Saturday, June 9, 2012

Book in a Month Pt 14: Choosing a POV

Choosing POV or "Point of View"

POV Struggles
Wishing on Daisies is written in 1st person, but now I am wondering if it should be 3rd person limited. At some point during the writing process I always seem to have a struggle with POV. Did I choose the correct one? Should I change it? I have heard other writers struggle with the same issues. Dealing with this uncertainty can create frustration that sucks up valuable writing time. Here is the information I have gathered on the most popular POVs to help you decide which one would be best for your story.

Why so Tense?
  • Present tense has more immediacy but can be prone to drawing the reader out of the story if something doesn't sound right. 
  • Past tense is more common but lacks the sense of immediate "in the moment" feeling of action.

1st Person: 
Especially good for: YA novels
  • Emotionally engaging, and very intimate.
  • The story takes place from the main character's POV, everything that happens is from their personal perspective.
  • If the main character didn't experience it then it can't be in the story (unless it happened behind the scenes.)
  • It is important that the main character is likeable, since the reader will be in their head the whole time.
  • The story will be about one character, so it will not be as intimate with getting to know the other characters.
Examples: 1st Person Present Tense:
"No. This cannot be. Never. I enter the water defiantly and swim back to the underwater ridge. I dive and search. There must be others alive yet. I will save them." - From Sirena by Don na Jo Napoli

1st Person Past Tense
 "I'm Beth," I finally squeaked out.
"Hey, Beth"-he pointed his enormous hand at the duo, and I wondered how he could pick his nose with fingers that large"-From The Seven Rays by Jessica Bendinger

3rd Person Limited: 
Especially good for: romance novels, suspense novels
  • Can be as intimate as 1st but you can switch the POV from heroine to the hero’s perspective, or even the villain's.
  • The author can write in their own language as opposed to the characters, and describe what happens them with less of a filter of personality.
  • Sometimes a bit of distance is a good thing for the reader to enjoy the story, where first person drags them through the story with one character's perspective. 
  • If a reader disagrees with a character’s decisions or personality, there is a little more space so they don’t feel stuck in the character’s head. 

  • Each character will think differently and that needs to show. 
  • It may be easy to "head pop" between character POVs.
  • It is more distanced compared to 1st person.
  • It is best to try to use only one POV per scene.

Example: 3rd Person Limited
"He left his lights on. Going without backup into an isolated area after dark, he felt a familiar prickle between his shoulder blades. Sweat slid down his spine.
Get over it. Your on World's End. Nothing ever happens here.
Which was about all he could hand now.
He crossed the strip of trees, thankful this particular stretch of beach wasn't all slippery rock, and stepped silently onto the sand." -From Sea Witch by Virginia Kantra

3rd Person Omniscient: 
Especially good for: Epic novels involving the struggles of many characters, or characters in different places
  • It can go between different character perspectives.
  • It gives the story a sense of vastness and grandeur.
  • The author can go wild with descriptions and narration of their own, giving their own thoughts and perspectives on what happens in the story.
  • This POV is the most distanced from the characters, and the less intimate.
  • Too much POV switching can pull the reader out of the story, or confuse them.

Example: 3rd Person Omniscient
“The sacrifice is not of your body,” he explained. His voice was cold in the darkness. “I is…of my humanity.”
Then the knife lowered, and she found her voice. And scream-his name, protest of her love, a hundred supplications…but it was too late, by that point. Had been too late, since true night fell.
            There was no one listening.” - From Black Sun Rising by C.S. Friedman

So How Do I Choose?
Although it shouldn't be the only deciding factor, consider what the most common POV is in the genre you are writing for. Pull out some of your favorite books from that genre and see what POV they are. However, it is also important to choose POV based the needs of the story.

  • If you want to stick with one character, emphasizing their views, feelings, thoughts and voice and what they alone experience, consider 1st person.
  • If you want the feel and emotion of first but with a little more distance or with more flexibility to to add a second character's POV consider 3rd person limited. 
  • If you want multiple character POVs, in multiple locations to provide a grander scope consider 3rd person omniscient.

You can always test the waters. Write a scene in one POV then try in another and see which one you like better. What is your gut feeling?

 I am no expert on POV, so your input would be greatly appreciated! How do you choose POV?

Wishing on Daisies Progress
Current Progress: 8568 words
Chapter 1, 2, 3, 4 - Complete. 
Chapter 5 - Still in Progress


  1. I have struggled with this with every story I have written, usually multiple times per project. Honestly, I don't actually make a conscious decision about POV. Usually an idea will present itself to me with an obvious POV, and if it doesn't then I just sit down and just write and then see which POV I've written in lol.
    Congrats on the word count, that's brilliant :)

  2. I used to write 1st person past tense, but decided to try 1st person present tense with my current WIP.
    Then, I got gutsy and decided to throw in an alternate POV. So far, I'm loving the difference.
    I haven't tried 3rd limited or omni, but I'm curious to see how I'd do with it.

