The importance of being in one’s head

When I first started penning my story, I just thought I could write in any view I wanted. Common in the books I have read, I knew there were first person and third person perspectives. But what I didn’t realise was the importance of such literary devices. There were point of view rules!

A POV is the author’s vision of a world they have created using a character’s thoughts, experience and feelings.  There are four types of Point of View.

  • First person point of view: This is when ‘I’ or ‘me’ are used to tell a story from a single character’s perspective

  • Second person point of view: This is told using ‘you’ and rarely used in fiction

  • Third person point of view (limited): This is where ‘he’ and ‘she’ are used and narrated from outside the story, like watching a movie. However, this is still focused on an individual character

  • Third person point of view (omniscient): Still using the ‘he’ or ‘she’ pronouns but this is told from multiple character’s perspective, so you experienced their thoughts and emotions.

Point Of View Rules

First person POV

The narrative is limited and can only tell from a single character’s perspective. As in the real world, you can only tell what you know with your senses, you do not know what other people are feeling unless they tell you. We do not know what is happening in other parts of the country or the world unless, for example, we read it online or watch the TV. Therefore, events are restricted depending on when and where the character is located. This is one person’s story.

Problems using this POV arises if the narrator is not a likeable character and the readers switch off early in the book. In addition, there is a risk of spending too much time describing emotions rather than the events.

Second person POV  

In this narrative, the reader becomes more associated with the character because they are described as ‘you.’ However it is not often used in fiction because it can be quite hard to write. This draws the readers into the story and make the story feel more personal. I remember reading this type of POV in adventure stories where I got to be the adventurer; I had several options and had to choose one before turning to the corresponding pages to find out how my decision unfolded in the next scene.

Third person POV  

Third person omniscient is where the narrator can jump into the minds of all the characters in the story, having access to all their experiences and feelings. It allows the author to write from a broader perspective. A bit like a sentient being who can read minds. However, it can be difficult to establish a connection with the reader because is it less personal.

Third person limited is restricted to a single character’s thoughts and feelings in a certain scene. Often it is better to stick with one character’s mind per chapter to avoid confusing the readers.  Although I have not seen any suggestions that there should be a limit on the number of character’s POV, it is best to have a small number to maintain the intimate link with the readers and avoid ‘head hopping’ that can confuse the people.

My style

Currently, I prefer to write in the style of third person omniscient and provide a wider perspective in my stories.