Writing POVs

POV stands for ‘Point Of View’ and it is one of the most important aspects of your story.

There are three points of view that I’m sure you’re familiar with.

In first person point of view, your MC (main character) is narrating the story. You can write a story in first person using the pronoun ‘I’. For example: ‘I went to the shops’, ‘I ate an ice cream’.

Examples of first person point of view: The Hunger Games narratedby Katniss Everdeen, Sherlock Holmes narratedby Dr Watson, Twilight narrated by Bella Swan.

Second person point of view is often used to give directions and provide an explanation.  Personal pronouns include ‘you’ and ‘your’. For example: ‘You can wait in here’, and ‘Your work was excellent today’.  

In terms of writing a novel, second person point of view is very rare and hard to pull off. I would not advise you to start using it, especially if you’re a beginner.

In third person point of view is when a narrator relates a story of your characters, ‘he went to shops’, ‘she ate an ice cream’.

Examples of third person point of view: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K Rowling, The Maze Runner by James Dashner, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

Using first person POV is a matter of intimacy: it can make the reader feel more attached to the protagonist and can sympathise with them. It’s also effective for creating suspense as the reader only knows what the protagonist knows.

Personally, I feel like first person POV is pretty easy to write in and I enjoy it, but it does have its limitations. It restricts you to only describing what the characters feels, thinks and sees.

However, when you use third person point of view, you can tell the reader things before the protagonist themselves knows it.

I’m sure you’ve already chosen a POV for your story. But is it the best one? Is it fit for your idea?

There are lots of different opinions on which one is best, and I’d advise you to look into it and do some research before you decide.

If you want to:

  • Write a story in quirky language
  • Express the character’s opinions
  • Allow the reader to see all the character’s thoughts, knowledge, and feelings
  • Build intrigue
  • Establish a connection with the reader

Then you should go for first person POV.

If you want to:

  • Describe your character from the outside
  • Have flexibility and write from a broader perspective
  • Move freely in time
  • Give more information to the reader that the characters do not know
  • Creates suspense: the reader isn’t sure if the main character will survive or not

Then you should go for third person POV.  

In some novels, the story switches from first person to third person. You can do this too but remember that one of your goals is to not confuse the reader and make sure that it is clear when you switch from one to the other.

If you’re writing from one character’s POV only, make sure you’ve picked the right character. The reader wants to see the story unfolding and only the character at the scene can show them it.   

You may also be wondering about multiple POV’s. I’ve done this before and although it seems quite straight-forward, it’s easy to make mistakes.

One of the first mistakes I made when I wrote my novel from multiple POV’s, in first person, is that I didn’t have a distinctive voice for each of the characters who were narrating. Basically, all my characters sounded the same. This is pretty unrealistic and just ruins the whole story for the reader.

Tips for writing in multiple POVs

  • Think about if you need it or not –Writing multiple perspectives is a hard decision as it comes with consequences. You need to make sure that your story really needs multiple POVs before you start writing
  • Choose appropriate characters – Determine how many POV characters you need. It’s tempting to choose your whole cast of characters, but you need to choose the ones whose POVs is most necessary. You also need to think about who’s POV best carries the next scene.

Have you chosen the character to go through a change by the end of the story? If this is your plan, you need to pick the ones that need to go through change and a mini journey of their own (we will go through this properly later on). Or have you chosen a character that simply needs to carry the story along?

You also need to choose an appropriate number of characters. There’s no rules on how many characters you can have, after all, it is your novel. Four POVs are sufficient for a Most people go for 3-5 and personally, I think seven and over is a bit too much.

  • Make each POV character unique – As I said earlier, you need to have a distinctive voice for each character. Firstly, your character needs to have a purpose for being in the story, and this can be a totally different purpose to all the other POVs. Secondly, if you have a character that it similar to another POV character, that’s fine, but don’t make them a POV character too. If you do, then you’ll spark confusion. Thirdly, I would recommend for you to review your work frequently because it is easy to make mistakes.

For example, if one of your POV characters clearly doesn’t like cats, you might put in somewhere else that they bend down to pick up a cat on the street.

Make sure your work is as clear as possible.

  •  Don’t kill a POV character off – It is your story, and you can do as you wish, but I would not recommend killing a POV character off. The reader will feel like you have wasted their time and feel disappointed because you’ve killed off a character they’ve invested their emotions in.
  • Stick to one POV for each scene
  • Make sure it is clear when perspective switches – this is very important. Every time the perspective changes, make sure the reader is aware of it. You can make it clear by putting the POV character’s name as the chapter title or at the top of the page, or get the reader used to a certain pattern so they can anticipate those switches

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post!

Stay safe,

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