When I’m writing a story I like to figure out what point of view I’m going to use. I feel that point of views are crucial to the storytelling because it changes depending on the narrator.
a specified or stated manner of consideration or appraisal; standpoint.
an opinion, attitude, or judgement.
the position of the narrator in relation to the story, as indicated by the narrator’s outlook from which the events are depicted and by the attitude toward the characters
First person POV:
First person means that the experience or the story is being told first hand. It might be the main protagonist or someone else crucial to the story. You get to know the narrator’s thoughts, feelings, and concerns as the story goes on. What’s fun with first person POV is that the narrator’s thoughts don’t always have to be “correct”, meaning their telling of the story can be skewed to how they perceive it. With this point of view we don’t get to know what the other characters are thinking or feeling. We don’t get to see what the narrator behaves like to the outside world.
As a reader, we fall into the trap of the narrator can do no wrong and everyone else is either wrong or bad. A lot of authors love tricking the readers into that point of thinking and then when that character does something horrific it’s a bit jarring. That’s known as the unreliable narrator. We can’t trust our narrator to tell us the truth… we have to figure it out ourselves.
I love writing in first person POV. It’s a lot of fun because I’m acting out as a different person. I have all these thoughts that aren’t my own and it’s like I’m just writing down a story that someone is telling me. A lot of the times my first person POV is coming from my main protagonist. So, sometimes I feel like my character and I are in a therapist office and they are lying on the chaise lounge recanting a story about their life. When I write stories in first person, it’s usually because they won’t leave me alone until I write down what they have to say. I swear this actually happens!
I really love it when I get a character that just randomly pops in my head with a full blown backstory or an event that occurred to them. It makes the writing part fun! I have to figure out the five W’s and H of this person/event.
Who are you?
Why did this happen?
Where did this happen?
When did this happen?
How did you feel?
These questions usually get an answer from either me just making it up or my character “explains” it.
Seriously… don’t look at me like that. I’m pretty sure if you ask other authors how they come up with their stories, they’d say the same thing, “My character wouldn’t shut up until I wrote it down!”
Now if you notice, I keep switching between main character or narrator when I’m talking about this. I don’t mean to make it sound confusing, but there are a ton of books written in first person POV that aren’t the main character (protagonist) of the story. For instance, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you haven’t read this story — or watched the recent (2013) film, then… spoilers:
We are being told a story about this guy named Jay Gatsby and his obsession over Daisy Buchanan through the eyes of his new neighbor for the summer, Nick Carraway. This whole story is of Nick telling a story of his meeting of Gatsby and the intricate dirty details of the past and present Gatsby.
F. Scott Fitzgerald did a wonderful job with having Nick be the narrator of the story. He comes in from the Midwest, bright-eyed and as the story goes on his views of NYC changes. He realizes that all that glamor and glitz cannot buy you happiness. Even if hundreds of people attend your party that doesn’t mean they’ll attend your funeral. We know Nick’s character arc, but it wasn’t his story that he was telling. It was Jay Gatsby’s.
I’m hoping to be able to write a story like that at some point in my life. I didn’t really appreciate the writing as much when I was in high school and forced into reading it. As I got older and I look at it again with a writer’s perspective I have learned to appreciate it.
This is literally #writergoals for me.
Second person POV:
I don’t even want to talk about second person POV because I don’t use this… ever.
But here it is:
This belongs to the person who is being addressed… so mainly it’s the reader… YOU.
The POV can be found with Choose Your Own Adventure stories: “First, you… then you… what do you do?”
Third person POV:
Third person is used when the narrator is not the main character of the story. The pronouns used are mainly “She/He/It”. This is most commonly used in novels.
here are three types: Limited, Omniscient, Multiple.
Out of these three I use limited. Limited means that the narrator is following just the main protagonist and we only know what the main protagonist knows. We can view the actions of that protagonist and their thoughts. It’s almost like it’s first person, but we’re not using the “I/We” as pronouns.
I don’t know why I use this type of narration when I write. I just like it. I love adding little things about the character’s personality that you wouldn’t normally notice in a first-person POV. For instance, the protagonist had a nervous tick; maybe they twirl their hair when they’re embarrassed. It’s something instinctual that the narrator wouldn’t point out in first-person, unless they’re conscious of that action.
I know that I play with my hair a lot when I talk and I’m nervous… and when my anxieties act up I really need to play with something — my necklace, my hair, whatever I can reach first. There could be something else that I’m not conscious about and I wouldn’t be able to tell you until someone points it out to me.
The other third person types are as followed:
Omniscient: The narrator knows everything. They’re omniscient. They know what’s happening to anyone within the story. They can talk about what’s going on in the story — maybe even add a side story, they can see into anyone’s minds, etc. Basically, things are happening and they can tell you.
Multiple: This is when there are multiple POVs told in one story. They’re usually differentiated by chapters or section breaks. I think the best way I’ve seen it done is by chapter breaks. It gives the reader a chance to transition. Whenever I read a novel that has two or three characters and they change POV within the chapter I usually have to go back and figure out when that happened! I’m also terrible when I read because I just plow through, so it might partially be a “me” thing.
My Work in Progress (WIP):
I know I’ve talked about this in my other post… but I’m going to be a bit more in depth here.
In my novella I’m using two POVs. I have first person for one of my protagonists and third person limited for the other. I did it this way because one’s personality shined best told through first person. I tried doing it through third and they seemed dull. I loved having their side of the story told through their perspective.
With the other protagonist, the third person limited fit their storytelling better. I wanted to show the environment and the world the protagonist was stuck in. It also made it easier to show the mental illness and how it was affecting their life.
I differentiated each POV by chapter. When I first started writing my WIP, I was only going to tell the story through one protagonist with the first person POV. Then, as I was writing I felt that the story was missing an element and it was the character that the first protagonist was talking about. I felt that the other side of the story needed to be addressed. I first started writing the second protagonist with first person POV, but it didn’t feel right. Literally three-quarters of the way writing the second protagonist sections, I went back and changed it to third person limited — and I changed tenses with both POVs as well.
It was — dare I say — a ballsy move on my part. I could have had them both tell their stories in their respective point of views, but reading them over, it didn’t seem to do the story justice. There isn’t a lot of novels out today that switch between first and third person. I’ve only read one and that’s what inspired me to try it.
It’s been a fun experience and I can’t wait to experiment more when it comes to POV and storytelling.
Thanks for reading!