How to Write Point of View, Part 8, Choosing Point of View

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Hi SErs! Harmony here 🙂 Today, I’d like to talk about how to write Point of View (POV) and how to choose which POV to adopt.

As you have seen, each POV choice comes with its pros and cons. Sometimes, the POV choice feels obvious. At other times, we have to make a deliberate choice. So, what do we look for in POV choice?

It’s All a Matter of Perspective …

So how do you choose among first person, close third person, and distant third? Your choice will depend on the total effect you want your story to have. Some guidelines:

  • If you want to write the entire story in individual, quirky language, choose first person.
  • If you want your POV character to indulge in lengthy ruminations, choose first person.
  • If you want your reader to feel high identification with your POV character, choose first person or close third.
  • If you want to describe your character from the outside as well as give her thoughts, choose either close or distant third person.
  • If you want to intersperse the author’s opinions with the character’s, choose distant third.
  • If you want low identification between reader and character, perhaps because you’re going to make a fool of your character, choose distant third.

Isn’t it nice to have so many choices? So before you write more than a few sentences of that exciting new story idea, take a few minutes to ensure you’ve chosen the best POV to maximize its impact.

Taken from 6 Tips to Choosing the Right Point of View

It used to be said that a certain genre calls for a certain POV. These days, the same cannot be said. Many times recently, I have seen a reviewer mention they’re used to X POV for a psychological thriller, for example, but their latest read was done well in a different POV. I’m not sure there have ever been set-in-stone rules about POV specific to genre, just industry norms. Personally, I believe we get the best results from our writing by listening to what perspective our story is asking for. And our story does ask. Sometimes it screams at us from the rooftop. At others, the voice is no louder than a sinister dream whisper in the night.

TOP TIP:

One way I can tell if I’m using the wrong lens for my story is if I inadvertently keep changing POV. The same with my chosen tense. This flitting back and forth is a sure sign something isn’t right.


It’s Okay to Change Your Mind:

  1. Before you begin, think bout what effect you’re aiming for.
  2. If, when you’ve written a fair bit of your novel, something doesn’t feel right, rewrite a paragraph or chapter in an alternative POV … does that feel better or worse?
  3. Go on your gut instinct. There are no hard-and-fast rules here.
  4. Some stories and characters call for different POVs. That’s perfectly fine. Just make sure you avoid head hopping and that you show each shift clearly to avoid confusing your reader. Remember to keep it subtle and unobtrusive … unless that’s what you’re aiming for!

Reminders:

Point of View is the eye or lens through which you tell your story.

First Person uses the pronouns I, We, Me, and Us, and is up close and personal.

Second Person is rarely, if ever, used. The pronoun You is used.

Third Person can be Distant or Close (Omniscient or Limited) and uses the pronouns He, She, Her, His, and They, and creates more distance.

Consider …

  • How many characters do you need to tell your story?
  • How close or distant do you want your readers from your character(s)?
  • Who would have the most interesting or appealing narrative voice?

In Summary: There are no rules as to which POV you use. Your choice comes down to intention and preference, as well as the kind of story you wish to tell. Whether or not you need an unreliable narrator will also affect your choice (more on that in January!) Remember: You can do anything you want, as long as you do it well.

That’s it from me today. I hope you’ve found this post useful. I’ll see you again on Friday 31st December for our New Year post! Then again on Monday 24th January, 2022, when we’ll take a look at The Unreliable Narrator and POV 🙂

Bio Box for Harmony Kent that links to her website www.harmonykent.co.uk

Part 1, Overview, can be found HERE.

Part 2, First Person, can be found HERE.

Part 3, Second Person, can be found HERE.

Part 4, Third Person Limited, can be found HERE.

Part 5, Third Person Distant, can be found HERE.

Part 6, Common Pitfalls of POV, can be found HERE.

Part 7, How to Choose POV, can be found HERE.

©2021 Harmony Kent

58 thoughts on “How to Write Point of View, Part 8, Choosing Point of View

  1. Pingback: How to Write Point of View, Part 9, The Unreliable Narrator and POV | Story Empire

  2. Great post, Harmony 🙂 I’ve been enjoying this. I think you make a good point if you find yourself going back and forth between POV, it’s not working. I pove your examples when to use the right POV but be open to doing something different

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was a fantastic series, Harmony! I’ve always written in third person, except for my newest release, which was first person. That story needed to be told through that POV. You did a wonderful job in breaking down each one. Thanks! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Harmony, thank you for this article. I am a fan of close third person with my writing. What is your view on tenses? Do you think close third person present tense works. Do readers not like present tense. I like writing present tense, it comes easier to me than past tense, but my Beta reader has recommended I change my current WIP to past tense because that is preferred by readers.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great summing up of when and why to use the different points of view. I wanted the reader to identify with the protagonist in a care home in my first book and so went for First Person POV and Present Tense. Someone gave it a lovely review and said that she usually avoided first person present – I hadn’t appreciated that it might put some readers off! My latest, still waiting for my editor’s comeback, I started off in 3rd person past and, like you said, it didn’t sit right with me and so I rewrote the first three chapters in a variety of ways and the way that felt ‘right’ came to me. This has been a great series, Harmony. Many thanks! xx

    Liked by 2 people

  6. A terrific post, Harmony. My preferred POV is first person. I also like to write in the present tense. My objective is to involve the reader in the story as it unfolds. The most challenging part of first-person is avoiding the constant use of “I.” Most readers get tired of that pronoun fast. I spend a lot of time reworking sentences to get around the problem. My reviews show that the work is worth it since where ever the uncomfortably with first-person is raised by a reviewer, there usually is a statement in recognition of avoiding the dreaded “I.” Thanks for this post.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I’m struggling with the POV decision right now as I consider my next writing project so this is a timely post, Harmony. I’m waffling between third person close or distant. Certain parts of the story feel like they call for distant, while the rest calls for close. I have to do some tweaking before i make a final decision. Normally, I never have a question of which POV I’m going to use. This is a new dilemma for me, LOL.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This has been a fabulous series on POV, Harmony! And I love that there are no hard and fast rules about POV and genre. If there was, I’d most likely break them. 🙂 You gave such perfect and concise examples here. Thank you for sharing your expertise!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Harmony, an excellent post and series, like a mini writing course! I enjoyed your example, changing with each POV. Also, great advice about having difficulty with a story and changing POV. That happened to me once, and when it’s right, it does “click.” Thanks for your insights!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Great tips for choosing which point of view to use. I agree that the story will dictate which to choose. I recently wrote a short story that was first person, present tense. I never imagined doing that a few years ago, but the story just wouldn’t work another way.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I agree—the story will dictate the POV. Earlier in my career, I challenged myself to write in all POVs and all tenses. Sometimes the stories were hard to complete, probably because the view was forced. Nice wrap-up, Harmony.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Hi Harmony. I’ve never tried writing first person because I always have three or four, but I think I might give it a try… maybe in a short story sometime when I’m mulling the next stage of my WIP – in other words, I’m stuck. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

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