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How to Choose POV in Fiction Writing

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THIRD PERSON LIMITED OMNISCIENT (One character)

Envision the narrator as a reality TV camera that follows the main (viewpoint) character around, but occasionally gets comments and thoughts about what is happening. The narrator is still “outside” of the story, similar to Third Person Objective, but catches occasional glimpses into the mind of the main character. These glimpses are typically portrayed as thoughts and written in italics.

  • Follows one character directly.
  • Narrator only knows what that one character knows.
  • Narrator cannot explain why other characters act a certain way.
  • Depending on the level of intimacy between narrator and main character, this POV can be close (deep) or distant.
  • Narrator can see events through the eyes of the main character as he believes they are occurring.
  • Narrator can be closely involved with the main character and never leave his mind.
  • Pros:
    • Readers don’t become overwhelmed trying to keep up with different POV characters.
    • Readers won’t become frustrated with POV switches.
    • Less stressful to write.
  • Cons:
    • Can’t easily describe events that don’t happen directly to the POV character.
  • Example: The Giver by Lois Lowry, Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained by Peter Hamilton, Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

 

THIRD PERSON FAMILIAR OBSERVER

In this POV, the narrator, or observer, has insight into the history and background of characters and may relate some of this information from his perspective (like an added commentary). Think of the narrator as the host of a reality TV show with a documentary camera. The camera follows the main (viewpoint) character everywhere, but can insert his opinions and interpretations based on knowledge only he knows about the character.

  • The narrator describes what happens and what a character does.
  • The narrator can offer explanations into a character’s behavior based on his knowledge of the character’s history and background.
  • The narrator can take on an evaluative role and judge the characters as good and bad or offer praise and criticism.
  • Pros:
    • Writer can influence the reader’s values and judgment.
    • Writer has an opportunity to insert his values into a story without assigning them to a specific character.
  • Cons:
    • Can create dislike of a story as the narrator’s opinions can conflict with a reader’s opinions.
    • Can create confusion for readers as the narrator may know information that the reader does not.

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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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