Determining which point of view or POV you’ll use for your story is a major decision. After all, it’s a decision that affects every sentence and it can really make or break your story. So how do we decide on POV? Let’s look at first and third person POVs.
First, you need to assess your story to see if it’s plot driven or character driven. If your novel is character driven and revolves around one protagonist, then first person is the way to go. But if the action revolves around a cast of characters and is plot or action driven, then third is perfect for your story.
In first person, everything that occurs is filtered through the narrator’s perspective (what they see, hear, know, witness, etc.) and those actions are shaped and tempered by how the narrator experiences and interprets those events. The story revolves around the “I” in the story.
Third person has several different categories within it, such as omniscient and limited third person. Using third person allows the reader to know more information, but it causes emotional distance between the reader and the characters. Although in third person limited you can develop the same character connection as you can using first. Third person omniscient is the all-knowing, all-seeing narrator. It uses s/he and the narrator knows the thoughts and feelings of all characters. Third person limited still uses s/he pronouns, but it closely follows a main character, allowing the reader access to that character’s thoughts and feelings. Third person limited is often used to follow more than one character.
Still having trouble deciding? Here are the pros and cons of each POV.
First person pros: This POV allows deeper connections between the character and reader and allows the reader to immerse themselves into the story. It can also be used to build suspense since the reader learns information only when the character does. And it’s very easy to convey internal thoughts when using first person.
First person cons: Some descriptions of characters or settings are hard to make from this limited perception. Most people don’t describe their appearance or people or places we’ve known for a while so trying to describe these types of things can be awkward and unnatural. And since the reader knows only what the character does, it can be hard to give the reader additional information. Most importantly is that the narrator absolutely has to be relatable and likeable. Your reader won’t invest in the story of someone they can’t stand. This doesn’t mean the character has to be perfect, they should be flawed and complex like all your characters, but they have to at least hold the readers interest. Also, using first can lead to a lot more telling than showing since it’s easy to just list what the character is thinking and feeling. Finally, it makes switching between characters more confusing.
Third person pros: This POV is very common and therefore, readers feel comfortable reading it. It also means the reader has access to more knowledge than the characters which is a great way to increase suspense. POV switches are very easy to make and understand. Finally, there is more showing and less telling in this POV type.
Third person cons: Internal thoughts are more difficult to show in the third person omniscient POV. It also has more emotional distance between the reader and characters in omniscient. In third person it is easy to infodump and you have to be careful not to give your reader too much information and kill your suspense.
Which POV do you prefer and why? Comment below and happy writing.