Choosing the Right Point Of View For Your Novel

From the very first paragraph, you already have a critical decision that needs making and it isn't one to be rushed. Your novel's point of view (POV). A lot of writers simply start writing using a point of view that feels most natural to them, or one that they've read about in other books often, but it might not always be the best point of view for your book. In this article, I'm assuming that you've already chosen whether you're going to have multiple POV's from different characters or a singular POV from your main character. Now there's only one choice left, are you going to write in first person or third person?

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To start, you can write a novel in the second person but, depending on your genre, I wouldn't suggest it

The second person point of view often refers to you, the reader, as being the main character as often it is 'you' being addressed. The biggest indicator of a book being in second person is by the use of pronouns like; you, your, yours, yourself, yourselves, etc.

Writing in second person isn't recommended for creative writing, because it removes the distance between the reader and the writer. It also means that you can only share with the reader what the narrator knows, so it can take away the added creativeness. That being said, there are a few second person books that are popular, so if you have your heart set on trying out second person, you can always give it a go.

Example of writing in second person:

Your best friend, Emma asks whether you want to go shopping, but you politely decline. "Sorry, my grandma is sick," you tell her, knowing the lie you're spinning will soon twist out of control. "She's really old, and she's been coughing lately so we're all trying to do whatever we can to help." Emma looks at you oddly, she can always tell when you lie. The reality is that your grandma is comfortably sitting at home, with a hot cup of tea to her right, her fingers twiddling the knitting needles through one loop, then the next, humming away to the drum of the folk guitar from her favourite cassette tape.

Writing in first person point of view

First person point of view is where the fictional narrator relates information from their own perspective and tells the story to us. The biggest indicator of a book being first person is by the use of pronouns like; me, myself and I.

Writing in first person is most popular among creative writers as it allows them the freedom to portray quirky language from their character, shortened dialect, emotional diction and more that allow a reader to built the personality of their characters through their point of view. Reedsy has a great article on explaining first person, click here to read it.

Example of writing in first person:

I fiddled with the silk bow attached to my cream shirt and hoped that he wouldn't look at me. There was stained liquid all over my shirt and everyone in the entire school would have heard about what Darla did. I could feel his eyes searching for mine causing the hairs on the back of my neck to stand at attention. Slowly, my eyes found his and I expected the corner of his lips to turn upwards into a mocking smile, but he just stared. After a few moments, he dropped a tissue in my lap and said, "Don't let them make you inferior."

Writing in third person point of view

Unlike with first person, third person gives you distance from your POV character and allows you to not give too much away and works best when wanting to use multiple POV. Leigh Bardugo does this best in Six of Crows. She writes in third person from multiple POV, and allows the reader to smoothly shift from a character's point of view based on what's happening in the story. The biggest indicator of a book being first person is by the use of pronouns like; he, she, they, its, them, themselves, theirs.

Unlike in first and second person point of view, the narrator is not a character in the story. This can allow the writer to write from a broader perspective but it can make it increasingly difficult to establish a connection with the reader, as you're not directly speaking to them or interacting with them.Reedsy has a great article on explaining third person, click here to read it.

Example of writing in first person:

Kate saw the light in his eyes dwindle as he tried to move the candle closer to warm his shivering heart. The ice that crept underneath his skin had spread to his eyes and slowly they glazed over, sparkling shards of glass that glistened at the tips. His pale blue lips parted as a flutter of cool swept from his mouth. "Please, don't become this," Kate blubbered. She tried to herself that it wasn't too late, that he hadn't sacrificed himself for her, but she was staring down at the truth and the truth was that George was dying.

Which point of view should you choose?

Trying this exercise will help you determine which point of view you should choose. Write the same paragraph of a story in first person and third person point of view, you could even include second point of view if you wanted. Then ask yourself these questions;

  • Which POV felt most natural to you?

  • Which POV flowed best, without you having to think about it?

  • Which POV tells the story best?

  • Which POV gives you the most creative control?

If you're still not sure, you could try and write a few more pages in the above point of views and then decide, but whichever feels most natural and flows best is the one I would use, otherwise you may find that your story switches point of view throughout.