Got a free eBook code? Click HERE for instructions on how to download.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Demystifying Point Of View

There are many different points of view you can choose to write your novel in. First you must choose which character's point of view that you are going to tell the novel from, then you get to decide what kind of point of view to use. It's easier for me to choose the character and get to know them first, then the type of POV I'm going to use falls into place. Here are the types of POV:
1st Person POV past tense: This is a popular style among young adult novels and is becoming increasingly popular among adult genres as well. It reads much like the person is telling you their story. Example: I walked into the room.

1st Person POV present tense: This is becoming increasingly popular in young adult novels. It is believed that there is more sense of immediacy and tension, as if the reader isn't certain the narrator will live or be all right. Example: I walk into the room.

2nd Person POV past tense: This one is so tough to pull off you almost never see it done anymore. Much of the reason is because it reads awkward. It's a way of storytelling that most of us aren't used to. In this POV the narrator speaks directly to the reader as if they are telling them a story that's happening to the reader. Think of the old choose your own adventure books. Those were written in 2nd person POV. Example: You walk into the room.

3rd Person POV past tense: This is one of the most traditional ways of telling a story. The story is being told not by a narrator that the reader ever senses or 'hears'. It isn't as up close and personal as 1st person POV's. It is however my favorite way to write. Example: She walked into the room.

3rd Person POV present tense: Example: She walks into the room.

3rd Person POV omniscient (or multiple POV's): Second only to 2nd Person POV, this is the hardest to pull off. This is 3rd person traditional storytelling but it involves more than just the main character's point of view. This style may jump from character to character point of view on the same page or within the same chapter. Unless you are highly experience and skilled I don't recommend trying this as it is too easy to confuse the reader. A popular author who uses this style is Frank Herbert. If you've ever tried to read the DUNE novels (which are some of my favorites) then you know how hard this would be to write.

3rd Person POV personal: You may not have heard much about this one yet as it is a newer style that is coming into popularity. This is traditional 3rd person, past tense, POV but with a lot more focus on what the main character is feeling and thinking. You'll read this a lot in young adult novels that are written in 3rd person.

Play around with POV and discover what works best for you. Try something different. You might surprise yourself! To discuss this topic in depth join us this Thursday at 6:00pm PT for the #WritersRoad chat on Twitter

21 comments:

  1. POV makes a difference in how the novel reads, that's for sure! Lately I've been falling into 1st person present in my WIP, but it's such a difficult POV to sustain for a whole novel! I think this is happening because I'm so focused on inhabiting my character that I feel like I AM her. But I'm going to back off to 1st person past tense once I have the full sense of her. I think it will work better for the novel. Thanks for this great list. It's perfect for helping me think this through.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love this! Thank you so much. I'm going to have Dick read it when I get home. I hate to ask, but could you write an example for 3rd Person POV Personal? Fascinating. And I'm thinking I too am falling in love with first person. More to come on that on Friday at Critique Sisters Corner. Thank you for a great post!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Linda, that is a tough one to sustain, so true! You're welcome. I'm glad my post helped! Hope to see you on Thursday at the chat.

    Karlene, you're welcome! All my writing is that way Karlene. I'll send you a chapter soon!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great breakdown! Thanks so much for this. I wish I found it a couple years ago though.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Almost all of my stories tend to be 3rd person POV past tense or 3rd person POV omniscient. You're right about how hard it is to write the omniscient well, but that's what generally fits for my stories because I grew up reading a lot of the epic "go on a quest" fantasy novels so I tend to write with multiple MCs. It's rough going but I love the challenge of trying to balance everything.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anne, you're welcome! I know what you mean. I wish I had found this information a couple of years ago too!

    Annikka, I grew up reading those too and I love them! You're right, it's a great good challenge.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Writing in different POV's is really tough. I just about use 3rd person past tense. it is easier to write in, control and keep consistent. However,as part of my writing challenge (a spin off of Karen's 50/50 Operation :D) I wrote a short piece in 3rd person present tense. It was so hard. I had to keep going back to make sure it was in the right tense because it kept changing on me. :/

    THanks for the great post explaing the different types of pov's :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Saba, very true! It is tough. Sounds like an excellent challenge! I'm working on 1st person with my Friday Creature Feature posts and it's been interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Someday I have to experiment more with a deep, third person. For now I'll stick to first person. I'm so used to it. :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'm playing with POV a lot at the moment. My collaborative WIP is in first person present tense, which is completely new for me, but a heap of fun.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Lydia, you have to go with what feels right for you. I'd love to branch out some day too, but like you, I'll stick to my comfort zone for now!

    Amie, it really is fun! I'm enjoying the first person excercises I do on Friday's.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks for explaining this so perfectly, Heather. When author's select pov, I know most, but there are a few I wasn't familiar with.

    Michael

    ReplyDelete
  13. Oh my gosh, I loved those choose your own adventure books as a kid! Fun memory!

    My favorite is 3rd person omniscient. It's what I write. I actually don't find it confusing at all. A lot of adult fantasy are written this way.

    But I appreciate all the different styles. First person for the emotional connection to the MC etc.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Michael, you're welcome! I'm glad there were a few new ones I could introduce you to.

    Nisa, that's one of my favorite POV's to read! The DUNE novels made me really love and appreciate that style.Power to you foor writing in it!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Great post! POV is one of those things that usually evolves for me as I write. I'm not sure at the outset what POV I'll end up using. I tend to start out with 3rd person past and then go from there. I like present tense for dreams though or with flash fiction.

    ReplyDelete
  16. This is great information that I need to be continually reminded of (:
    Josh

    ReplyDelete
  17. Sonia, thank you! I love that you allow the work to decide the tense for you. That's awesome!

    Josh, I'm glad it was helpful!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thanks for a clear run-down. Another common writing pov is Close 3rd Person past combined with omnipresent. This way the author can reveal information without always having to pass it the MC's senses.

    ReplyDelete
  19. You're welcome Elle! Oh yes, thanks for those! My list is by no means complete, I forgot to say that. It's amazing how many different POV's there are!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I liked how you showed the first and third person present tense. I wasn't as sure about them. And it's nice to know someone else likes third person limited. Everyone seems to use first person.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Thank you for breaking it down like that. I'm partial to 3rd person omniscient but I didn't really know it until I read your post. :)

    ReplyDelete

Comments are like good friends, the more the merrier!