Point of ViewPoint of view can be one of the biggest challenges when you start writing. Tough even for existing writers starting a new writing project. There’s both the character point of view and then the type of point of view. And giving the reader a consistent experience is important. This is my experience. I hope you find it helpful.

Point of view character

This is whose eyes the action is seen through. Whose head we’re in. And whose feelings we experience.

I usually stick with the main characters. I keep it to as few as possible to keep it clean and simple for the reader. However, sometimes there’s the need to explain something beyond the scope of what the main character(s) would know. Additional minor character perspectives may be required for that.

The most important advice when switching point of view is to make it clear to your reader. That means at the very least a scene break. Then be clear in your writing at the beginning of the new scene that a new POV is in place. I’m not a fan of chapter titles that state the character POV. I find that lazy and ineffective. The reader needs narrative which makes it clear whose perspective they are experiencing.

In considering the POV character  you might want to think about:

  • Who is the most affected by the action in your story? They often make the best POV character.
  • The POV character has to be present for the climax of the story, otherwise the climax can only really be relayed to them second-hand. Ideally, your POV character should be present in most of the best scenes as well.
  • Which character will have the best outlook and thereby be the most interesting POV?
Type of point of view

This is who the narrator is and what access they have to knowledge of what is going on in the story.

First person – this is telling the story from the perspective of a character using ‘I’. And usually limits the narrator to knowing only what that character would know within the story. Although some authors get around this by having multiple first person POV characters. I’m not a fan of that because ‘I’ makes it so personal it can often be harder to transition from one character to another as a reader. However, a well written single character first person POV can be very compelling, particularly with stories written in the style of journals etc.

Second person – this tells the story using ‘you’. I haven’t seen this in anything other than instructional writing.

Third person – the most commonly used perspective. It tells the story using ‘he/she/it’. This type of POV can be written in several different ways.

  • Third person limited, means the narrator is restricted to only one character and only what they would know. The action can be viewed from within the character’s head or from a distance.
  • Third person multiple, means the narrator can voice the action from more than one character POV. Here, just make sure you make the POV changes clear to the reader.
  • Third person omniscient, by far my favourite and most used. Here the narrator is basically God and can see everything and anything, and can even make comment on what’s inside the minds of other characters while narrating from the POV of another. This can help avoid having to switch character POV so much but be careful not to abuse that power – always stick to the rule of show through action rather than telling the reader.

I hope this helps people starting out. What’s your experience of POV, either as an author or as a reader? What works, what doesn’t? Come and let me know in our forums.

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Sam Hunter
Editor
Founder of UrbanFiction.org and supporter of all urban fiction authors. Author of the Makaveli’s Prince books. His first novel, Book One, was described by Street Literature as a “true tribute to hip-hop” and weaves a thrilling ride through some of hip-hop’s darkest secrets. You won’t be able to put his books down. They're packed with conspiracy, drama and often centered on strong female characters. You’re in for a ride.

All his books are on Amazon Kindle and Google Play Books.