love this ‘Posts Revisited’ series I’m doing. Point of View in Narratives. This is one of the posts I really wanted to come back to, for various reasons. I think I did a good job covering the different types of point of view the first time around, I was really close to my schooling at the time. If I had done a poor job explaining POV I would have felt like a bit of a failure.
I was still learning what worked best for me at that point in time. I’ve matured a bit as a writer since then, at least I’d like to think that.
Different Types of POV
Alright. There are three categories of point of view – first, second, and third person. A first person narrative puts you right into the character’s head – so a very close psychic distance. How so? You’re writing using ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘my’ as the pronouns. The character is telling you what’s going on. The positives of this would be knowing exactly what the narrator is thinking, really getting to understand your character, etc. However, you are limited as well. You have to stay within the confines of what your character understands, by what your character sees and acknowledges within the story. We were always told that 1st person was a good POV to use when you were writing a character that is unlike yourself. I’m still in agreement with that. However, I’ve never been able to complete a novel-length narrative in the first person. I do use it for writing exercises though. That helps me get to know characters!
A second person narrative has the reader directly being addressed by someone in the story. Much like parts of this post on the blog, you are being addressed. The pronouns ‘you’ and ‘your’ are used often. There are a lot of commands involved ‘you go here’, ‘you do this’, things like that. Second person isn’t often utilized – though I’ve seen it in choose your own adventure stories and the short story ‘Girl’ by Kincaid. The benefit to this point of view is how immersive it is – the reader is part of the story. The downside is that it is difficult to work with.
A third person narrative is when the narrator/protagonist is being referred to in the text as ‘she’, ‘her’, ‘hers’. For those gamers out there – think of the third person shooters people play – when the camera is just behind the character and you can see them running around on the map. That’s how third person narratives work as well – you see the character doing actions. How close you are to the character depends on if you’re working in limited or omniscient. In a third person limited narrative, you stick with your point of view character. In omniscient, you see everything. You don’t necessarily stick with one character and you don’t just see their reactions. You could see everyone reacting.
Deciding which POV to Use
This is where I dropped the ball last time. I gave the answer of ‘I do what feels right’, and while that is still true, it doesn’t really give an idea of why I think certain POVs work for specific projects.
I’ll admit right now that I am extremely biased toward third person limited/multiple. 90% of what I write is in third person limited. It just works best for how I write. I’ve realized that after many years of trying to figure out why I don’t like writing in the first person.
I do a lot of thinking on how I want the story to unfold. Do I want multiple narrators? Do I really want to be inside a character’s mind? Do I want to limit what the reader sees to what my POV character sees? Am I working on exercises before I write the novel? Is this even a novel?
Again – as honesty is the best policy – most of the answers to those questions lead to ‘third person limited’ or ‘third person multiple’ with me.
But I honestly did consider a first person point of view for the visual novel stuff I’m working on. As much as I dislike writing in that POV, I was under the impression that first person was the industry standard for visual novels. After a bit of research, I was able to figure out that it really depended on the project.
So really, it depends on how you want to present the story in question. It depends on what your personal writing style is. Just because I’m good at third person doesn’t mean everyone is. Some people are excellent at writing in the first person. It depends on the medium of the narrative. It depends on genre even. Think about the world building and detail involved in epic fantasy books.
I’d like to think that my understanding of how I choose which POV I use has matured over the years, but I still basically default to third person. But I’ve experimented with first person and I do enjoy using it for writing exercises from time to time.
I hope this brings a bit of clarity to point of view – telling a story from a different POV can really change the whole feel of a story – so understanding which one you want to use is very important.
The big thing? Experiment! Get to know what works best for you!