When you’re writing a novel, one of the first decisions you must make is about the narrator. Who will be the one telling the story? How will they do it? Why?
You’ll face many options, such as: should my narrator be someone external to the story, narrating it in the third person? Should they be the main character, talking in the first person? Or another character completely? Should I have more than one narrator throughout?
Point of View
The most common choice is for you to have just one narrator, despite the fact that many successful books, even some classics, had more than one, having a single narrator is still true for the majority of stories out there.
You can have an external narrator talking in the third person while he’s explaining everything that takes place. He might be like a god, knowing everything that is happening everywhere, or he might be just like a follower of one of two characters, being as surprised as you are for some of the events or how they unfolded.
Another way of telling your story is to give a voice to a character. This is called point-of-view character and with this option, your reader will see, hear, and possibly think, what your character is seeing, hearing and thinking.
The choice of this character can be another headache for the writer and sometimes, writers take the option of switching who’s telling the story along the book. This is called “head-hopping” and it can be dangerous for the flow of your story, so it’s probably not a good idea for a novice writer.
As you can see from this little summary, there are plenty of possibilities and you can explore them all. Nothing is forbidden, as long as it works for your unique story.
Above all else, readers want emotion. They will seek out different emotions in different genres, but in the end, that’s all they want, even crave. So when you’re writing you must think of what kind of emotion you want to give them and base your choice (each of the ones you’ll have to make throughout the process of writing) on it.
Make sure that your book gives them what it is they’re seeking in that style of book.
Advantages and Disadvantages of each Point of View
When you choose the first person point of view, your reader will feel close to that character, providing a bigger intimacy which can be very productive. However, your character has to be interesting and have an appealing voice. For example, if your character is an old man with Alzheimer’s it probably will be too confusing for the reader, making it harder to develop empathy, or you might get strong empathy but lack clarity and focus (from the said character) to provide a decent flow for the rest of the story.
With a third person point of view, or an external narrator, you’ll have more flexibility writing your novel, making it easier for you to switch scenes (your narrator will not be stuck in the same room as one character, he can know exactly what is happening outside and that might be useful too).
How to choose?
In order to make a good decision is important that you understand the implications of each point of view and if that will fit your story.
There are a couple questions you can ask yourself that might help you to choose:
Do I want my readers to be able to know what goes on in a variety of different places and the circumstances of various different characters?
Do I want my readers to have access to the characters deepest thoughts?
Do I want my readers to feel what the character feels, or to know what they’re feeling?
In the end, if you still have doubts: experiment! Write the same scenes from both points of view and see what works better for you.