It’s All About Your Point of View

I’m happy to say that my computer is back from repairs and working just fine! I think that now, I have a deeper appreciation of a large screen, faster processing speed, and the words showing up at the same time as I type them on the keyboard. The poor little laptop that I was using as a replacement (which is quite old at this point) didn’t seem prepared for me to copy an entire extract manually from my writing book onto the computer.

All of my docs are fine, so the next time I plan on putting something from there into one of my posts it should go a lot faster. That’s not what I am going to be doing for today, however. Instead, I’ll be writing about points of view in writing.

This won’t be new information, but as a preface, there are four different POVs: first person, second person, third person limited, and third person omniscient.

First person: The main character is the narrator. The pronoun “I” is used.

Second person: The story addresses you, the reader. Likewise, the pronoun “you” is used.

Third person (limited): The narrator has access to the thoughts and feelings of a character, or maybe that character and a couple more. It acts as an outsider view that retells their experiences. The pronouns “he” or “she” are usually used.

Third person (omniscient): The narrator has access to the thoughts and feelings of every character in the story. Same pronouns are used, though.

First and third person POVs are the most common in fiction. Second person tends to be difficult to weave into a whole story. Still, each of them have their own advantages.

First person point of view has possibly the most potential to be connected to the character. It is great for inner monologues, because that will come naturally while writing, and it is also great for humour. That, or something with more emotional depth, allowing you to get close to the narrator. While all POVs (except omniscient, which would be difficult unless you restrict it correctly) can work as unreliable narrators, I feel like first person is the best for it, since it gives a lot of room for in-universe reasons that the character might be misleading. A few examples are: the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan (along with the other series set in that universe), The Thief, Thick as Thieves, and a bit of A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner, the Shadow and Bone trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera, etc. I’ve used it a couple of times myself, such as in Thief, and of course I’m writing in first person right at this moment.

Once again, the second person point of view can be tricky. I haven’t personally seen it in a lot of places, save for maybe some music or poetry. I think, though, that this POV has a great opportunity to be haunting, or reach the reader in an interesting way. It would probably work best in a short story or, as mentioned before, in music or poetry, instead of in a novel. One example I can think of that is easy to find on the Internet are the reader-insert fanfictions that float around, but as for published stuff: Stolen by Lucy Christopher, Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney, The Night Circus by Ryan North, etc. These are all novels I found from Google, however, this short post includes a snippet of something I wrote in second person as a bit of a joke.

When it comes to limited third person points of view, it is much less difficult to think of examples than for second person. It can also be said to be closer to a first person style than the omniscient POV. The narrator isn’t a part of the story (at least most of the time, although in some cases the narrator is made into their own character), but can still recount what is going on inside the selected character’s head and “see” what they are doing. I’m not sure how many characters the narrator can have insight for before it is considered to be omniscient, however, it’s safe to say that this POV is very anchored to its protagonist. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, as far as I remember, is limited third person, since it focuses on how Meg Murry is experiencing their adventures. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling includes some chapters featuring a variety of characters’ POVs, but for the most part it, too, sticks with Harry’s own inner monologue. This is the POV I tend to use lately, and the most recent example of that is the “Archers” story, here and here. The character Aylwin is the only one you ever hear from narration wise.

Third person omniscient is like the VIP of points of view, with full access to everything. It will tell you what the protagonist is thinking, what the antagonist is thinking, what the supporting character is thinking, even what that random person on the street is thinking. No one is safe. Depending on the author’s preference, which character is being fully narrated will be divided into chapters, or switch whenever it’s convenient during the story. It definitely allows for more flexibility when it comes to how the writer wants the reader to view events. The Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novels by Douglas Adams are great examples of this, although I’m sure they used omniscient in their other works as well. These two authors often switch who is in control, and the shift can be extremely quick. In some books it’s more present than in others. Leigh Bardugo, on the other hand, uses omniscient writing in the divided by chapters style, as seen in the Six of Crows duology. I don’t use it enough to have my own examples, though.

Four POVs, but dozens of ways they play out in stories. Each give their own subtle changes to the narrative, so often changing who the point of view is from – or even the style of it – can make it entirely different. In fact, that is said to be a great writing exercise when you’re stuck. I lean more towards third person limited, but anyone else might prefer omniscient, first person, even second person. Maybe a variety of all four.

In the end, the moral of the story is: points of view in literature are a diverse sort of thing, and writing this post with my own laptop back was like a breath of fresh air.