Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – part 12: Whose Eyes?

Welcome back! Over the next many months we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison‘s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read all the segments by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on the drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month twelve:


“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 12: Whose Eyes?

Here’s what I love about reading novels. They give me the opportunity to see the world through another person’s eyes. For a novelist to provide that great joy to his readers, he has to develop full and believable characters and then choose how to convey the thoughts and ideas of those characters on the written page. That choice is all about point of view (POV).


In determining POV, every writer has two main options, first person or third person. We’ll talk about variations, like second person,  in a later blog post, but today let’s keep it simple.


First Person POV: I went for a nice walk, and I saw a pretty flower.


Third Person POV: She went for a nice walk, and she saw a pretty flower.


I know, I know, the two sentences above deserve trashing for multiple reasons, but let’s not complicate matters. Two choices. That seems pretty straight forward. So how do you decide which is best for your novel? Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that, but I can tell you how I decide which POV is best for my novels.




I consider these four things:


1. The usual POV in which my genre is presented.


2. My preference.


3. The strengths and weaknesses of each POV.


4. The unique characters in my novel.


So let’s talk about #1 – the usual POVs for some common genres. In my next “Writing the Third Dimension,” I’ll discuss numbers 2 through 4.


Historical fiction is usually presented in third person POV. That’s because historical fiction often paints on a wide canvas, and most authors prefer to open the minds of many characters to their readers. Multiple third person POVs are less awkward and, to most readers, more “believable” than multiple first person POVs.


Mysteries and Who-Done-Its boast a wide variety of sub-genres. Because of the differing requirements in each of these sub-genres, readers will find some novels presented in first person POV and others in third person. If the novelist wants the main character to be as stumped by the mystery as the reader, she will often choose first person POV. If the writer wants to present what happened from multiple viewpoints, he will often choose third person POV.


Romance novels are built on a foundation of strong emotions. They are often presented in first person POV, which is able to convey emotions at a very intense level.


Young Adult novels are often told from first person POV because of that same strong emotional bond the writer is trying to forge between a main character and the reader.


Action-Adventure is another genre that is split between both POVs, but if the novel has only one main character, authors often choose first person POV.


Children’s novels, those first chapter books, are also usually written in first person POV, and that is done to help young children bond more easily with the main character.


Feel free to add to our genre list. Do you have a reading preference for POV?


Enjoy the Journey!



*Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*


Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy, and a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you come back February 27, 2014 for part 13.


2 responses to “Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – part 12: Whose Eyes?

  1. I am going to guess that when you say “Young Adult” you also include MG. This will be useful! 😀


  2. Yes, Erik. Thank you for bringing that up! I need to be more specific with my terms. 🙂


I look forward to reading your greatly appreciated comments. Thanks for making my day! :)

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