A popular original post from 2007
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.
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 tense—Good Grief by Lolly Winston
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
“No Jenny,” the baby’s mom says, and laughs. “We don’t live here.”
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.
1st person/ past tense—Life of Pi by Yann Martel
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)
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)
A rifle shot split the air with a crack.
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)
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)
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.
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)
“I already have calendars for next year.” That was news to Nora, who was biting a fingernail and holding her breath.
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
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 . . .
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.