Point of View Primer - article

Are you pondering the best point of view (POV) for your story? All authors ask this question. The following list covers the various points of view and also gives a peek at the advantages and disadvantages of each type. When choosing your POV, try several approaches to find one that fits your style.

First Person –This story is told from the “I” viewpoint and is the most intimate point of view. The strength of this viewpoint is the reader experiences the story in a sensory way. They “feel” each sensation of the character, like anger, joy or pain. This point of view is popular for detective novels, “confessional” novels, and thrillers. The downside of first person is it is very limiting in terms of the story. Everything that happens must be filtered through the sensory experience of the main character. The thoughts of no other character may be revealed except through dialogue and the assumptions of the main character.

Second Person – This point of view is told from the “you” viewpoint. It is not as popular as first and third person, but is often used for non-fiction, especially in self-help books. It is used also in literary fiction. Mysteries are rarely written from this point of view, though sometimes it is used in prologues. The downside of second person is it slips easily into an annoying rhythm that puts off readers and is considered one of the most difficult to master. It really takes a skilled writer to pull it off effectively.

Third Person –This is “he said” and “she said” point of view. It comes in three varieties: limited, subjective multiple, and omniscient. The limited version of third person is told from the main character view point and is in past tense. Readers are only privy to what the main character experiences, his feelings and thoughts. At no time does the narrative flow dip into the feelings or thoughts of any other character. This strength of this straightforward POV is its readability; hence it is desired by many publishers.

The subjective multiple viewpoint version of third person involves shifting from one limited viewpoint to another. At each shift, characters are only privy to what the main character for that section experiences. This shifting of viewpoint offers a wider perspective of the story and the play between what different characters are thinking. This POV is used often in the romance genre. Its main drawback rests in the transition shifts between the viewpoints, a master skill for writers.

The final third person view point is omniscient. This viewpoint offers the bird’s eye view of a story world. No part of the story is shown through one character but everything comes from an invisible narrator who knows all and sees all. Third person omniscient is a popular choice for epics with complicated plots and many characters. Author Stephen King often employs this POV. It’s considered difficult to master.

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