Saturday, March 2, 2013

Craft Choice: Point of View

When composing a narrative, one must examine point of view.  There are many different types, some of these are rather common while others are obscure and typically only attempted by the masters of craft.  This is meant as a refresher for POV since most of us, if not all of us, are familiar with and have written in the vast majority of different POVs.
  • Third Person Limited: 'he' or 'she' is used to denote a POV character and it is through this character that we experience the story.  We see through his/her eyes.
  • Third Person Unlimited or Multiple: the POV character changes throughout the story usually by chapter.  In one chapter we experience things through character A and then in the next we experience it through character B and so on.
  • Third Person Omniscient: it still uses 'he' and 'she' but now the narrative voice is above and beyond a single character.  We see through the eyes of every character and 'head pop.'  It can be difficult to do this and keep the audience clear and who's head we are in and when.  
  • First Person: 'I' is used and the POV character is the narrator.  
  • Second Person: 'You' is used and the narrative tells 'you' what to do or what you are feeling.  This is mainly used in 'how to' type writing and text books.  The choose your own adventure tales also employ this technique.
These are the building blocks of narrative and once you learn to use them, you are more than welcome to abuse them.  Mix it up!  Jonathan Stroud's Bartimeaus Trilogy employs the use of third person multiple as well as first person depending on which character's head we are in.  

In college (undergrad) I had a professor who stated most adamantly that female authors should only write from the POV of female characters and male authors should only write from the POV of male characters.  He also said that most, if not all, stories should be written in third person limited and keep with one character throughout the entire novel.  Recently, during grad school, I met several accomplished and aspiring authors who awakened me to the freedom we have in writing.  They encouraged me to play with POV and also reaffirmed my belief in the commonality of human experience, a.k.a women can write men and men can write women.  For me, being given a sort of permission to mix up POVs and play with alternating POV characters in a story, was extremely liberating.  I encourage our contributors and readers to never feel limited in delivery.

Please visit the following sites for other definitions and explanations of POV: The Beginning Writer, Humboldt.Edu, and Learner.Org.  For further discussion on this topic, comment below!

Amanda LaFantasie (Skoora) © 2013


  1. People used to really go at me for 3rd person Omniscient. "You're head popping again and you need to stick to one character, your main character's head", they would tell me. I could see their point but I really hated it. Now, I don't know if could go back to it. I like 3rd person Multiple and I like 3rd person limited. I hate 1st person.

  2. I'm thankful none of my teachers ever forced that third person limited idea on anyone's writing. In fact we were forced to try out omniscience because as far as my teachers were concerned that is the hardest one to do well. We were and still are forbidden from touching typical second person. There are a few minor exceptions to this rule that we are permitted to use, such as a limited form of second person that Daniel Orozco employs that works very well. From what I've seen of second person, I have to agree with the restriction. Only very talented writers can pull it off and not make it sound like a heap of unintelligible garbage. Of course there are always exceptions. I have been enjoying playing around with POV a great deal recently.

  3. Lulz. Anyone who thinks females should only write POV of female characters never met Gabe, Lionel and Zolf, eh?

    I would have reminded that professor of the saying, "Those who can't write, teach." xD Nothing against teachers, but, you know what I mean. xD

    Seriously, I can hear every character I've ever written laughing in my head right now.

  4. I'm like you, Hannah. I hate 1st person. I find that the supporting characters are more interesting than the main character.

    I think that I write more 3rd multiple and omniscient than anything else. I have a ton of characters, and I like playing with them. I think readers need to know what is going on in the character's head - but I think a lot of that comes from reading 1st person works like Laurel K Hamilton. I find her "support" characters more interesting than her main character.