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Whose Point of View?
creator of your own fictional world, it is ultimately
your decision as to which character's point of view you
choose from which to tell your story.
Obviously, the vast majority of writers will tell their
story through the eyes of their hero. This will make your
hero your 'viewpoint' character, but selecting a point of
view (POV) to tell your story from is a slightly
This is the most common POV used by writers, usually told
in past tense. Incidentally, it is also the easiest to
master. The author tells the story solely through the
eyes of one main character and the focus should not shift
from character to character within any given scene.
The downside to this form of POV is that the reader can
only know what that character learns through interaction
with other characters, through overheard conversations or
through deduction conducted via internal monologue. The
author can not cheat in this POV and supply thoughts or
feelings from other characters.
rule of thumb: if your viewpoint character doesn't see,
hear, feel, touch or experience it, then he/she can't
know about it another character or situation offers up
Example: She was sure there was someone following her.
She walked faster, but the sense of foreboding closed in
around her like a cold hand clenching around her spine.
When she turned to look behind her, the street was
Person Multiple (or Author Omniscient)
This Point Of View is popular with epic fantasy writers,
in which a large cast of characters is at play, or in
works where a narrator relates parts of the story.
The story is told through the eyes of several major
characters, often shifting POV's at each chapter or scene
This has the benefit of showing the reader what is
happening with other sub-plots and lesser characters
before the hero knows about it. It also offers the
opportunity to allow the reader to see inside the
villain's plans for your protagonist.
In some cases, this POV can help to increase the suspense.
e.g. Your readers have the benefit of knowing something
is going to happen before your hero does.
To make the third person multiple POV work, it is
important to confine yourself to one
point of view per scene. Shifting from the perspective of
one character into another during the same scene can
Keep each scene separate by sticking to one point of view
and not jumping into another character's head until the
next scene - otherwise you risk confusing your reader as
to whose thoughts or actions he's reading.
One of the characters tells the story in the "I"
voice. This viewpoint can provide powerful emotional
insight and connection and even a sense of urgency.
Example: I was sure there was someone following me. I
walked faster, but the sense of foreboding closed in
around me like a cold hand clenching around my spine.
When I turned to look behind me, the street was deserted.
There are drawbacks to writing in first person, though.
When writing about the "I" character, you are
limited to only what that person sees, thinks or
learns. Another inherent problem with first person is
writing a scene in which the author is not comfortable
with the character's actions. For example, imagine
writing an intense love scene from the "I"
perspective, or perhaps describing a murder scene.
Although this POV looks the easiest to work with, it is
often the most difficult to master.
Second person POV is very rare these days because of the
attention it draws to itself. It also has the
disadvantage of sounding corny and rather contrived.
Told from the "You are..." perspective, and
often in present tense, it is extremely difficult to
Example: You are walking down the street. You know
there is someone behind you; you feel the cold hand of
fear grip your spine. When you turn to look behind you,
the street is deserted.
Nobody really likes to be told what they are thinking or
feeling. Second person can often come across to readers
in this manner, which jolts them out of your story and
reminds them that the author is trying to pull at his
Limited instances of second person can still be found in
use in Young Adult novels, most notably in the adolescent
"Choose your own Adventure" type of books.
More recently, some erotica novels are being written in
this form. If done correctly, this can give the author an
undeniable upper-hand when evoking auto-erotic thoughts
in a reader - after all, the reader is being told how he/she
is feeling about every action!
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