  3. I'm a big fan of 3rd person. (And always in the past tense. I dislike this new trend for present tense.) Yet when I write 3rd person, I almost always stick to the protagonist's POV. That way I can keep my own voice and not confuse the reader by head hopping. Omniscient is difficult to do properly, and I avoid it. Stick with what feels right. Yet if you're going the YA direction, I think first person is the way to go unless you truly need someone else's POV to add dimensions to the story.

    Keep on writing! :)

  4. I've mostly used 3rd person omniscient, without it being a conscious choice. Then I wrote a short story in 1st/past tense and really enjoyed it! The next novel length project (still a WIP) I tried in 1st person/past again and quite liked that as well. I think it's like Laura wrote; it comes to you as it comes and that's how you write it.

    PS: Andrea, I sent you an e-mail, hope to hear back from you soon about it! :-)
    Some Dark Romantic

  5. To me, it depends on what I want to show.
    If I want to portrait the heroes side of the story too, I go for 3rd ... if I know I'll stay only inside the heroine's head, then I go for 1st.
    The one I'm writing now is in 3rd cause I love my hero's thoughts LOL

    Keep in mind this is never definite. You can always change it, no matter if you're still writing or have already finished. It'll only take a little longer.
    I say stick with 1st, or change to 3rd from this point on and only fix the first part when the rest is done ;)

  6. I've written a lot in third person and first person, but only one of my published books is first person. I think it just depends on the feel and what that story needs. If I'm doing third person, however, I prefer to limit how many points of view I have. My co-author and I have a series of YA novels, and we decided early on that each book will have three points of view. My current novels (last one published and the sequel that I'm almost done writing) have two points of view, but I don't go back and forth between them. The books are divided in half, and one character gets the first half, and the second character gets the second half. In some ways, that's as limiting as first person, because everything that happens is strictly from that one character's point of view--it just happens to be third person.

    I've never written in present tense. I tried once, because I thought maybe one of my books would work better that way, but it totally didn't.

    I'm not a fan of omniscient POV. I've never written it, and when I'm reading it, it makes it REALLY hard for me to connect with the characters if the point of view is hopping around and the author's voice keeps coming in to narrate things to me.

    Do you have one that feels more right than the others? Sometimes you just have to dive in and go with might find later that it isn't working that way, and that you need to switch it, and that's okay! I often only know if something works if I try to write it.

    Good luck!

    P.S. Thanks for stopping by my blog today! ^_^

  7. For my first book, I thought a close third person POV was the way to go. Twelve thousand words later I knew it wasn't working. So, I rewrote it in first person and found the right voice. Sometimes you just have to try it on--like clothing--and see how it feels. lol

  8. that was a thorough lesson in pov! great job! and thanks! my thriller fit in 3rd closer, and my next one will be 1st, a ya paranormal. i like to challenge myself!

  9. Very informative post!

    As far as choosing a POV, I just have to play around with it a bit and see what feels right. It's trial and error.

  10. Thanks for this great information. I really needed it. Just starting a rewrite and am wondering what will work best.

  11. That was fantastic information! I wrote my book in 1st person and started rewriting in 3rd person limited. This was exactly what I needed to hear right now! Hopefully it will help me decide what's best.

  12. What a great idea for a blog series! I love doing character bios, off to check out the other post...

  13. Excellent post. I struggled a lot with POV. I was a horrible head hopper...still catch myself doing it a bit.

  14. POV has always been easy to figure out for me. If it's mainly about the journey about one character, then 1st. But if there are several main characters whose stories we need to see, then 3rd.

    Although I do have one that is dual 1st POV. (male/female). For me, I think I just prefer writing 1st, but I won't stick to it no matter what either.

  15. What a great post. This is something I have struggled with too. Like Elizabeth, one of my problems is that I find myself head hopping if not careful. I tend to write third person past tense though. I have another project in mind that might work best as first person present. Guess it's just what works best for the story.

  16. Hi Andrea, nice to meet you. What a super post. For my first few books, it was third person POV; these were all MG books. The current one I am writing is a YA book, its in first person present tense with 2 or dual POV's as I feel it will work better with both the main characters( a girl and boy) taking turns to narrate the story.
    I like the idea of writing a scene from different POV's to see what works better. I am definitely going to try it.

  17. Great post! I only wrote in 3rd person omniscient and was guilty of a lot of head hopping. My editor helped me to try 3rd person limited, and it was a struggle but I think it improved the novel. Then I tried first person for a YA short story and loved it--I found it easier. But I wonder if I would find it limiting if I tried a whole novel in first person. I think present tense would be VERY challenging. Good luck with your WIP!

  18. Wonderful post. I always write in first person. Several times I've tried changing, then somewhere along the way, I find myself in first person again, so I just give up and go with what comes natural.

  19. I generally like 3rd person best, but I have read some very good books that were written in first person. In my opinion, first person only works when the author has know how to do it well. I've seen too many beginning authors start out using first person when they're simply not ready for it yet.


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