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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Choosing A Point Of View

The point of view you choose to use could be what makes your novel stand out or what makes agents and editors pass it up. There are many things to consider when making the decision of which point of view to choose. First you must choose the most compelling character. Sometimes a stable hand's point of view is more interesting than a prince's. Explore each of the characters in your novel thoroughly and decide whose point of view would interest you the most.

The next big decision you have to make is what kind of point of view do you want to tell the novel in.

First person is literally in the head of the main character. It is the kind of novel filled with I, me, and my type of phrasing. This is very popular in young adult. This point of view has its up and down sides. On the plus side, the reader is immersed fully in the story by experiencing everything the main character does down to their very thoughts. Its can be easier for the writer because you only have to deal with one mind and you can fully develop their internal voice. On the minus side, you're limited to what the narrator sees and experiences and you can't go into the mind of other characters.

Second person is rarely done and even more rarely done well. It is a removed point of view with you and your type of phrasing. The best way I can put it is that it reads like a choose your own adventure book. Jay McInerney is known for writing in this manner those his novels are definitely not choose your own adventure books. Most people in the literary world will tell you don't even try it unless you are a genius. It is by far the hardest point of view to do.

Third person is an omniscient point of view where you're more removed from the characters head and it is the most common. The phrasing is he, she, it, they. I love third person because the writer isn't tied to the point of view of one character like they are in first person. Though you do have to be careful not to jump around too much and confuse the reader. Many people have trouble reading the Dune novels because they jump from viewpoint to viewpoint on nearly every page. Its still in third person, the author is just giving you the thoughts and feelings of more than one character. Third person is most often done in one point of view at a time.

Have fun with it. Try writing in each different point of view and try different characters. You'll know which one to use because it will feel natural to you. You might surprise yourself!

Here are a few great Writer's Digest links on point of view: What Point Of View Should You Use? and The Inns and Outs of Third Person.

18 comments:

  1. I didn't even know second person was an option...you really do learn something new every day!

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  2. I switched POV from 3rd to 1st in one of my WIPs. I really liked the results. I think experimenting with POV can open doors we didn't know existed or couldn't see otherwise.

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  3. Usually only the most literary novels are written in that manner. It's really hard to pull off, to put it mildly! Mostly because not only is it hard to write, it's hard to read.

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  4. As soon as I saw second person, my mind went to Choose Your Own Adventure, too. Did you know the original titles have recently been re-released? My boys love them.

    Thanks for your kind words over at Debbie's blog.

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  5. That's excellent Paul! I've often thought about writing in first person but I haven't tried it yet.

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  6. i didn't know they re-released those Caroline! I loved those when I was a kid. I love Debbie's blog BTW, I'm so glad I found it!

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  7. I love 3rd person, too, Heather! When I wrote my first novel I was about half way through it before I even thought of the concept of p.o.v. -- and I had to go look at the pages to see what p.o.v. I was using! 3rd gives you a lot of freedom. My current novel is 1st person, though. As with the other novel, it just happened. I'm really liking 1st person for this one because it lets me create a distinct and offbeat voice for the protagonist. But to avoid the restrictions of 1st I do have a couple of other characters' p.o.v.s represented, too -- in 3rd.

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  8. I love that you've managed to write two different novels in two different points of view and it felt natural both times Linda! I plan to try first person some day and you're success at it gives me hope that I can pull it off!

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  9. I remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books! I used to devour them when I was in elementary school.

    I've only written one book and it's in first person. I love how I can really dig into my MC's head, really get to know her. Not sure when I'll try third person.

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  10. Thanks for your kind words and welcome to the blog world, Heather! I very much appreciate it.

    For me, I've always leaned toward a 3rd person POV, though, truth be told, I recently tried to rewrite my WIP into 1st person. Somehow I jumped into the heads of three other characters within ten pages. Funny thing was that in 3rd person I stayed in my MC's head. Yeah, that puts me firmly in 3rd person for now! ;)

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  11. Heather, Thank you for writing this today. I have been in a quandary as to which point of view for my rewrite of Twist of Fate. I'v been thinking about this for days. Minutes before I read your blog, I got off the phone with my hubby and explained my options, but he was no help. And there you were! After reading this post I've decided that the POV from the teenager in first person would be the strongest. For teenage girls to identify with my main character I think they need to get inside her head. What do you think?
    Flight for Control was 3rd person... and necessary because there were 5 POVs visited throughout. Personally, I like third person. But my series will be first person. I'll practice first person with my YA.
    Thanks!

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  12. Me too Melissa! I'd love to try writing a book in first person some day. I commend you, it seems so hard!

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  13. You're very welcome DLCurran! I feel more connected to my character in third person too. Odd I know, but I think as writers we gravitate toward one type of POV.

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  14. You're very welcome Karlene! I'm so glad the timing of my post was perfect for you! I love the idea of you writing that novel in first person. I say go for it!

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  15. Third person is fun because you can write from different characters' POVs. I also like first person!

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  16. Me too Talli. I love to read both. Hopefully someday I'll write both too!

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  17. Great stuff! I'm currently wrestling with this issue, wondering whether or not to write my next story in 1st person. :-)

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  18. Me too Shannon! I'm going back and forth on which POV to write my next novel in. We shall see...

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