Tuesday, December 30, 2014

POINT OF VIEW: First Person vs Third Person

By Heather Moore
(Originally published April 26, 2007... but POV continues to be a struggle for many new writers)

If you just said, "Huh?" this blog is for you.

When we read a book, we don’t always pay attention to the point of view. Instead, we enjoy the story. But when you write a book, point of view becomes an integral method of telling the story through the character.

FIRST PERSON
First person point of view is almost always used in YA novels. Over the past several years, it has become increasingly popular in adult fiction, especially the suspense genre.

In Orson Scott Card’s book, Characters and Viewpoint, he says: “When you use a first-person narrator, you are almost required to tell the story in someone else’s voice—the voice of the character telling the tale.” (143)

1st person/present tenseGood Grief by Lolly Winston

On Halloween, angels and ghosts and pirates flock to my doorstep. A tiny pumpkin hoists her leg over the threshold and clings to my calf like a koala bear.
“No Jenny,” the baby’s mom says, and laughs. “We don’t live here.”
This is a busy year for trick-or-treaters. It’s only seven and I’m already running low on candy, since I never made it back to Safeway to load up. (p.34)

1st person/ past tenseLife of Pi by Yann Martel

My fellow castaway came into view. He raised himself onto the gunnel and looked my way. The sudden appearance of a tiger is arresting in any environment, but it was all the more so here. The weird contrast between the bright, striped, living orange of his coat and the inert white of the boat’s hull was incredibly compelling. My overwrought senses screeched to a halt. (p.160)

THIRD PERSON
Third person point of view is by far the most common and reaches across all genres and age groups. Third person has two methods: limited narrative and omniscient narrative.

Orson Scott Card says a reader is “led through the story by one character, seeing only what that character sees; aware of what that character thinks and wants and remembers, but unable to do more than guess at any other character’s inner life.” (155)

You can also change viewpoints with limited narrative, as long as you have a clear division like a scene break or new chapter.

3rd Person—Limited Narrative: At the Journey’s End by Annette Lyon (all in different scenes)

Maddie’s POV:
A rifle shot split the air with a crack.
The sound halted Maddie in her step, and she looked around for the source. Maybe Peter or James had bagged some game for dinner—a wild rabbit, perhaps. It would taste good after eating dried fruit and jerky for nearly two weeks. But something told her that wasn’t right. (1)

Clara’s POV:
Another coughing fit gripped Clara Franklin, one so intense she didn’t even reach for her handkerchief on the end table. Her frail body curled up against the pain piercing her chest with each cough. As the spell ended, she found her hands clenching the bedclothes like claws. She had to consciously release each finger and make her breath even out. (35)

Abe’s POV:
Taking his hat off, Abe entered the building and wiped his sleeve across his brow. He was tired of the heat. First Utah’s, now California’s. He knew he might as well get used to it, at least until he reached Snowflake. (55)

OMNISCIENT NARRATIVE:The narrator can see into more than one character’s mind, switching back and forth at will. (Card, 156)

3rd person—Omniscient: Skipping Christmas by John Grisham (all in the same scene, 77-79)

Nora's POV:
“I already have calendars for next year.” That was news to Nora, who was biting a fingernail and holding her breath.

Luther's POV:
Luther caught himself for a second and allowed his anger to settle in. As if buying a calendar was the only measure of his pride in the local police force.

Treen's POV:
Since Treen could think of no intelligent retort, he grew hot too and decided he would get Krank’s license plate number and lie in ambush somewhere . . .

And finally . . .
Before you start writing your novel, decide on which point of view you’ll use. Do you want the readers to see the entire book through just one character’s eyes? Then try 1st person. Are you writing a romance and want the POV of the heroine and the hero? Try 3rd person narrative. Just be sure that you don’t POV hop when writing either 1st person or in 3rd person narrative. When in 3rd person narrative, you can switch POV when there is a scene or chapter break.