- Guest Post by Pavarti K Tyler
What point of view to write from is a really personal decision. Some authors have a preference for one over another, me, I find that the stories dictate which POV I use and I’m comfortable writing in either. However, there are some rules and pitfalls with all the options.
First Person – (I walk) first person is when you write from the “I” perspective. I think, I walk, I feel. When writing in first person, it’s essential you remember that you can’t include anything other than what the character experiences. That means no foreshadowing, no little hints at what another character really means. There are ways to include these things, but they all have to be from the reality of your main character, so that foreshadowing becomes not a note to the reader, but something the character thinks, and now you have to include that suspicion in their future understanding of events.
Pros – First Person is extremely immediate. You exist in the moment with the main character. This, when done well, immerses the reader in the world of the story. It’s also commonly considered the easiest POV to write. I don’t agree, but I’ve seen it all over the place so there may be some merit to this.
Cons – First Person is often looked down on by the literary elite as the “lazy” way to write. It’s also taken over the YA genre almost completely, making readers assume that first person books are appropriate for younger readers.
Second Person – (You walk) Very few people do this. Personally, I love second person. Second person is when the authorial voice speaks directly to the reader directing them in each moment (think Choose Your Own Adventure Books). Someday I’d like to write something this way but it’s tricky to find the right story for this voice though, as some part of your readership is likely to be alienated by not being able to relate.
Pros – Second Person is unique and will make your story stand out.
Cons -This is probably the hardest POV to write effectively. Also, it can become tedious if you don’t keep the action moving forward. Best used for short pieces.
Third Person – (He/She/It walks) For 3rd I’m breaking out into three sub categories:
3rd Person Omniscient3rd Person Close POV (UK Version)
3rd Person Close POV (US Version)
Cons – Difficult to maintain consistently and can lead to an overly didactic “Authorial Voice”
Cons – The danger of head-hopping (detailed below) is one that can destroy even the best written book with critics and readers alike.
3rd Person Omniscient – One of the hardest POVs to pull off, primarily because people don’t understand it. This isn’t just true for readers but writers as well. A well written third person omniscient piece is an undertaking of time and style. In 3rd Person Omniscient the narrator knows all, everything to come and everything that happened before. Writing in this way and still maintaining a relationship between the reader and the character is very tricky.
Pros – Allows for a highly stylized and traditionally considered “literary” feel.
3rd Person Close POV – Close POV indicates that you are deeply immersed in the character’s experience of the world. This is very similar to writing in first person, in that the narrative cannot include things the character would know or experience directly. The difference is that different sections can belong to different characters (like George’s POV in Chapter 1 and Clementine’s POV in Chapter 2). This allows the reader insight the characters might not possess, often leading to a heightening or tension.
Pros – Allows for multiple POVs within a book but maintains the intimacy and relationship created through close point of view. More common for Adult Literature and viewed as for a more mature readership.
(UK Version) vs (US Version) – Head-hopping is a highly contested issue in Third Person narratives. In the UK and Australia, head-hopping is not seen as such a great offence. However in the US market, which is the dominant international market, head hopping is a giant no-no. Usually head hopping involves some thought or insight from a secondary or minor character within a section dedicated to another character’s POV. While the UK Version of 3rd Person Close POV seems to be a middle ground between 3rd Person Close POV (US) and 3rd Person Omniscient, it is a distinction rarely recognized by critics or reviewers. For good or bad the American style is the standard which should be adhered to even by non-American authors. To read more about head hopping check out this article on Awesome Indies: http://awesomeindies.net/2012/09/30/head-hopping-was-is-it-and-whats-wrong-with-it/)
I don’t necessary write in just one POV. Each story has its own reasons for being written in the way it was. For White Chalk, the novel I’ve just released, I chose to write it in First Person. The reason for this is because the story itself is not overly complicated. There aren’t twists and turns and car chases and international intrigue. It’s actually a very simple story about a girl, not unlike myself, who’s struggling to find her way through the chaos of her existence. By writing in first person, I was able to explore her inner world, her perceptions and experiences, in a way which draws the reader in. The experience becomes the focus more than the plot details.
Do readers have a preferred POV? There are standards amongst genres (YA = 1st person, Horror = 3rd person, etc.) and while they aren’t hard rules, I do notice many authors fall inside those rules. Does the POV affect readers choice in what book to read? I’d love to know!
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Genre – Literary Fiction/Coming of Age
Rating – R (15+)