Points of View: What and When

Everyone who has taken an English class has heard of Points of View in Literature. There are so many articles out there written about POV, I don’t really feel the need to write yet another one. This said, I will do a quick overview to refresh your memory.

What is POV

Point of View(POV) is a literary device used mainly in fiction writing. It’s used to help draw the reader into the story. There are three main POVs:

  1. 1st Person – Narrator’s Perspective “I”
  2. 2nd Person – Your Perspective – “you”
  3. 3rd Person – Someone Else’s Perspective – “he/she”

The above is a very simplistic definition. In my humble opinion, the best definition and examples can be found at Lit Charts.

When Should They Be Used

Now that you know what the different POVs are, you can decide which one(s) to use when. It all depends on the story you’re writing and what impact you want it to have on your reader.

A great many famous authors have used 1st Person POV to great effect, some of these being

  1. Samuel Clemens(Mark Twain) – Huckleberry Finn
  2. Herman Melville – Moby Dick
  3. F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby

This POV allows the reader to follow a great deal of action from the role of an observer, but they won’t be able to tell what the actors in the story are feeling/thinking unless it’s through the use of dialogue. Still, this POV has proven to make the above stories memorable to the reader.

2nd Person POV allows the reader to become the main character through the use of “you” as well as writing as if you, the reader, are seeing/hearing etc. what is going on. Some of the famous authors who used this are:

  1. Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Haunted Mind
  2. William Faulkner – Absalom, Absalom!
  3. Leo Tolstoy – Sevastopol Sketches

To me, this perspective brings the action closer, you can experience the story on a more personal level, especially when you can see what the main character is thinking and feeling without the use of dialogue. Horror stories are scarier, to me, when written in this POV.

3rd Person POV is the one a lot of writers use, and the following famous writers wrote some truly memorable stories using this literary device:

  1. J.M. Barrie – Peter Pan
  2. William Golding – Lord of the Flies
  3. Louisa May Alcott – Little Women

Of course, there are times when two or more POVs are used, and they can enrich the experience of the story being read. Some authors who have used multiple POVs are:

  1. Stephanie Oakes – The Arsonist
  2. Marie Lu – The Young Elites
  3. Morgan Rhodes – Falling Kingdoms

If done right and with a great deal of focus, the use of multiple POVs can make your book a best seller or a flop.

It just takes a bit of thought to decide what POV(s) your story needs and then, you need to be consistent. Constantly changing POVs without clear direction to the reader can leave them confused and exhausted. This means your story won’t get finished, the reader may not even go beyond the first chapter! Even with multiple POVs, you must be clear what’s going on.

I hope this was an interesting read for you this week.

See you on the flipside and don’t forget your towel and sonic screwdriver!

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