What POV is Right For YOUR Novel?

1st personChoosing a point of view for your novel is one of the most important decisions that you will make for your story. Why? Because it’s how your story will be presented and read by your readers: It’s always about the reader experience.

I’m working on the fourth and final book of the Jaylen and Jessica series but after that I’m starting a whole new book with a whole new feel. But I have not yet decided how I will tell this story.

The point of view for your story is important to consider because it affects the way the story is told. But before we go into how you can decide which point of view to choose, let’s go over all of them.

1sr person

“I grab a pot from the dish rack and start filling it with water. As I watch the water fill the pot, I suddenly remember my bathwater is still running and drop the pot spilling the water all over the floor, the counter and a little on the chicken. I ignore it and sprint toward the bathroom. I shut the water off just as it reaches the rim of the tub.”-When Love Hurts

Notice the use of ‘I’ to describe the action going on. It’s from her view-point. You may also notice it’s in present tense as opposed to the past tense of “I grabbed a pot or I ignored it and sprinted…”. Present tense gives the immediate action of a scene and is a writing style and choose to consider as well. More on this further down.

2nd person

“You look in the mirror and you touch your freckles. You hand glides down your check, caressing each bump mounted on your face.” – didn’t come from anywhere, I made it up.

Notice that in this point of view the word you is used to put the reader in the story, to feel like they are actually there. It is more used in short stories. I don’t like 2nd person. I don’t like it being read at like that like no I am not doing that. But that’s just my taste. If you like 2nd person or find it intriguing or a challenge, do it. It won’t hurt you.

3rd person

This one very common. It gives the readers a chance to see the story from other characters’ perspectives than the main character.

“She looked over the balcony, sweat dripping down her eyebrows and neck. She crouched like a frog and sprang up in the air like she saw her prey. But she didn’t. The sun flickers off her back. And she fell.” -Didn’t come from anywhere, I made it up

Notice that instead of ‘I’ or ‘You’ the third person uses “She/he” instead.

Most books are written in the past tense but I used present tense because my stories revolved around immediate action so if your story is similar to mine than past and present tense is something to consider as well.

experience

 

So let’s get into the nitty gritty:

Which of these point of views is right for YOUR novel? Here are four points to take into consideration

1. Your Readers

It’s always about your readers. Always.

You want your readers to have the best experience possible when reading your book. They don’t want to feel like they are missing a lot of the story if you write in 1st person but all the excitement happens away from that character. For example, if your main character is Sally and her story is written in first person your readers will only know what she knows; nothing more. This is great for journey stories but if it’s not or if too much is going on outside of where your character is at then your readers may feel a little cheated.

So if you want to do first person, pick a character that sees a lot of the action. If a lot of action is going on in your story that doesn’t always involve the main character, but you want your readers to see it then maybe 3rd person would be a better point of view to write in.

It’s all about the reader experience and what works best for your story.

2. Information

Your characters can’t know everything. But your readers can. If you’re writing Sci-fi or fantasy or anything information heavy you may want to consider using 1st person and have your main character experience the world along with your readers. This way your readers won’t feel bombarded with information about your world all at once but can enjoy the journey with your character.

3. You

You’re important to. You shouldn’t write in a format that you hate (like I hate 2nd person) just because you think the readers will like it. Readers are number one yes but you’re number two. If you writing in a format is so uncomfortable to you then you’ll end up writing it badly because the passion wouldn’t be there. And your readers wouldn’t like that either.

There’s a difference in trying new things you’ve never tried before and doing something you hate just to fit in. You have to be fine with what you’re doing.

4. It’s okay to fail

When I first wrote When Love Hurts it was in past tense. I gave it to my editor and the first thing he said was that he highly recommended, because of my immediate action, that I change the entire story to present tense. The WHOLE story. It was like a slap to the face, but a good slap. Like a wake up call slap. It was so obvious and my writing sounded so much better. It was remarkable and easier to read.

If you get as far as I got, or less hopefully, and decide to change the way you tell your story it’s okay. It’s okay to start over if it’s going to make your story better. Remember, it’s your product and you don’t want to put anything out but the very best it could be? Why? Because if you don’t make it the best then after you put it out you’re going to keep thinking “I could have done better, I could have changed this and that”.

Don’t have second thoughts when it comes to making your book the best it can be. Consider all your options.

shockedPresent Tense Vs Past Tense

What I like most:

For present tense,  I love how it makes the story flows fast. It makes as though I am right there in the action instead of a reflection back.

For past tense, it’s more natural for me because most book I read are past tense. It’s easier to write because it’s what I read and my writing automatically goes back to past tense if I’m not paying close attention. Also, readers are used to past tense.

What I like least:

For present tense, I don’t like that it’s hard to stay writing in this format without switching to past tense. Sometimes it can be confusing if you’re writing about a flashback or anything about my character’s past. Writing in this format requires heavy and careful editing to make sure everything is right.

For past tense, somehow for me it slows the story down a bit. It’s kind of like it already happened and we’re being told what happened. Nothing wrong with that but the story can skip around a bit and say foreshawdowy things like “I should have known better” or “I never thought anything of it”.  It’s that narrative knows, I don’t know yet thing that makes me feel a little behind. Like I’m playing catch up.

None of my least points are too bad. My entire first series was written in 1st person present tense and my next book will most likely be written in 3rd person past tense. Big shift and my writing and it should be an interesting challenge.

Try things out yourself and she how you like the different view points.

Hope this help. Leave a comment about what you think.

Shaquanda

Photo credit: 123rf.com

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About the Author

Shaquanda Dalton

Hello, my name is Shaquanda Dalton and welcome to Learnasyouwrite.com! A little about myself, I'm 20, I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and am a Sohomore at the University of Wisonsin-Milwaukee. I love writing and have written short stories and simple works since I was nine years old. I have a cute cate named Joey who loves to scratch and bite on his good days.

  • M. A. Brown

    I’ve always loved to read, but admit to having no formal creative writing training. Your advice on POV was very helpful. Reading, writing and experimenting with voice, character development, etc., are essential. I love blogs that teach and will definitely follow yours.

    • Shaquanda Dalton

      I love reading too. It’s what made me want to write my own in the first place. I think reading evokes our creative minds and helps us to learn to be creative.

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