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Point of View

Updated: Feb 23, 2022

This week, we’re talking about point of view in the writing academy.

Choosing the point of view for your novel is sometimes the hardest decision to make. Do you want to stay in the head of your main character? Do you want to switch back and forth between two? Are you looking for an up-close and personal experience with a first-person narrator? Or perhaps you want the distance offered by an omniscient narrator who doesn’t speak in the voice of any of the characters but knows all about each of them.

Whichever point of view you choose, you’re going to be with it for a long time so it’s best to be sure.

First person can be limiting. You must work harder to surprise the reader. The reader doesn’t know what goes on while the point of view character is asleep. But this point of view can be intimate, as well. Your reader experiences the story as if they’re living it and it works well with a beloved character or someone easily relatable.

First person can be easier to write, especially if the author feels a kinship with the main character.

Third person limited can also be limiting, but with this point of view, you can switch between characters. Chapter breaks work best for this. Third person allows you the intimacy of first person as you pull in for close feelings and thoughts of the point of view character.

Omniscient point of view can be one of the hardest to master. This all-knowing narrator is privy to the history of the world, the backstory of every character, whose grandfather was the mayor a generation ago, which character is going to die before the next chapter. The main consideration in this point of view is the distance. The reader will not hear anything in your characters’ voices unless it comes from dialogue. Otherwise, the story is told in the omniscient narrator’s voice. Think of a “once upon a time” story and you have an idea of the omniscient point of view.

So how do you pick which one is best for your story?

  1. Practice. What POV feels most natural to you? If you’re more comfortable in first person, start there.

  2. Switch it up. Try writing your first chapter a couple different ways and see which one reads better.

  3. Ask a trusted reader. If you’re feeling uncertain if your point of view is working, consider asking a reader to read samples in each point of view you’re considering.

  4. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. While research is important, a good editor will catch those point of view mistakes. So don’t be afraid to experiment with a point of view, even if you aren’t comfortable with it.

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