Many writers struggle with point of view (POV) – the perspective through which a story is told. Choosing your point of view should be a strategic decision. As with most artists, writers often resist rules at all costs; however, a good writer must adhere to basic rules of writing in order to effectively develop characters and tell their story. Rules are made to assist writers, and if you are going to break them, you damn well better have a good reason. A reader is not interested in your “uniqueness” if it only serves to satisfy your individuality. Again, your choice should be strategic and assist in bringing the reader closer to the world you are creating.
Occasionally, writers will implore a combination of perspectives (known as alternating point of view), but we will concentrate on the three basic points of view in writing:
• first person, using “I” or “we”;
• second person, “you,” the least common point of view; and
• third person (“he,” “she,” “it”).
First Person Point of View
First person POV is the most intimate. With first person you experience the story through one person’s perception. Many writers find this limiting because it doesn’t allow the reader to be privy to any information or event that is not personally known by this character.
I hung up without allowing Tony a chance to respond. I was unsure of my future with him, but I was very sure of what I wanted at this very moment. I jumped in the shower and washed away all of the dirt and inhibitions.
Second Person Point of View
Second person is told from the perspective of “you.” This is not commonly used, except in instructional writings.
You hung up without allowing Tony a chance to respond. You were unsure of your future with him, but you were very sure of what you wanted at this very moment. You jumped in the shower and washed away all of the dirt and inhibitions.
Third Person Point of View
Though first person can be impactful, third person is actually the more versatile point of view. Third person allows you to create a more complicated storyline, and allows for multiple lead characters. This POV allows you to switch back and forth between characters and the unique way they each see things. Most writers use third person POV.
Mark hung up without allowing Tony a chance to respond. He was unsure of his future with him, but he was very sure of what he wanted at this very moment. He jumped in the shower and washed away all of the dirt and inhibitions.
Choosing your point of view is one of the most important things you will do as a writer. Imagine that you are an eagle perched high up in a tree. From that tree, you watch and listen. Your POV will dictate what you (the eagle) can and cannot see, and even whose mind you can enter. Ultimately you need to decide which POV will allow you to best tell your story. Some writers can masterfully switch POV within a manuscript, but this takes skill. One of the best pieces of advice I found came from a writer’s forum: “Don’t choose an unusual perspective to be different. Choose it because it provides something you cannot achieve as well any other way.”
Join me next time when we’ll talk about tense…
Note: For additional information on Point of View, read: Who’s Telling This Story (Point Of View) by Deatri King-Bey
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