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How to Handle Point of View (POV)

Using the proper Point of View (POV) and staying consistent throughout your manuscript can be challenging for new authors. In this post, I will try to simplify the process and offer some suggestions on how you might handle the concept. We’ll start off with the basic definition:

Point of View (POV) is the narrative voice through which you tell a story.

Now, let’s take a quick look at the four primary narrative approaches for fiction:

1. First-person POV.

In this approach, you tell your story from your protagonist’s perspective throughout – “I walked into the bar…,” “I saw her standing there alone…,” “When she walked by, I stood up to greet her….” This approach can be great if your story is centered entirely around one character’s experiences.

2. Second-person POV.

In this approach, you are being told the story directly. I have never personally read a good fiction novel written with this approach, but the potential exists to make a fun flip-book, the kind where you make a decision and turn to the appropriate page. For example, “You see a homeless man begging for change on the street corner. Do you give what you can afford (see Page 39) or walk on by (see Page 63).”

3. Third-person POV, limited.

Narration in this approach comes from the author as he or she leads the reader through the experiences of the characters – “He shot the man in cold blood…,” “She couldn’t deal with the pain…,” or “He wondered what would come next.” In commercial fiction, this approach is the most prevalent.

4. Third person POV, omniscient.

This approach is very similar to third-person limited in that it is still “he” and “she.” The difference is in the author’s access to his characters’ thoughts and personal experiences. While this approach can offer richer character development, it can be a dangerous path to take in that the readers may become confused if it is not executed with skill.

The selection of a POV for your novel is based on two things: the type of story you are trying to tell and your personal preferences as an author. You have the creative freedom to take whichever approach best suits your needs and style. However, once you have selected a POV, you must stick with it throughout!

Shifting POV mid-story will throw readers off in a big way and no reputable publishing house will consider your work if you do. If you always write using the same POV, then it will become second nature to stay consistent. However, if you mix up your POV narration from book to book, you have to stay on your toes.

Personally, I almost always stick to the third person. Most of my writing is third-person limited while I occasionally dabble with the more dangerous but compelling third-person omniscient. In my experience, this approach makes for the richest read and allows multiple characters to pop.

If you would like to read an example, my first book, Rebirth, is written in the third person omniscient. My second book, The Drift, is written in the third person limited with a few moments of omniscience.

Very rarely can an author pull off multiple POV approaches in a single novel, but it has been done. When it is done right, it can be highly compelling, but I don’t recommend it until you’ve mastered the concept.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to properly use point of view in your works, then check out the links I’ve included below. Whenever I post, I always try to include useful items on the topic for my readers. If you found this post useful, then please give it a “like” and don’t forget to subscribe.

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