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How to Choose POV in Fiction Writing

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THIRD PERSON POV
(Identified by the pronouns he, she, his, hers, they, them, and theirs)

THIRD PERSON OMNISCIENT

What many writers refer to as Third Person Omniscient is technically a variant of Third Person Limited with multiple characters instead of one. True Third Person Omniscient was seen more often in the past and has fallen out of popularity in modern books.

True Third Person Omniscient

  • Story is narrated by an unnamed/unknown entity who knows everything.
  • Narrator sees all, whether a character is present to see it or not.
  • Contains descriptions of things the characters can’t know about and can’t observe.
  • Narrator is never a part of any scenes, which gives a somewhat distant and dispassionate feel.
  • Narrator can look into every character’s mind and analyze motivations, goals, and thoughts.
  • The thoughts that carry the greatest weight in a scene are the ones that are shared, regardless of which character they belong to.
  • The focus is more on events than thoughts and feelings.
  • Characterized by "head hopping."
  • Pros:
    • Can easily impart knowledge without worrying about how the characters found out.
    • No concerns about inadvertently switching POV.
    • Works best for stories that follow a group of people (e.g., family, nation) and is often used for a story that spans more than one person’s lifetime or a larger region of space than can be traveled in one person’s lifetime.
  • Cons:
    • Less personal.
    • Difficult to justify keeping information from readers.
  • Example: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Third Person Limited Omniscient with Multiple characters

Third Person Limited Omniscient with Multiple Characters is a variant of Third Person Limited and is often incorrectly referred to as Third Person Omniscient.

  • Narrator writes from the perspective of more than one character.
  • The same character should be the narrator for an entire scene or chapter, and the POV of another character should not be entered during that time.
  • Switching from one character’s POV to another character’s POV within the same scene is considered "head hopping."
  • Pros:
    • Can reveal/keep secrets from readers by writing from the perspective of a character who isn’t in the know.
    • All events in a story can be shown directly by switching to whichever character is experiencing them.
    • Works well for stories with more than one main character.
  • Cons:
    • Deciding which POV is most beneficial at any given time can be difficult.
    • Readers can be confused by the different characters.
    • Readers may have a hard time identifying who the main character is.
  • Example: Game of Thrones series by G.R.R. Martin

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8 comments

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Amor Libris (Kelly Hartigan)

Rich, I try to add at least one or two new blog posts per week.

You’ve made this topic clear and understandable to me. Thank you.

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