Point of View-What is it? How Do I Pick it?

What is a point of view? He said, She said? It’s all about perspective. You have to pick a point of view from which to tell your story. 

A) First person point of view happens when the person narrating the story is also a character in the story. “I woke up. I had this feeling. I am telling this story.”

B) Second person point of view happens when the writer chooses to refer to the main character as you. “You wake up. You have this feeling. You are telling a story.”

c) Third person point of view happens when the characters are reported on by a narrator who is not present in the story. Characters are described, and are called by names or he/she. “He woke up. She had a feeling. Sara wrote this story.”

  • Omniscient third person means that the narrator sees and knows all of the characters thoughts and actions in a god-like way. Sara woke up with a feeling of unusual dread. This was not the first time she rose with anxiety. Pete pretended to sleep as he felt her shifting beside him. He was tired of her anxiety attacks. He didn’t know how to deal with them. It was better for him to not respond. Sara watched him sleeping. She wondered why he no longer woke up with her like he used to. He used to be there for her. 
  • Partial omniscient (limited) third person means that the narrator tells about the thoughts of only one character. There are some things this narrator doesn’t know. Sara woke up with a feeling of unusual dread. This was not the first time she rose with anxiety. Pete remained asleep beside her. She stared at him as he slept. She wondered why he no longer woke up with her like he used to. He used to be there for her.
  • Objective third person narration means that the narrator does not allow himself/herself access to any thoughts or feelings, but describes only actions including dialogue. This is sometimes referred to as minimalism. Sara rose quickly from her bed. She was visibly shaken and put her arms around herself as if to comfort herself. She sat still for a moment and then looked at Pete who was still sleeping. She stared at him for a moment. “Are you awake?” She whispered. He didn’t move or make any sound. “Do you hear me anymore?” She whispered. She sighed softly. Then looked slowly around the bedroom.

Choosing a point of view also involves determining which characters in the story you want to tell has the most interesting vantage point, in your opinion. Sometimes, you can only find the viewpoint after telling it from numerous characters’ viewpoints. I once wrote an entire story in first person POV then switched to third and then back to first. That was a nightmare. Maybe don’t write the entire novel before you decide the POV is all wrong.

With the view point you have to choose your tense. The basic choices are past and present tense. Past is the most common and useful tense but present can add immediacy and excitement to a story. So what point of view will you pick, and how do you know if it’s right?

It’s all about how you want to tell the story, and how you want the readers to receive your story and feel about your characters. Do you want them to know they are reading a book or do you want them to forget they are reading a book? Do you want your voice to be heard or do you want to create a new voice as a narrator? Who is driving the story? Who is telling the story?

There are many resources from which to read for ideas as to how you should approach the point of view, but at the end of all the research you are ultimately the one to decide. Below I’ve added some links to blogs/articles that say much of the same things I am saying but also elaborate in other areas of the subject.

At this Writer’s Digest post if you scroll to the end of the article they have some nice tips on how to choose your perspective. They also use the terms 3rd person close and 3rd person distant, but those are the same as omniscient and objective. Different terms for the same things.

At Ink and Quills she goes into a couple other terms I had not heard of before in my old days of University. These include Deep Point of View and Multiple View (although I have heard of multiple just not deep).

On The Balance Careers blog you can find a nice writing exercise to use to play around with POV. It suggests you use something you’ve read which is great, but you can also use something you’ve already wrote. Write it in a new POV and see what you think.


See ya!



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