How to Choose a Point of View for your Story

Choosing a point of view can be tricky. When John first started writing, he did what most writers do; he wrote in first-person. It was his story and he wanted to tell it in his own voice. His more recent writing  has been done in third person, all knowing. We have found many advantages to third person writing.

We hope these tips will help you make a good choice about who will tell your story. This is called the “Point of View.” You should choose your point of view voice carefully. It can be the main character, a secondary character, the villain or a narrator.

The voice needs to remain constant throughout your story. The exception is if you have layers or sub-plots. These might come from a different ‘point of view’ than your main story.

Your point of view character should have a specific style of speaking. We call this ‘voice.’ You must create a distinctive voice for your point of view character .Distinctive styles of speaking include: Formal, Casual, Flippant, Crude, Sarcastic, etc.

What does your point of view character sounds like?  Is the voice engaging?  You want a voice your readers can relate to. Your readers will have to  hear that voice, in their heads, for  the entire story. Consider the place the point of view character comes from. Someone from Texas will speak differently than an Australian or New Yorker. When you write your story, chose words and idioms that indicate where your point of view character comes from. Even if your point of view is a narrator, you must create an entire character. The narrator for your story must have their own personality. You want your audience the charmed by the voice.

  Beginners usually tell their story in first person.

The story is told using “I, or we,” and can be either past or present tense.

This point of view allows the reader to gain intimate knowledge of your character. The author can tell his readers how his character is feeling and thinking.

It is easier to reveal your character to your audience in first person.       10710370_10152270519596525_6269959698804803658_o

The point of view character can either be the main character or a secondary character.

Two disadvantages:

First – It limits your reader’s connection to your other characters in the story. The writer must explain how the point of view character knows information about other characters.

Second – It can lead to telling the reader what is happening instead of showing by actions and dialog.

 

Example: I was only sixteen when life spit me out on an unexpected voyage. A certain inner knowing, strange and mysterious, told me my life would never be the same. The thought was not speculative, but a certainty, immediate and complete.

From John’s book: Secrets of the Mystery Caverns

 The story can be told in second person.

This point of view uses “you”. The story can be told in past or present tense. This is probably the most difficult way to tell your story. In this point of view, the narrator must involve the reader in the story. To accomplish this requires more details to pull the reader into the story.

Two disadvantages:

First: It is easy to become preachy

Second: The writer should be careful not to write in abstract terms. The writer must keep the story about what is happening and how the characters feel about it.

 

Example: “Let me tell you about a small town in the Midwest. Cheryl lives in Falling Creek. Her friend, Liz, lives next door. She is the head cheerleader and very popular. She is also very pretty. You may know someone like Cheryl. How do you feel about that girl?

Yes, that is what I thought about Cheryl for a long time. Then one day….

readers charmed by the voice

 The story can be told in third person

The story is told with “He, She, and they”. The story can be in past or present tense but is usually in past tense. The point of view character can be the protagonist, antagonist or a secondary character.

This allows the writer to explore the thoughts and feelings of several different characters. The Point of view person may or may not be a character in the story. If they are not involved in the story they are a narrator. A narrator can be ‘all knowing’ or’ limited’.

 

 Third person – all knowing.

With this point of view, the story is told by a narrator who knows everything that has happened. He/she knows about and can examine all of the characters and their motives. It is extremely important to give details about all the characters.

It allows tease lines like, “Heidi had no idea how dangerous that decision was nor the trouble it would cause,”

 

Example: Ken had been caught is a web of intrigue he was not prepared for. Pamela had kissed him. Almost seduced him. The trap was set. Ken just did not know it, yet.

 

 Third person – limited.

This offers the intimacy of one character’s point of view. This point of view is usually a character in the story. It can be past or present tense. The writer must explain how the point of view character receives information about other characters. This may require extensive dialog.

This point of view allows the writer to explore one character’s opinions about what is happening. It also lets the characters, in the story, make mistakes, and struggle with challenges, not knowing the outcome.

 

Example: The day had started out hot. Ken sat quietly contemplating last night.  He could not believe Pamela had kissed him. He wondered what he should do next. He sat pondering for a long time, about what it meant.

 

Your readers should be charmed by the voice, gripped by the story, and obsessed with your main character. The point of view becomes the writer’s voice. Make the voice appealing.

 

Which voice do you like to read? Which do you think is easiest to write? Please go to our forum and tell us if this article was helpful to you. When you are submitting a challenge, you might consider using a different voice than you normally write with. Writing should be fun. Using a different voice can change the feel of your story.

copyright patty@writingagreatbook.com 10/9/15

 

 

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