Point of View (POV) is one of the elements of every story and often it is the least discussed. Because the POV filters everything the reader learns in the story, it has a prominent position in storytelling. Through the POV used, the reader experiences the feelings, thoughts, and motivations of one or many characters depending on which POV the writer uses. The POV shows what the character knows, which is different than what the author knows. The POV used determines how the reader understands and experiences the story. Let’s take a look at the types of POVs that are acceptable in storytelling.
First Person POV
The first person POV is only seen in writing. No similar style of storytelling appears in theater or movies. This POV tells the story in the eyes of one character. It can be either the main character (First person) or a peripheral character (Peripheral first person POV) that tells the story only through their POV. Because the story only contains one person’s POV, it can be biased and incomplete. It tells how one person experiences the story, not the “whole” story. Hint: The pronouns used in this POV are “I,” “me,” and “my.”
Second Person POV
The second person POV is seen the majority of the time in nonfiction or instructional manuals. However, it can be used in fiction when the author wishes to make the audience part of the story, such as in a story where the reader decides on the ending. The author is directly addressing the audience. Hint: The pronouns used in this POV are ”You,” “You’re,” and “Your.”
Third Person POV
The third person POV is the most frequently used POV in fiction. With the third person POV the narrator is outside of the story and relates the story to the readers. This narrator is not involved in the story but tells of the actions and thoughts of the characters in the story. The author is talking about someone or something within the story. Hint: the pronouns used are “he” “she,” “it,” and “they.” There are three versions of the third person POV.
Third person limited is when the POV is limited to one person’s thoughts and feelings. The main character can be the conduit through which the story flows, or the story can come through another character further from the Main Character which then becomes the narrator.
The third person multiple is similar to Third person limited, but instead of one person’s thought and feelings, the narrator follows several characters. There is danger in this as the author must make sure not to confuse the reader. The switching of POVs must be carefully engineered to avoid ‘head hopping.’
Third person omniscient is when the narrator knows everything and has full access to the thoughts and feelings of all the characters. The author is like a god who knows all.
Whichever POV you use you must be consistent. A good rule of thumb is to establish the POV you are using within the first one or two paragraphs. The POV you choose reflects how intimate the reader will become to the characters. Most important? Pick the POV that serves your story the best.
What POV do you use the most? Comments are always welcome!