‘I wandered lonely as a cloud …’ (William Wordsworth)- 1st person POV
And the tricky question is – ‘to be or not to …’ No, the trickier question still is ‘which POV to use?’
There are in fact several on offer – the five types of point of view (POV) are:
1. 1st Person Point of View – the person telling the story does it through their own eyes ‘I’. It allows the author to develop the inner workings of their characters mind and emotions in fine detail, but can be hard to pull off unless the character is completely ‘real’. Wonderful for psycho’s and deeply philosophical themes as you can really delve into motivations, but be careful not to get caught up in too much tell and not enough show..
2. 3rd Person Point of View – the characters actions are reported ‘he/she/they’ but can be expanded on by some explanation of why they do what they do… ‘she stole him. She thought Carrie must have known that she would steal her lover. Why wouldn’t she when she’d always been a bitch to her? It was just too easy not to …’ This POV reports fully, and has the advantage of being able to comment on the motivations behind the characters actions but is not ‘inside the head’ of the character as one could be when writing in 1st person POV. A useful mix of show and tell.
3. 3rd Person limited POV – the characters actions are reported but without the advantage of examining why they do as they do. The author has to really concentrate on showing why, rather than telling. ‘She stole Carrie’s lover. She’d always been a bitch towards her in the past …’ (but why had she?)
4. Omniscient Point of View – everything is revealed to the reader but not to the characters – often by a narrator, so the reader knows why everyone does everything, but the characters don’t. It’s rather like standing on the top of a tall building and watching the people scrabble around like ants below – you know who is about to be squished and who run off with the big crumb some other human dropped, but they don’t.
5. Limited Omniscient Point of View – like the characters, there are hidden parts of the story that the reader doesn’t know either – a lot like real life, actually!
Once you’ve picked your POV, the trick is to stick to it – or rather, the trick is not to get unstuck by it and find you’ve switched POV half way through, without realising it…
‘He watched her approach from a distance, marvelling at the easy way she picked her way through the molehills that had erupted overnight on the smooth green lawn. She was slim and lithe, the way he liked women to be. The old fat woman who ran the site office disgusted him with her rolls of fat. This woman enchanted him.
She in turn was amused by his close scrutiny of her, wondering if he watched all women as closely as this…’
In the second paragraph, we are also in 3rd person POV – which is also fine – but it is a different character’s 3rd person POV. Whoever you start with, stick with them; and whichever POV you are using, keep within it. Consistency is key.
I used 1st person POV all the way through in my novel Courting the Dark, which is due out in July. The twist though was that I have three heads I jump into to tell the tale – and one of them is very sick indeed, but the others don’t know that – and neither does the reader know who it is either! If you are telling all in 1st person POV, remember to also keep your reader hooked along the way. They either have to absolutely love and identify with the character your writing as, or be fascinated to know what is going to happen next despite being already in their head …
A little on characterisation coming up next time …
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