Saturday, October 9, 2010

Choosing a Point of View

How do you know which POV works best for your story?

I’m revisiting four short stories I wrote a while ago. I thought they only needed a little tweaking. Boy was I wrong! I asked my mentor to read them and give me his overall impressions. Although they're somewhat tight, he said they could be tighter if I change the POV of two of my stories.

He said, “When it comes to POV, it all depends on what you're trying to do with your story. If your story relies on bringing out the internal states of a character, how that character is feeling, what she is thinking, etc., then a first-person POV usually works best. If the story depends on a more objective outlook and/or on more than one character's way of looking at and doing things, then a third-person POV (omniscient) is usually best.”

When you begin to write a story, whether a short story or a novel, you first need to know from which point of view the story will be told. You can always change this once the story is written or just doesn’t work out the way you had intended, but it’s best to plan from the beginning.

No set rule for points of view applies when writing. A writer usually sticks to the POV that feels comfortable. If you are a beginning writer, try writing several paragraphs, including dialogue, from each POV. You will know immediately what feels right for your way of storytelling.

Have you experienced POV confusion? Do you know from the get go which POV will work best for your story or novel?


  1. Have tried several points of view but when writing my children's stories, only one works for me. I must spend my time in the skin of an eleven year old in order to tell the story from his or her point of view... :0)

  2. Hi Carole Anne,
    WOW! It must be hard to put yourself in the shoes of an 11-year-old in order to have a credible character. However, you must be an expert since you've written a few books ;)
    Have a great weekend!

  3. I've found more often than not, there is so much going on in the stories I write a third person POV usually works best for me. I love the voice I can give myself with my blog post. So far I haven't managed to narrow down a single POV to write in first person as I do posting in my WIP. (Hugs)Indigo

  4. If I had my way I would write from the hero's POV but since I want to get published I have to stick with the heroine's POV for now. The funny thing though is my editor and CPs say they still know my Hero better than my Heroine. But I still struggle with POV a lot

  5. Hi Indigo,
    I tried writing from a 3rd person POV (I like the idea of an omniscient narrator) however, two mentors have told me that for the specific stories I wrote, a 1st person POV would be better. I don't fight it though. I enjoy writing in the 1st P, POV. Thank you for sharing your comments.

    Hi Joanna,
    Don't worry, you're not the only who struggles with POV. In my writing group, we all complain about it ;) Hopefully, we'll master this soon.
    Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I totally empathize with you.

  6. POV confusion--absolutely! As if the confusion of life isn't enough, I get to experience it within my stories too! I tend to vary the POV between first and third person depending on my story; however, I still am trying to work out which one is best in a particular story. That's why I'm so lucky for the writers in my writer's group and now the online course I'm taking. I do hope the day comes when POV just flows. Thank you, Claudia, for sharing your insights about this challenging aspect of writing! :-))

  7. Hi Kelly,
    You're so right. This is a challenging aspect of writing I didn't expect to encounter :(
    I'm positive though that I'll master it soon. I guess a lot of writers have the same problem. Thank you for stopping by.
    Happy Thanksgiving Day! (To all my Canadian friends) :)

  8. I think it depends on the piece and the emotion involved in the piece. To date the longest piece I've written is a 7,000 word chapter book (it was 14,000 but I made it into two seperate stories). So I feel funny voicing my opinion on this...I am working on a mid grade novel and it's written in first person. Some of my pb soties are first person some are third...I enjoy reading ya novels that have two first person point of views in alternating chapters.

  9. When I first started writing seriously I'd always find the first person narrative to be the easiest - it's only after many many many stories and courses later that I'm discovering how to distance myself and be more confident with third person narration. I think it's the distancing that is the key for me - otherwise my writing tends to be mawkish! LOL!

    Good luck with your short stories!! Take care

  10. I have no idea how to pick a point of view. Mainly it just happens on its own when I start writing.

  11. Hi Sharon,
    Two first person POVs, WOW! Now, that's a challenge. Even though you have their POVs in alternating chapters you still have to be careful not to sound alike. "The Help" has 3 POVs, 3 female characters but it was well done. One day, I hope I'll be able to do that. ;)

    Hi Old Kitty,
    For me it was the other way around. When I started writing, I only wrote in the 3rd person and I tried so hard to let it be "omniscient unlimited" :) Then I discovered how to write in the 1st per. POV and I like it. Although I wouldn't say it's that easy. One still has to be careful. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Hi Misha,
    I guess when you start writing you let it happen but when you move on the editing process you have to choose the POV that works best for your characters and the story itself.

  12. Interesting post, Claudia. I haven't really thought too much about changing POV up until now. I've always written from the POV that felt right when starting out writing.

    I'm going to revisit some of my short stories now and see how they would differ, change or improve with a change of POV.

    ... and Hello Claudia! Great blog, 'll be back to check it out on a regular basis now that I've found you and it. Thanks so much for dropping by the Wales Blog Party and you made Squizzey's day, stopping by his little blog, too. Lovely to meet you!

  13. Hi Kath,
    Welcome to my blog! Yes, I had a great time at your party and it was a pleasure meeting Squizzey. Since I'm following you, I'll be stopping very often ;)

  14. Of hell yeah I experience confusion. I still do. My WIP is first person, which is what I have the easier time with but I keep debating with myself wheter if I should scratch everything and restart with omniscient POV.

    I like the clarifications you've made though.

  15. Hi Ben,
    Don't change it yet. Think of your story, the dialogue, the characters. If you have it in 1st person POV, make sure it's throughout the story. Make sure the narrator does NOT get inside the other characters' head, unless it's 3rd P omniscient. It's easy to get carried away and we forget sometimes ;) I know, I've done that.
    How was your trip to Argentina & Uruguay? Hope you post some pics in your blog.

  16. POV - ah! Talk about confusion! In the book I'm editing now I have several POVs - necessary for the plot. It was doing my head in at the time!

  17. Hi Talli,
    Welcome back! I read you had a great time in your hometown ;)
    Several POVs? WOW! That must be really challenging. However, in a novel you can get away with a lot more. In short stories you're more restricted so you have to choose your POV carefully ;)

  18. It was great, pics will follow that's for sure. You really sent me in a writer crisis with that post. I am now convinced third person is what I should do. I will re-write my first chapter in third person and send both to my focus group. Isolation and secrecy are amazing for writing, but it makes you a terrible judge of your own stuff.

  19. Sorry, Ben :(
    But look at the bright side, revisiting your story made you realize a 3rd person POV might work better for your story. :)

  20. Hi Claudia,

    You're right, POV does make a big difference. I think I started writing in third person at first, and then changed it to first person POV. Except a few chapters that I am changing to third person POV because the person narrating them is not the protagonist. I wonder if this is a good idea or not. It feels more natural to write in first person POV for me. Hopefully you're POV changing process doesn't take too long. Maybe you might find out more about your characters than you originally did.

    I read a book recently by LJ Smith, and it was really weird, she would be using 'he' and 'she' and then she would use 'I' for a paragraph or two, then switch back to 3rd person POV. It was really well done, I hardly noticed the transition.

  21. Hi SH,
    POV is not as easy as I thought. I changed the POV in my short story and it wasn't bad at all. I think a lot of writers, especially emerging writers go through the same POV ordeal.
    Thanks for sharing your comments.