The Dilemma of POV

One of the first things most authors decide on before beginning a novel, short story, or poem is the point-of-view the work will be written in. However, I have come across a couple people who never heard the specific names of the various POVs, or knew why some might be considered "easier" than others.

Today, I will go over the three most common POVs used by writers, provide examples from published works, and mention some pros and cons of each.

First Person
In this POV, the narrator of the story is one of the characters involved in the plot, whether minor or major. Words like "I" and "me" are used to describe to describe the narrator's viewpoint. This is the most limiting POV, because it restricts all narration, thought, and bias to one character. However, it can also strengthen the bond between reader and character, because the reader will get to know the narrator so well. Here's an example from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins:

As we walk, I glance over my shoulder at Gale's face,
still smoldering underneath his stony expression.
His rages seem pointless to me, although I never say so.

Third Person, Limited
In this POV, the narrator only reveals the emotions and interior thoughts of one character, while relaying only external behaviors of the others. This makes it more similar to First Person, but allows for more freedom because aspects of the story not related to the main character can still be illustrated.
Words like "he," "she," and "they" are used to describe the action in the story. Here's an example from Fall of a Kingdom by Hilari Bell:

Jiaan wondered uneasily which of the commander's enemies
had bribed the priests to say it. And why.
No, he didn't envy his half sister.
Even if she was a silly, spoiled she-bitch.

Third Person, Omniscient
In this POV, the narrator is considered "all-knowing." This means that the narrator already knows how the story will end, what conflicts will happen along the way, and also what every character is feeling. Therefore, multiple viewpoints are available to the reader, and the author has the most freedom concerning how he or she wants to explain an event. The downside is that the author runs the risk of distancing the reader from the characters too much.
Words like "he," "she," and "they" are used to describe the action in the story. An example from a specific moment in the story would look very much like Third Person, Limited, while on overview would illustrate how multiple viewpoints are touched upon.

It's important to note that POVs can always be tampered with. There are many books where, for example, 3rd person limited is used, but each chapter is devoted to a different character's perspective. As long as it's not confusing for the reader, choosing a POV is just a guideline.

Happy writing,

1 comment:

  1. Nice and clear explaination. Thanks.

    I use 3rd person limited, but I did have a POV slip that I left intact. I just couldn't take it out because it said so much. The MC was in distress and looking away, and I had another character step toward her. The MC didn't see it, but I reported it anyway. A clear POV lapse, but sometimes you have to.