Tag Archives: POV

Working with Point-Of-View

When you decide to write a story, you must determine who is going to tell it. At this point, you start thinking about point-of-view (POV). What would be more interesting for the reader? Generally speaking, there are two possibilities, telling the story in the first person or telling it in the third person.

After that decision, it’s time to get to the details. If you go with the first-person option, who would be the one telling the story? Why?

Even if you choose to have an external narrator to the story (third-person), you must decide if he would be omnipresent or follow a specific character or group of characters. Perhaps, your narrator is trapped in one place and can only observe what’s happening there.

First-person

This is, usually, what I prefer for my novels. You choose one character, and he or she is the one telling the story.

The benefits are in the emotion and the connection with the reader. The reader accesses the interior monologue and emotions directly by your character’s voice. This way, you make your reader build a very close relationship with one specific character and see the whole story through its eyes.

On the disadvantage side, you only access to his own thoughts and emotions. You see what he sees; you listen to what he listens… and nothing else. You have no clue about who the other characters are or what they are thinking, except through the interpretation of your narrator’s character.

Third-Person

In the third person, you have a completely different narrator and options. The narrator is someone outside the story, telling what is going on.

With the third-person point of view, you may also have interior monologue and emotion, but its told by a different person from the one having the feelings. This gives you the possibility of summarizing some thoughts, which might be the best course of action at some points.

A fascinating advantage of this POV is the fact that you can use your own voice to tell the story instead of using your character’s voice. When you’re using someone else’s voice, you have to focus on what he or she would think, how would that specific person tell this or feel that.

More important, your narrator can see and know everything about everybody. The omniscient narrator knows things that none of the characters know yet, and that can be a very interesting way to explore the story in some genres.

“Head-hopping”

Head-hopping is a technique inside the first person category, and it’s surrounded by controversy. This technique is about switching POV characters within a single scene.

Many writers defend that this will be a less powerful emotional experience for the reader. This group claims that first-person POV is about seeing the scene through the eyes of a single character, see what he sees, smell what he smells… In short, the reader interprets the world through his eyes.

However, other authors believe head-hopping can make the emotional experience even more powerful. You have access to the most profound thoughts and feelings of a character, but you are not limited to one single character.

I, personally, don’t have a definitive opinion about it. I tried it before, and honestly, it didn’t work. Nonetheless, I like the idea of being able to give voice to multiple characters about a specific event, while it’s happening. So, I believe that, if well-done, it can work perfectly for some stories.

Which one is the best for me?

Choosing the right POV is vital when you’re writing a novel or short story. Yet, it’s not an easy thing to do. You must have a good knowledge of each option and train with each one of them. It’s essential to be comfortable writing in both first and third person. Otherwise, you’ll be limiting yourself.

Other than that, it will depend mostly on the story itself and on how do you think it should reach your readers.

My advice is, if you are not sure about which POV is better for your story, then write a few scenes from each POV and see what feels right for you.

The characters and myself

A writer often starts writing about himself or his experiences. Our first characters are usually some kind of reflection of ourselves… what we are, what we wanted to be, what we hate and love about ourselves.

This is normal, expected and actually good practice. It’s important for you to know yourself and explore your own personality, since, when you create a character, you need to explore it and it would be harder if you’ve never done that before. The words, descriptions and everything else you’ll craft around these first characters are kind of who you are, which makes them special.

However, this is just the beginning, and eventually, it comes time to evolve and create something else entirely. You do not want every single character to become a different version of yourself, do you? So, when you finally reach this point, what should you do?

It’s never easy, no matter the circumstances, to see something from other people’s point of view. However, as a writer, this is your job, so you need work at it, and practice it a lot. Empathy is the key here.

So, start freeing your mind from all of your beliefs and prejudices and look at your story from different points of view. Try to write the same scene, narrating it with the different voices of the several characters that take part in it. They surely have different thoughts and feelings and you must write the same scene according to these differences. Is it hard? It very well might be, at first.

Let’s see, there are several ways to accomplish this. Even in real life, you can train this ability with and on other people who cross your way. Try to understand and perceive conflict, disagreements or debates from several of the different perspectives. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who might disagree with you. Why? What’s his or her point of view? Try to understand, empathize with that person and his or her ideas and you’ll realize that you can truly start to understand what he or she is thinking.

Besides, you can’t flood your readers with extensive and exhaustive descriptions, you need to be a bit more subtle and the best way to learn how to achieve this is by actually observing other people and their behavior. People don’t usually lend themselves to be read very easily. You actually need to read in between the lines and realize what they are really thinking to start figuring out who they really are. And, in the end, what helps you get to know that? What was the sign that elucidated you? Keep at it and you will soon find out what stands out.

That’s the one thing you need, to find that something that’ll help you read people, better see a story from different angles and be able to make and write more interesting and realistic characters.