Point Of View

By Professor Jen F.

One of the first decision you make in writing a story is who will be the point of view character--the character through whom we experience the story, chapter, or scene. Some people write the whole story from one character's POV, some write from more than one POV, choosing to alternate POVs by chapter, if you have more than one, or by scene. Some factors in deciding whose POV you should use are these: a) who has the most to lose and/or b) who will offer the most interesting or important information to the reader, whether via dialogue or internal narrative.

Another primary decision is whether to write in first person or third person. In first person, the POV character tells the story using I. In third person, the author tells the story on behalf of the POV character using he or she or the character's name. Even in third person you can achieve deep POV so that it's almost as if it were first person.

Choosing to write first person or third person is more of a writer preference than a rule in most fiction genres, although some genres lean more one way than the other. For instance, most mainstream type romance novels (Harlequin Romances, for example) are written in third person. Chick Lit, on the other hand, tends to be written in first person more often than not. Obviously, a first person story puts the reader right into the POV character's head and tends to make everything more immediate for the reader. If you plan on writing from more than two POVs, you should probably choose to use third person. First person is better suited for a one or two person POV story only.

Jen's First Person POV Pet Peeve: It really bugs me when fan fic authors writing in first person have to preface the scene or chapter or even the story with "Spock's POV" or "Donna's POV." It should be abundantly clear from the very first sentence who the POV character is, even if you start with something like this:

Captain James T. Kirk, captain of the USS Enterprise. I liked the way that sounded.

Transitioning from one character's POV to another's, whether in first or third person, should almost always start with the new character's name--it lets the reader know right away "who" they are. It's very frustrating to be reading along not knowing what character one should be experiencing the story as. It may cause the reader to stop reading to go back and see if they somehow missed it. And anything that pulls the reader from the story is a bad thing...

Back to Course Offerings.