My Two Cents on Point of View

This Sunday I’ve spent a pleasant afternoon around the blogosphere. 

I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to write about today, but in my travels through cyberspace, I noticed a few new authors were having trouble with point of view. I decided I’d write about that.


Point of view is one of those issues in fiction that a lot of people don’t like talking about. You’ll hear advice that sounds like, “It needs to be told from whatever viewpoint it needs to be told from.” Well, isn’t that super helpful. You’ll also hear the phrase “head hopping” brandished about. More on this later.


Now, I’m not bashing the school of thought that says a story needs what it needs. I truly believe a story should be as long as it should be and all those other quips; however, when it comes to point of view for a first-time, or novice, writer, I think I can give a little more concrete advice.

As I’ve said before, I’ve seen a lot of first drafts. A lot. What I’ve found is that what those stories usually need is an author who doesn’t muddle up the narration. For this reason I’m going to recommend something you may find counter-intuitive.


Go with third person omniscient.


You’ll hear people say third person is harder to use than first person because it offers greater flexibility and therefore a greater chance of screwing up if you aren’t quite capable of handling a narrative yet.

I disagree.


Here’s why.


When a new author decides to write his or her book in first person, the process usually starts out great. The character is talking at you; you’re learning more about him or her; and it usually just feels right. Then, and take it from me it happens, the narrator gets taken over by the author. The character’s voice gets stifled by the writer. By the end of the book, the writer is just talking at us.

There’s also the danger that when that happens the first person narrator is going to start knowing other characters thoughts simply because the author and character are no longer two separate people. (Head hopping, anyone?)


Your characters should be a part of you, but not that much.


The beauty of third person is that you can narrate your story this way. That voice telling us what’s going on, that can be you!

Anyway those are my two cents on the subject, and I’ll close with this. First person is a great device. If you can use it and use it well, it can add a little something that third person can’t catch; however, if you’re new at this and looking for guidance, I strongly suggest third person. When they say it needs what it needs, what they’re really saying is that it needs a strong narrator. (To which we’ll all say, “Duh.”)


Let me know what you guys think. POV can be a polarizing topic, so let’s keep it civil!