Thursday, October 22, 2020

How to Pick the Right POV for Your Book

Posted by: Deborah A Bailey

Before I started writing novels, I wrote short stories in First Person point of view (POV). The stories often came to me that way. I'd hear the character's voice, then I'd start writing. Of course, getting ideas isn't always that simple. I wish it was! 

But, what are we hearing? Is the character telling us who they are? Or maybe they're having a conversation with other characters. We have to get to know them before we write their stories. 

The thing is, there are times when a lot of characters pop up and we get overwhelmed with ideas. That's when it's time to take notes and prioritize which story to start first. 

The best part is having so many ideas that you can make a list of books to work on. The challenging part is when you start working on a book and you have to find out who the characters are. I'm a "pantser" and not a plotter. For me, the characters drive the story, as opposed to me creating a plot first. 

That's why I spend a lot of time listening to the characters first - getting to know them and what the story is about. I think that's the key. We have to find the character's voice and their reason for being. We have to know what the character wants and what they'll do to get it. 

When I write, I often start out with first person POV in my initial drafts. I write down scenes and conversations that come to mind. Then, as I go along, I start to develop the story. Even with that  preparation, I'm not always sure what POV to use. 

Here are some ways to decide on a point of view for your book:

1. What is the easiest way for you to write the story? This may seem very simple, but it comes down to choosing the best way to get your words on the page. When you start writing, is there a POV that comes to you naturally? Or do you end up struggling to tell the story? 

2. What's your genre? I've read a couple of thrillers in first person POV. I'm not usually a thriller reader, so I could just be picking outliers in the genre. But, I have enjoyed reading those stories because I've felt close to the narrator. In a story where there is danger lurking, or deception to be revealed, I think a First Person POV can be very appealing. It makes you feel that you have some inside knowledge of what's going on. 

3. Is it a personal story? When you're telling a story that reflects a deeply personal experience, a First Person POV will be the best way to go. There are women's fiction novels that do this very well. Particularly when the main character is questioning her life and looking back on past experiences. 

First Person & Deep Third Person 

First person is the perspective of the character. If they don't know something, it can't be part of their view. You may know that their current love interest may disappoint them. Or that their "meet cute" will be the love of their life. Or that the dragon shifter is really a long lost prince or princess. But if your main character doesn't know it, they can't reveal it in their thoughts.

In some ways, I think First Person is very similar to the Deep Third Person POV. In that point of view, the reader gets a very up-close-and-personal view of what the character is experiencing. It all depends on the distance you're giving between the reader and the character.

Third Person Limited is probably the most popular POV these days, but Deep Third Person can be fun to try - especially if you're not comfortable writing in First Person. 

You'll notice that I'm not mentioning Second Person POV. It's not as popular as third and first, and I feel it would take a bit of work to get it right. However, there's nothing wrong with giving it a try, if you like. But, keep in mind what the conventions are for your genre. If your readers aren't into it, it won't be the best choice. 

Part of the fun (and sometimes the stress) of writing is trying new ways to tell your stories. Things have changed from the days when Third Person Omniscient (where the narrator knows the thoughts of all the characters) was the popular choice.

 Don't be afraid to experiment. Choosing a different POV for your book might enhance your creativity and open up ideas that you hadn't thought of. 

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