You may have followed my series on writing over the last few months. Now, instead of a series, I will continue to write about creative writing, but we won’t have a set order for what comes next. Last month we finished discussing the main foundations of writing a novel: Setting, Characters, Plot, and Theme. Now I will be showing you some of the other parts of fiction and how one goes about writing it.
Today is all about POV(point of view). There are quite a few different POVs, but I will only be talking about the main three: First person, Second person, and Third person. All have strong points, and all have weak points, but whichever one you choose is up to you–there have been successful novels in each one. (I will touch briefly on two other types of POV today as well.)
When you take a photo, you have to choose what perspective you want. Writing is no different. The perspective you choose, whether for photography or a story, will change the way the reader/observer sees the work of art.
This perspective is when the main character is shown using I and me. This POV really gets into the character’s head, and often this perspective is the best way to make your reader feel as if s/he is in the book living out the story.
First person is quite good if you want to give your reader a powerful emotional experience. By using I and me instead of third person’s he or she, you can get deep into the very fiber of your character’s being, and make the reader feel and see everything your character is feeling and seeing.
The downside to first person is that some readers refuse to even read first person. There really is no good reason why, but some readers just don’t like first person. There are many successful books written in this perspective though; just look at how The Hunger Games turned out. It became wildly popular, so don’t let the fear of some readers not liking your book make your decision.
(As a small condolence to those who don’t like first person, don’t feel bad about it. We all have preferences, and you have the right to read what you want. For the record, I like third person better than first when reading, and I know others who share this preference with me.)
This POV is when you write your story using you to describe the main character. Now, second person is a very difficult POV to write in, and many readers simply rebel at the idea of reading a book in this point of view.
This way of writing is quite easy to do wrong, and many books written in second person don’t do well, simply because the writer did not study his craft deeply. These kinds of books are mainly Choose Your Own Adventure type stories, when you read a page that leaves the MC(you) with a choice at the bottom of the page. You then turn to the page your choice is said to be on.
I’ve only read one book in the second person POV where it wasn’t choose your own adventure, and it was not written well. In order for this POV to work, the writer must convince the reader that they would do the things happening in the story. This is especially hard when writing dialogue. If you write: “‘I must kill him’, you say,” and your reader has not yet been convinced that they are this MC, then they will put down your book. At least, I know I did.
If you choose this POV, tread carefully and know your craft well; this is probably one of the most difficult ways to write. I would also suggest that you write a “choose your own story” book in this POV, rather than try to write a full-blown novel. That way it’s shorter, so you don’t suspend your reader’s belief for too long, and you give them the chance to actually choose what it is they would do in that circumstance.
This is the most commonly used POV, using the words he or she to describe your MC. This type of writing is acceptable in all genres, from thrillers to fantasy. This POV is a good place to start if you want to begin writing a novel for the first time. It is the easiest, and most widely known type of writing, so if you choose this POV you are starting with a good, safe bet.
Many people, when first starting to write, will choose to use first person, thinking it will be the easiest form of POV. That is not true. It is quite hard to stay inside the head of your MC, and difficult because you must tell the story only from this I/me perspective.
Every book I started until up about two years ago was written in first person, then I began to experiment with third person and found that my voice is stronger through that POV.
Now this is not to slam first person either. I’m only speaking out of my experiences and stories of other’s experiences. First person can be a wonderful choice if done well. The way I see it, it really comes down to the writer’s preference.
Some questions to ask yourself when experimenting with any of these POVs:
- Which POV best suits my main character?
- Does this POV feel most comfortable to write in, or am I trying too hard to fit my voice into this perspective?
- If I were reading this, what would feel most natural for this story?
- What genre am I writing in? Does my POV fit into this category?
Two other perspectives I want to touch briefly on are omniscient and third person objective. These two ways of writing aren’t used very often–hardly ever. Omniscient POV is when you write from an all-knowing perspective. Like telling a story. You do get inside the heads of the characters at times, but you, as the writer, are taking on a sort of storytelling role, where you sometimes reveal a secret that your characters don’t know.
“What Lucy didn’t know was that an intruder lay just beyond the door behind which she stood.”
You are the all-seeing, all-knowing storyteller.
In third person objective it’s almost the opposite of omniscient. In this POV, you know nothing more than if you are watching what the characters are doing. You don’t write the MC’s interior emotion or interior monologue, only whatever emotion you would see on their face. When writing in third person objective, you are writing almost as a screenwriter would for a movie. This way of writing is difficult because you have to show all your characters thoughts and feelings using only dialogue, action, and description. It has an almost cinematic feel.