An authors guide to points of view in writing – this might be a bit basic but I was trying to think what building blocks for starting your story would be helpful and this was the first one that came to mind. You’d be surprised what a difference the POV can make in a narrative and it’s a powerful tool when you do it right.
Let’s start with the basics:
- First Person
This is an intimate style of narration using first person pro-nouns (I/ we), from this POV the reader will only know what the narrator knows.
There’s several ways this can be used, in horror it can be used to relate the events in an up close, intense style (think Blair Witch style of film but as narration). Or your narrator can be removed from the action, describing events happening to your main characters. Another way this can be used is a ‘stream of consciousness’ style of narration, like Charlie in Perks of Being a Wallflower (the book), where Charlie’s narration gradually gets more erratic and chaotic as his mental health deteriorates.
Essentially, this is a tool that you can use to withhold or give information, in order to create certain affects on the reader’s emotions.
E.G ‘As I walk into the room, Christina glances at me, before quickly looking away, frowning and biting her lip. I almost decide to ignore her and grab a drink from the table instead but I can’t help notice that Greg had caught her eye and they were discreetly making their way out of the party. Anger burns through me and decide to follow them.’
- Second person
This style of narration uses second person ‘you’ pronouns but is pretty uncommon in novels and so I don’t have an examples to give you from what I’ve read personally. In this way of narrating the speaker is addressing the reader ‘you will remember’, ‘you will see’ and is a way of making the reader feel personally involved in the narrative, as they are being directly addressed. However, I’m not sure that would be super easy to keep up for a longer story.
E.G ‘As Amy walks into the room, you will notice that Christina glances in Amy’s direction, bites her lip and frowns. You will see her decide not to bother pursuing the look until Amy catches Greg and Christina’s exchange a look before making their way out of the room. It will not surprise you to know that she quickly starts to follow them out of the party.‘
(this style is NOT my strong suit, sorry)
- Third Person
This is one of the most common styles of narration, using third person she/he/they pronouns.
E.G ‘As Amy enters the room, Christina catches her eye briefly, before glancing away, biting her lip and frowning. Amy pauses, watching her for a moment, indecision written across her face until she notices Christina and Greg begin to make their way out of the party.’
It is subdivided into:
–Third person omniscient
This narrator knows everything and can switch between all characters thoughts and feelings. How much this omniscient speaker reveals can once again be used to manipulate the plot and emotions. This type of narrator can also offer their own thoughts and feelings on the narrative.
E.G. ‘As Amy enters the room, Christina catches her eye briefly, before glancing away, biting her lip and frowning. Christina swore under her breath and desperately tried to get Greg’s attention. When he finally notices her, he nods towards the exit and she breathes a sigh of relief, starting to follow him out; finally, the ‘big secret’ was about to come out. Amy had been hovering hesitantly in the entrance, unsure whether to pursue the look but as she watched them exchange glances, anger flashed in Amy’s stomach; she had known there was something going on between them. Amy pushed through the crowd, hurriedly trying to follow them as they made their way out of the party.’
–Limited third person
This is when the narration sticks to one characters POV, so the reader only knows this particular characters thoughts, feelings and viewpoint of events. This is very similar to the first person but uses third person pronouns.
E.G ‘As Amy enters the room, Christina catches her eye briefly, before she glances away, biting her lip and frowning. Amy had been hovering hesitantly in the entrance, unsure whether to pursue the look but as she watched them exchange glances, anger flashed in Amy’s stomach; she had known there was something going on between them. Amy pushed through the crowd, suppressing hot, burning tears as she hurried to follow them as they made their way out of the party.’
If we were to elaborate this further we could talk about the types of narration you can employ using these different points of view. Such as:
This type of narrator either deliberately withholds information from the reader, to give a screwed or biased view point on events, or they are relating a false narrative based on incorrect or assumed information that they have. This is something most writers will include to some extent but it can create a real plot twist at the end if used overtly throughout (think of the Sixth Sense film as an example within movies).
This can be written in first, second and third points of view.
Side note- I am guilty of being a major over explainer when I write, so this is one that I really struggle to do well.
-the witness/ peripheral narrator/ fly on the wall
This type of narration appears under a few different names from what I could find but essentially it is an objective observer (almost like a camera) who offers no insight into the inner workings of a character’s mind (beside physical descriptions of emotion or action) or events in the narrative.
Surprisingly, this can be written in first as well as third person but it would be extremely tricky to do in first, I think.
Final thoughts- how do you choose?
First, consider your plot and how the sequence of events will unfold, which one would best help you tell it?
-What tense will you be relating these events in? Did this happening in the past and if so, does your narrator know everything already? Are they happening right now, unfolding as the narrative is told?
Second, think of your main character(s), which type and style of narration would best capture their personality, their character arc and their function within the narrative?
Third, what world are you trying to build? Is there certain vital information that will be harder to describe in one view point over another?
Fourth, consider the genre you are writing in- most genres have their own staples, what is typical and preferred by that type of reader?
Lastly, which one are you the strongest, or the most comfortable writing in? I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to write outside of your comfort zone but why make things more difficult when you are completing your first big project? Experimenting and practice is great for smaller creative exercises but it might be disheartening at first to set out to do something bigger in a style you are not comfortable with.
To conclude, here is a couple writing memes to lighten the mood:
Did you enjoy this? Are the writing basics helpful? I might do more of these but I need to know if they’re actually liked *HINT* LIKE THE POST PLEASE