#AtoZChallenge: P is for Point of View

For the A-Z challenge, I am posting writing and editing tips to help you improve and enhance your writing.

P is for Point of View

pov

Writing in first person presents action through the eyes of the narrator. While this can be an effective means of immersing your reader in the narrative, it also presents the challenge of remembering what your narrator should and shouldn’t, could or couldn’t, know.

Unless they have reason otherwise, either within the context of the narrative – they have been informed, have heard about something, were there – or because of their structural omniscience, something you can choose to implement, your narrator should only narrate scenes in which they’re present, and shouldn’t express the thoughts and feelings of other characters.

Third person writing is the most commonly used point of view and can be either a singular viewpoint (third person limited) or can be written in multiple viewpoints (third person omniscient).  With the former, the narration follows one character’s experiences, thoughts and emotions. With the latter, the writer presents lots of characters viewpoints, thoughts and feelings.

When using multiple points of view, be wary of a few things. Most narratives can’t cope with more than three or four points of view, so try to stay within this range. Also, be careful where you switch. If you start a scene with Fred, don’t finish it with Anna! Additionally, if you start a book from Fred’s point of view and write a number of chapters from this point of view, it can be a difficult matter to then switch. You need a good reason to do so, and you need to make sure that you do it carefully.

It’s important that you know your characters well, so that you can write authentically from their point of view.

Which point of view do you prefer to write or read? Do let me know by leaving a comment below.

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16 comments

  1. I grapple and play around with POV all the time. The biggest thing that helps me is to step away from the WIP for a little bit. Come back after a snack or a nap and read it again to see if it makes sense, or try it from another perspective. BTW — Your whole month of posts have been great. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I live and breathe third-person omniscient, since that’s mostly the POV I grew up reading, and it’s the established standard for my genre, historical, particularly when there’s a large ensemble cast. It saddens me that it’s so often misunderstood and dismissed nowadays, simply because many new writers don’t have much or any experience either reading or writing it to know how to do it properly. To me, it’s the most personal, creative, engrossing, intimate POV possible, not distant and musty. I love being able to get inside everyone’s heads, not just a few. It also solves the problem of bopping around between protagonists, one chapter at a time. I really hate that trend!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have really found this post helpful and will re-read it when it’s not so late and I’m peering over the top of 35 kg of border collie who is still nervy after the storm. I was feeling much the same but he;s helped me.
    Love the quote and live my life by it. So important!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is something I wrestle with and yet can’t help trying out different styles. I cannot get started – rather I cannot get settled to one or the other – in my new novel. I may well cheat and use 3rd person omniscient with sections of first person diary. I know, I know, I’ll regret it.

    Liked by 1 person

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