by Renea Guenther @ReneaGuenther
POV (point of view) is one of the most important aspects of storytelling, allowing readers to experience the story differently depending on how it is told and by whom.
There are three basic POVs, each with their own variations of perspective and narrative distance.
In this POV, there is no separation between the narrator and the character telling the story.
The reader experiences the story through one person’s perspective, knowing only what the character knows, thinks, feels, or senses.
The reader is drawn into the book through words such as “I,” “me,” and “my,” allowing them to experience the story as if they are the character.
There are three different perspectives first person can be delivered in;
Past Tense: In this tense, events are told in the now but as if reported by the character.
Example: I ran through the forest, weaving my way around rocks and trees, hoping to prevent my pursuers from finding their mark. I darted behind a tree, only to hear an arrow bury itself deep within its truck.
That was close. Too close.
I quickened my pace. Nothing was going to stop me from reaching the front lines with the intel I had gathered.
Retrospective: Here events are told in the past tense same as above but with the addition of the character reflecting on how they might have done things differently.
Example: Why I thought provoking a fire wyrm into chasing me was ever a good idea I would never know.
I looked back just as it readied another blast, barely having time to dodge out of the way before being burnt to a crisp.
I should have volunteered Cade as the distraction. He’s the fast runner.
But no, I had to try to be the hero. And look where it got me.
I sure hope he got the scroll because I’m going to be mighty pissed if I lose my hair for nothing.
Present Tense: This is the closest perspective a story can be told in, but it’s also difficult to keep straight without slipping into past tense.
Here the story is told as events unfold and everything is experienced first-hand as they occur.
Example: I bury my sword deep in the demon’s chest, grabbing the amulet from his hand just in time as his body dissolves into a swirling pile of ash, his black soul freeing itself from its human form to dive deep into the earth.
Eventually, he would crawl back out of the pit that was his home. But for now, I had time.
I look down at the amulet in my hand. It’s hard to imagine why something so small would have created such chaos.
My curiosity overwhelming me, I slowly open its outer casing to gaze at the real threat within.
The crystal inside glints in the sun with such brilliance, I turn away to avoid being blinded, the power within it much stronger than expected.
There must be a place to hide it where no one would ever find it again. But where?
This is where the narrator is telling the story to another person asking them to imagine they are the character and to put themselves in their shoes using such words as “you” and “your.”
This POV is not very popular in most fiction but is very effective in such novels as the Choose Your Own Adventures we all read as kids.
Example: You open the treasure chest to find hundreds of gleaming gold coins and assorted gemstones.
After all this time, it was finally yours.
You glance up to find your guide licking his lips and staring mesmerized by the sight of more money than he had probably ever seen in his lifetime.
You frown. You had paid him handsomely for his services.
Some people were never happy. Always wanting what others have.
But if he tried to take your treasure, it would be the last thing he ever did.
Here the story is told by the narrator and uses such words as “he/she” and “his/her.”
There are two different perspectives third person can be delivered in:
Limited: In this perspective, the reader experiences the story the same as if it were told in the first person.
The only difference is the pronouns.
Essentially, they are the same, but some writers find it easier to write in the third person because it doesn’t feel quite as personal.
It’s also a matter of reader preference sometimes, with third person favored over first.
This is the most common usage of POV in the writing world.
Example: She stomped on his foot then kneed him in the groin.
If he thought she was going to be an easy target, he had another thing coming.
She shoved him away from her and dove for her purse, fumbling with the latch for several seconds before finally getting it open.
Finding her gun, she looked up to find the stranger standing over her.
Omniscient: This POV reads as if told by an outsider.
The narrator knows everything and can tell things the character wouldn’t know or describe the character and their actions from an outsider’s POV.
The narrator can follow one character or multiple, but head-hopping can quickly become an issue when following more than one.
This POV was very popular in previous years but nowadays seems to be relegated mostly to literary fiction rather than the more commercial genre fiction as readers look for more personal connections to the story and its characters.
I have no personal experience writing this POV and consider it very awkward to read. As such, I’m going to skip providing an example for this one.
However, there are some great examples provided in the links below should you want to check them out.
This is where the story is told by many characters.
Many books using multiple POV are usually done in third person limited, although I have read a few done in first person.
A word of caution though: readers are easily confused so make it a point to change scenes or chapters whenever you switch POVs.
It should also be automatically clear who’s telling the story.
This can be done either in the first line or by placing the character’s name as a subtitle to the section.
Just make sure each POV brings something unique to the story that another character can’t. You don’t want to overwhelm the reader with unnecessary POVs.
A POV character should always be a main character who has a direct effect on the plot, not a secondary character who adds an interesting spin to the story.
Those you use should have their own voice and way of doing things.
This will allow the reader to get to know them on a more personal level and recognize them as individuals.
The best POV is the one that is easy to write and suits the story you are telling.