POV or Point of View can have a dramatic effect on your story telling. Picking the right one is crucial – knowing what’s available to you – even more so.
First Person: I personally use this one more than any other. It’s all ‘I’ and ‘Me’; for example,
‘I saw the shadow lurking in the corner’.
You are the character, in your writing you talk like them, act like them and react as the character. Some people will argue that with First Person the character is more likely to be just a facet of the author themselves rather than a separate being. If you have ever read any of my work, I really hope that’s not true! Writing horrors and supernatural romance the majority of my protagonists are kind of mean and warped and have a wicked sense of humor… ok, ok, I’ll admit to being a little warped!
The bonus of writing First Person is that there is almost an instant connection with the reader. It’s easier for a reader to slip on that character and live in your world. They get to hear all those crazy thoughts, experience all those bizarre feelings and also meet your supporting characters first hand.
The downside is that your scenes are limited only to when your main character is present; they can’t describe a scene they were never in – they can be told about what happened by another character, but they can’t give the reader a first hand account. Your reader is limited to the information your character has; but remember, you the writer don’t have to be limited to this! There are subtle ways of giving information to the reader that perhaps the character has not even picked up on: a sly comment by another character, an object that the main character didn’t even notice (but the reader would) there are a number of subtle ways of wedging in information for the reader, but not for the character.
Second Person is the lesser used perspective. It’s all ‘you did this’ and ‘you saw that’ – used a lot in songs and hard to make work in prose. I read a book once that used this perspective and found it hard to wade through, it came across really clunky and accusing – I think the only genre that this works well in is horror. Making the reader the center of the story can create an incredibly tense atmosphere from the get go. For example:
“You saw the shadow cross the hall. It dipped and ducked through your old furniture heading straight toward you…”
Third Person Limited is:
‘She saw the shadow dance across the stained walls.’ or ‘He felt the darkness grow cold around him.’
However its still limited to only one character’s perspective. It’s one of the most popular POVs in modern books and although has the benefits of both Third and First, it also has all the negatives too – no extra characters, no scenes without them etc. It can be fun to use and great if, as a writer, you want to distance yourself from your main character.
Third Person Omnipotent is where the prose knows all and tells all. Here you have total power over all the information that your reader is presented with. Great for when you want to include multiple character perspectives to enhance the story, but writer beware, by indulging in this you can very easily be drawn into a never-ending info dump that can lack cohesion and more importantly heart. If so much is going on with so many characters you need to be a very talented story-teller to make the reader feel for what’s going on, not get lost along the way, and be able to subtly find your theme.
Theme is sometimes the poor relation in creative writing so my next post will talk about the importance of having and choosing the right one for your market.
Oh, and by the way, as you’ve been reading this, that shadow has moved right behind you!