Before you begin to write your story, you should decide who is going to tell it. Will it be a character within the story? Or someone outside of it?
Looking at the strengths and weaknesses of each narrative point of view (POV) will help you determine which best fits your story.
Differences between First, Second, and Third POVs
First, let’s take a look at what the four types of POV are:
- First person: A character is telling the story directly to the reader.
- Pronouns used: I/me/my and we/our
- Examples: The Great Gatsby (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gone Girl (2012) by Gillian Flynn
- Second person: The narrator is talking directly to the reader.
- Pronouns used: you and your
- Examples: Self Help (1985) by Lorrie Moore and the Broken Earth trilogy (2015–2017) by N.K. Jemisin
- Third person limited: The narrator is outside of the story and relating the characters’ experiences to the reader.
- Pronouns used: he/his, she/her, and they/their
- Examples: 1984 (1949) by George Orwell and A Song of Fire and Ice series(1996—) by George R.R. Martin
- Third person omniscient: The narrator is outside of the story but has access to the thoughts and experiences of all the characters.
- Pronouns used he/his, she/her, and they/their
- Examples: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
How to Choose the Right POV
1. Consider your audience.
Understand your audience. First person is more intimate than third person, as it provides a direct line to the character. Young audiences tend to gravitate to first person stories, immediately connecting and relating to the narrator.
2. Consider your genre.
Any POV can be used to create suspense or irony or manipulate the reader. Understand the limitations of each POV and how that will help or hinder your plot. Third person can help to foreshadow events and create tension when the reader knows something that the character doesn’t. First person can manipulate the reader by purposely leaving out important information.
3. Consider your characters.
Follow characters who have the most at stake or have the most to learn. But be aware of head-hopping—a common mistake new authors make when using third person omniscient. Also be aware that your audience might not want to follow the first-person account of an unlikable character.
4. Experiment with POVs.
Play around with the different points of view. Choose a scene with more than two characters and write it from different perspectives.