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What is Point of View (POV)

Point of view (POV) is simply a term to describe who is telling the reader the story and from what perspective.  There are plenty of resources out there to help with POV because it is an essential technique to understand when writing fiction.  Some go into great detail and divide and sub-divide POVs based on distance from or closeness to the reader.  But for practical purposes, I’ve found that there are 3 basics POV levels that writers work with.

First person – This is the “I” POV where the main character presents the story directly to the reader.  It is the easiest POV to begin writing in because the “I” perspective keeps the writer focused in the main character.  It also has the advantage of letting the reader identify quickly with the main character.  The main drawback is that using a single character as the focus of the story means the important events have to focus around that character.
Example:  <a href=”http://http://www.fictionwise.com/ebooks/eBook17089.htm”>Agatha Christie “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd”</a>

Third person – This is the he/she POV.  We follow one character at a time and experience only what that character experiences, but from a he/she perspective instead of the “I” perspective. This provides a little distance from the main character.  Third person is more difficult to master than first person because there is a tendency to wander from the single character POV into other character’s thoughts (ie head hopping).  But third person does offer more flexibility than first person since author can more readily insert narrative comments or change POV characters.  But keep in mind, that in a good third person story, the POV characters only shift when there is a scene change or chapter change.
Example:  <a href=”http://http://www.fictionwise.com/ebooks/eBook21181.htm”>Agatha Christie’s The 4:15 from Paddington</a>

The omniscient or narrative POV – This technique relies on an external narrator who tells us the story and provides details about the story or the characters.  This narrator can present us with any character’s thoughts and actions at any time.  The advantage to this one is the ability for the author to be anyone, anywhere within the story at any time.  But this is the most difficult of POV techniques to master or even use well.  If not used with expert skill, the reader can feel overwhelmed or become disconnected from the characters.
Example: <a href=”http://http://www.fictionwise.com/ebooks/eBook9456.htm”> Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility  </a>

When you tackle a novel, you want to start out with a POV that will carry you through the story.  Some stories or genres work better with different POVs.  Some authors work primarily within one point of view throughout their career while others may experiment or change techniques.  Agents and publishers these days look for a well-established POV at the very beginning of the novel.  But this doesn’t mean that you have to learn to handle all the different POVs out there, since a well-controlled third person POV can meet the needs of almost any novel.

1 Comment

  1. March 13, 2016    

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