Thoughts On POV

You didn’t ask for it…but here it is! Some of my extended and specific thoughts on different point of view writing. (I’m not gonna lie: I had to look a couple of these up as a refresher)

Third Person- Strongest. I was thinking about why I like third person so much. I think it gives the story more credence. After all, history books are written in third person. A strong third person story can almost seem like history sometimes (The Lord of the Rings). There is an authority and respectability about it.

Third Person Omniscient- I have heard that this is difficult to do well. A lot of what I said above applies to this one as well. Tolkien really did a great job on this, especially after the Fellowship broke up. He jumped around from character to character, piecing together all the different parts to the story.

Third Person Limited Omniscient- I call this the more personal third person. The reader is more closely attached with one character, witnessing all the events that happen around them. It’s like you’re their best friend. You aren’t actually in their head hearing their thoughts, but they often share what they’re thinking. However, this POV is one step down on the “epic scale.” There is more focus on the journey of an individual and less focus on “the grand scheme of things.”

Second Person- I remember when my teachers taught me about second person narrative. They told me how it is rarely used in fiction and basically said, “You shouldn’t use it.” Of course the rebel inside of me wanted to go straight home and write a best seller in second person narrative. I was nine years old. It didn’t happen. Of course now I understand what they meant. In general, you don’t tell the reader a story about themselves. The best examples of second person narrative are the ones in which the narrator refers to the audience. Think of C.S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia (But I have also head this POV called “The Commentator”). He frequently makes asides to the reader. But the rest of the story is third person. (I just had a fun idea for a short story in second person! I am going to write it down!)

First Person-I feel like there is a wide spectrum of first person and am not sure I can state my general thoughts on it just yet. My instinct is that I don’t like, but there are exceptions to the rule. (Moby Dick, for example, is written in a combination of styles. Much of it is first person, some of it appears to be Commentative, but the narrator also communicates scenes between characters where he does not appear to be present. I guess Herman Melville can do what he wants!)

First Person Present Tense- I may have coined this one. A lot of people probably wouldn’t distinguish between FP present tense and FP past tense. The difference is, of course, that in present tense you experience everything at the same time as the narrator does. This one has become popular lately, especially in young adult fiction.

First Person Past Tense- Much preferable to FP Present Tense. The narrator is telling you of events that happened in the past and so he/she can often add in helpful commentary. A subdivision of this POV is the First Person Secondary Character (The Sherlock Holmes stories are told from Watson’s perspective). Sir Arthur Conan Doyle pulls this off very well. It is fascinating to observe Sherlock Holmes through the eyes of his friend.

These make up the main POV styles in my mind although I have heard of other ones (the Unreliable Narrator, the Secret Character, the Interviewer, the Detached Observer). A lot of those are clever stylistic techniques.

Did I miss any? What is your favorite POV?

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