All You Need To Know About Story POV

Published on 22 February 2022 at 22:34

I am so happy you're here, because today I am going to tell you something that can make or break the way your story is received: its point of view (POV). Simply put: the eyes through which the story is viewed. Your story's point of view is groundbreaking, because it determines exactly what your readers knowssees, and feels. There are three different POVs: first person POV, second person POV, and third person POV. All of these options have their pros and cons. After reading this blogpost, you will know exactly which POV might fit your story best. Ready? Let's go!

First Person POV

In the First Person POV, the reader experiences the story first-hand. Most often (although not always), the narrator is the main character. The story is written using the pronouns I, me, and mine

Let me show you how that looks with an excerpt from Always Alone, the last story in Desperandum:

"The pain torturing my entire body makes me realize I’m on the hard, cold bathroom floor. My head is pounding and my ears are whizzing in the rhythm of my excessively fast heartbeat. My eyes are bone dry and my throat feels like a half grated, forgotten vegetable. Slowly the spots be- fore my eyes disappear and I regain my sight. The unnatural position of my legs tells me that I didn’t get there by choice."

What happens here is that you experience the story through the main character's eyes. You see what they see, you feel what they feel, you har what they hear and you even know what they're thinking. This technique automatically makes the story feel intimate, and it will make the readers sympathize with your narrator easily. Moreover, writing from First Person POV may reveal interesting twists, since we only know so much when we read the story through the narrator's eyes.

That can also be a downside to this writing technique: First Person POV can make the story feel somewhat limited, because the narrator has to know everything that happens. Otherwise your readers wouldn't know it happened. In the example you get a clear vision of how you can use First Person POV to understand the narrator's thoughts and feelings, but you should use this sparingly, especially when you're writing a novel. You wouldn't want to make the entire novel happen inside the narrator's head!

Second Person POV

In the Second Person POV, the narrator is telling the story to the reader. This is a style often used in non-fiction and sparingly used in fiction. When reading the story, you will feel as if the book you're holding is written entirely for you. The narrator talks to you with the pronouns youyour and yours.

I must admit I don't usually write in Second Person POV (although I'm impatient to start experimenting with it more), so I had to search thoroughly to find you how that looks like. But I did find it in the opening poem I wrote for Virago. Here, you can read part of it:

"“Always say yes...”

when the spark of our will kindles, the battle is fought.

“Be pretty, but not gorgeous,”

But, daughter, you shine brighter than the Moon!

“Be smart, but not powerful,”

but, mother, you are the beginning of all existence!"

As you can see, you are spoken to directly as the reader, which makes you instantly focus and feel seen. That is this POV's biggest strength: this is as personal as it gets. I like to think of this technique as a big love letter to someone you don't know, by speaking directly to your readers. A unique opportunity, for sure. And as I said, this technique is hardly ever used in fiction, so reading a book in Second Person POV will definitely surprise your readers and make you hard to forget!

However, this technique also has its downside. First of all, it can sound a little bit fake if not done correctly. You know, kind of like those PeRsOnAlIzEd ads you see when you accidentally subscribe to a newsletter of a vague company you encountered online. Moreover, this technique makes it difficult to explore subplots and show how side characters develop. It's definitely not impossible, but more difficult. Last, and this has to do with your ego as a writer, chances are that people who don't identify with the narrator might not like your book. I would therefore recommend to only use this style if you know for sure who your target audience is and if you know them well.

Third Person POV

Most fiction books you read are written in Third Person POV. There's two sides to the Third Person POV-coin, and that is a difference in views. Most popular is the Third Person POV with a limited view. All that this means is that the narrator doesn't know everything. They view the story like you would view an event as a bystander: you can see a lot, and you can see things that other people can't, but you don't know everything. On the other hand, there also exist a Third Person POV that is omniscient, and thus knows everything. This is less commonly used because knowing everything is not natural to our human brain. It would tire us instead of give us the relaxation that we want when reading a book. In Third Person POV, the pronouns used can differ between sheher, and hers to themthey, and their, and hehim, and his

I tend to write most of my stories in Third Person Limited POV as you can see in Friday the Thirteenth, one of Virago's stories:

"It is Friday the Thirteenth. The day Zysila has been looking forward to for months. It doesn’t happen often that the so-called unlucky day falls together with a full Moon. Tonight, it’s finally time. A black tourmaline, as big as a small child’s head, is waiting on her self-made shrine cleaned and ready."

Here, you can see how much the narrator knows. They know what Zysila has been feeling for months, what she has prepared, they know some background information... which makes the story feel very rich and complete. It will be easy for your reader to envision your story. As the writer, this gives you limitless options for the story. You can go anywhere! Even more so, you could even choose to make the narrator a character of their own

I do want to stress that even though you have all these options, you shouldn't use all of them in one story. With too many choices, you risk lack of focus. Take it easy! There's lots of more stories to write, you don't have to show off all of your writing skills in one of them. Another downside to this technique is that Third Person POV is the most popular option for fiction, which can make this technique feel a little bit overdone. However, you could also look at it the other way and be thankful that you have so many examples to get inspired by! Another thing to consider is that with this technique, you will have to make a little stronger effort to make your readers sympathize with your character. Third Person POV means that the reader stands just a little farther away than if the story was written in, let's say Second Person POV. This is no problem! Just requires a teensy bit more creativity of you as a writer.

Experiment

As you can probably tell, I can talk about this for hours and hours! I personally love writing in Third Person Limited POV, and I have also written my fair share of First Person POV stories. After writing this blogpost for you, I must say that my love for Second Person POV is rekindled and I'm for sure going to experiment with that a little more. That's also what I would like advise you: experiment! Rewrite stories in another POV, challenge yourself by writing in the POV that you find the most difficult, write in a POV that you don't usually read for fun, or the other way around! The sky is the limit. Let me know how it works out for you, I love to get in contact with you all! And if you feel like you could use a helping hand from your Big Sis, reach out to me. I'm here to help you, wherever you are in the world!

- Pia Sophia


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