Point of View: The Most Important Decision You Will Make

By Amy Giuffrida

Point of view is not only the first thing you decide about your story, but it is also the most important. This is the voice and perspective that will tell your story. It will affect everything from page one until the very end.

Some writers will tell you that their characters speak to them. But even if they don’t, once you know who will be narrating your story, then you are able to choose HOW.

First Person Point of View

This is the most emotional way to tell a story—through the eyes of “I” or “me”. Novelists use this to limit the viewpoint down to a single character and tell their story. This type of POV is found more in young adult novels, than adult fiction.

There is bias in first person point of view. The reader tends to sympathize with the character, whether he/she is reliable to not. That makes the reading experience exciting, because these are the characters that share their depth and unique perspectives with the reader.

Second Person Point of View

As traditionally reserved for non-fiction, second person POV is gaining popularity in fiction. Using “you” and “your,” the reader becomes the protagonist. This makes the story personal by pulling the reader into the action. This is where the narrator speaks directly to the reader. A perfect example in fiction is the Choose Your Own Adventure Books.

Third Person Point of View

This is the MOST popular point of view in adult fiction. Writers use this to inform the reader about the entire scene. What is important is that the reader sees everything–mostly the facts. There are two different ways a writer can attack a novel using this viewpoint: 

  • Third Person Limited: tells the story through one character—what he, she, him, or her—sees, hears, and thinks. You only know what the character knows, which can be from inside the character’s head or information that the narrator has.
  • Third Person Omniscient: this viewpoint encompasses an all-seeing perspective. It is still told through “he” or “she,” but the narrator has complete access to the thoughts and experiences of all characters in the story.

Multiple Points of View

Some authors believe that all of their characters need to be heard. Doing this creates a web that writers can use to connect actions, thoughts, and feelings to one central idea. The messy part of this is to make sure to distinguish when perspectives change. Often this is completed by the use of ### between scenes or using the character’s name as a chapter title. No matter which you prefer, it is imperative that the writer is very clear when the perspective changes.

It is important to remember is that once you choose a point of view, stick with it. Even when switching characters, consistency is key. If you being writing your story in first person, don’t change to third person point of view later on. Not only will this create confusion for the reader, but it can also break down the trust you want to build with your audience.

So, before writing, think about what you want to convey to the reader and choose the point of view that will best accomplish this goal.

Amy Giuffrida is an assistant with Holloway Literary.  Follow her on Twitter @kissedbyink.