Point of View (POV) in Creative Writing: Some Thoughts

I see that many new writers tend to write in first person POV (Point of View) and several professionals use third person POV, either omniscient or limited. Never have I gone through a work of fiction told in second person POV, which I think is the best way to connect with your readers. Here are some thoughts on POV.

First Person POV

First Person POV can be either the normal type (in which the protagonist narrates the story), those narrated by someone close to the protagonist, or those narrated by ‘we’.

FP POV normal holds a highly limited and easier narration method (though there are very few writers who pull it off successfully). Though it is easy to write in this way, making it successful is up to the personality of the narrator. If it’s distinct and enjoyable to masses, the story will be successful, otherwise, no. The writer gets to concentrate on one of the characters, and sees other characters through his eyes. Hence, the character development work is reduced. However, this type of POV, I believe, is largely unprofessional and not recommended for mainstream fiction, mainly since there is an element of ego when the narrator is the protagonist himself.

The advantage of first person is that it gives the writing, a literary feel. Though people may say, first person engages the readers in that it makes them feel like the central character, it is not the case. At least with me, the first person narrative makes me feel like going on a ride with the central character, but not being him and enduring all he does in the story.

While I hate to write in first person POV normal, the greatest advantage of it is that there are stories like Sherlock Holmes series, in which the narrator is not the protagonist. It is like somebody telling us stories, rather than making us read. In fact, I loved such stories that when I started reading Hercule Poirot, I read all the novels in which Captain Hastings (Dr Watson’s counterpart in Agatha Christie novels) was involved, before reading those in which he wasn’t.

The importance of this sort of narrative is that the reader gets to be easy. He feels like being told the story of a great man by someone close to him. There is no ego here as would be in normal FP POV, and there is the warmth of real storytelling.

Agatha Christie’s mystery, Murder of Roger Ackroyd is the best first person POV story I read. Sad that through one of his novels, Mr Dean Koontz exposed the wonderful suspense of this story (good that I read the story before Dean’s).

Third Person POV

Third Person limited or omniscient POV is the most enjoyable to me. Limited seems to be more popular than omniscient. Many writers like this, since it gives the highest importance to the protagonist, and still doesn’t involve an element of ego. There is also, the chance for greater experiment with characters here, since the writers are not limited to view from one person’s eyes.

TP Omniscient, on the other hand, makes the story narration the most difficult and still, most enjoyable. The particular technique used here is going through the minds of all characters in the novel, and shifting POV from one to other, as necessary in the scenes. Here, the character development is the most enjoyable and time-taking part of the whole work. Each character needs to be perfect to shift POV freely. Half-baked characters can’t work here. In first person POV, half-baked characters can exist, since those characters are seen through another person’s eyes.

Second Person POV

This is the best way to engage your readers in fiction. What is better than being in the story as the central character itself? Even if you are not the central character, you are always in the middle of action. In SP POV, you will see the passages like:

You come into the room. You feel the air is sultry and oppressive. When you go toward the depth of darkness, removing sooted cobwebs, fumbling on the wall for a light switch, you hear something moving in the room. A rustling noise, such as made by a snake on dry leaves.

This POV hasn’t found much use in fiction, however; a few writers like William Faulkner, G√ľnter Grass, John Updike, etc., have used it in some of their works.

Conclusion

The thoughts shared are purely mine. There are people who would love to read first person POV, and who would hate third person. Individual choice always differs. However, choosing the correct POV for your works is purely up to you. It is, however, a part of your writing style. For instance, while I love to read first person POV with a narrator other than the protagonist, I hate to read or write anything in first person normal. The choice of POV for me is purely dependent on the type of fiction.

Copyright © Lenin Nair 2008

4 Opinions:

  1. Interesting post.

    I've tried writing a few short stories in the second person, mostly for a change of pace, and I found it to be a unique way of writing. Almost like writing a "Twilight Zone" episode. I found a lot of freedom to expirement while writing that way.

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  2. Thanks for the comment, Georgie.

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  3. I've seen second person used very sparingly, typically in the general sense when speaking about commonly held beliefs and experiences.

    On the other hand, making "you" actually the reader is somewhat tricky, though fun to experiment with.

    Malcolm

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  4. As a reader, second person viewpoint does not work for me at all. As I read, I am being told what I am doing, how I am feeling, what I am thinking. If the character's actions, thoughts, and feelings differ greatly from my own (which are likely), then I feel detachment from, rather than connection with the central character.

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