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Point of whose view?

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Many writers have a hard time figuring out which point of view to use in their books. Let’s break down some of these POVs to get a better understanding of them:

FIRST PERSON- this story is told through the limited point of view of your protagonist. In other words, this is your “I” story. Some of the advantages of this: you can dig deep into his/her mind, feelings…what makes them tick in other words. The disadvantage to this point of view, however, is that the first person “I” only tells the story from what he/she can see, what they are aware of in front of them. Mr. Smith waving the knife around about to attack  behind your character won’t be seen by “I” until it’s felt in his back.

THIRD PERSON: with third person point of view you are able to move along with the protagonist, hear his thoughts, see the scenery around him. You can also offer scene breaks with a different character's POV.

OMNISCIENT: you get to feel the inner feelings of several characters, describe their actions, yet a point of view a writer needs to be very careful when using. I’ve read several stories where the author jumped from one character’s head to the other, making it not only a confusing read but never allowing the reader to bond with any particular character.

For example:
Shelly couldn’t help it…she loved him. The way he looked at her, the way he touched her, everything about him appealed to her.
“Hope you like the gift,” Bruce said. He had searched everywhere for the right gift to let her know how much he loved her.
Shelly’s mom couldn’t help but feel giddy inside. She was so proud of her daughter. Finally, a man who truly cared for her daughter.

Now what’s wrong with that scene? Well, if I have to explain it then you’re probably making that omniscient mistake of using too many characters emotions within such a small passage. By jumping from one character’s head to the other, you are distancing your reader from that ‘bonding’ tie needed to connect the story and its happenings to one character at a time. However, when used correctly, the omniscient point of view can be helpful to give various views at different times. This applies to third person POV, too. The difference is in omniscient you see what the character sees but not what they are feeling, thinking emotionally compared to third person POV where you can really dig into a character's state of mind.

Now, there’s no golden rule to say you can’t break a rule…but make sure when you break the rule the outcome makes sense.

What I have done several times to figure out which point of view to use is this:

I write the first paragraph in first then third person point of view, then analyze them both. My main objective with this exercise is to figure out which point of view tells my character’s plight better, whether the action/drama to come would better suit a third person point of view than first. I already know who my main character is so now I need to figure out the best possible way to let the reader connect with him emotionally.

In various genres, like police drama, we have an author giving us two points of view in the story; one tells us the persistent search from the detective and another may demonstrate the killer’s POV. What this does is it adds suspense. We begin to connect with both main characters, feel the sinister thinking of the killer, and root for the detective on his search.

Choosing the right point of view is important and needs to be thought out the way you blue print your story and characters. If you use the Omniscient POV, make sure to distance the switching from one character’s POV to another within a scene.

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  • Mayra 5 years ago

    Thanks for the great article, Lea!

  • Carol DeVaney 5 years ago

    Thanks for the great article, Lea

  • Karen Cioffi 5 years ago

    Lea, this is one of my problem areas. With young children, it's easy - it has to be 1st person POV. But, I've been thinking of writing for other than children also and wonder what would be the best POV. This helped clear it up.

    Thanks for a great article.

  • A. F. Stewart 5 years ago

    A nice summation of POV. I don't have too much trouble with that myself, but I know it confuses some.

  • Cher Green 5 years ago

    Great article, Lea!

    Cher Green - Tarot Examiner

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