Point of View: Back to Basics (#1)

If you’ve landed on this page, odds are you already know what POV is and are trying to decide which to use. If you don’t, or if you’re confused, that’s okay too. There are a ton of articles out there on viewpoint, a few of which I’ve found helpful and will link at the end of this post.

There are various options for storytelling. Sometimes it will come naturally; other times, you’ll dilly dally back and forth before deciding what works best. Ultimately there’s no right or wrong answer!

So, what is the POV of your story? In the most basic of terms, it’s who’s telling the story to your readers. Is it your main character? Is it an all-knowing person outside of your story who can read the minds of all your characters? Or is it a narrator who can read the mind of only one character?

Let’s cover the absolute basics first. We’ll cover more the more nitty-gritty pros and cons of each in upcoming posts. Here are your POV options at the most basic level:

  • 1st Person
    “I” narration. I sat down. I said something. I did this. I’m the main character in your story.

    The story is told from a character’s viewpoint, and is typically filtered through that character’s speech, thoughts, and overall personality. This type of narration creates intimacy between the reader and the narrator, and can help create sympathy.

  • 2nd Person
    “You” narration. You sat down. You said something. You did this. You are the main character.

    This type of POV is rare in fiction novels. It’s mostly used in pick-your-own-adventure type books or some short stories. The one example I know of for contemporary fiction is Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerny.

  • 3rd Person
    “He/she” narration. He sat down. She said something. They did this. She is the main character in your story.

    There are two basic types of 3rd person:

    • Limited
      • The narrator knows the thoughts and emotions of only one character. Creates intimacy similar to 1st person.

    • Omniscient (God-like or all-knowing)
      • The narrator knows the thoughts and emotions of all the characters and can describe them at will. Creates much more distance than 1st or 3rd limited.

There’s no right or wrong choice for your story, only what works best. Each type of POV has its pros and cons, and we’ll be looking at all of them in this series.

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