Tag Archives: POV

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:

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“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.

 

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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!

 

Sue

*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.

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Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension” – part 7: I or He or is it Me?

Welcome! 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 seven:

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“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 7: I or He or is it Me?

Decisions, decisions…

When you are writing a novel,  decisions are part of the process. One of the most important decisions you as a novelist have to make is how to present your main character(s) to your readers. That presentation is commonly known as point-of-view. You will see point-of-view abbreviated in many writers’ blogs and how-to books as pov.

With pov you have two basic choices – first person point-of-view and third person point-of-view.

I went for a walk, and I met my enemy. First person pov

He went for a walk, and he met his enemy. Third person pov

Now you can get a little fancy or funky and use second person, but second person (You go for a walk and you meet your enemy.) is generally used within the context of a first person point-of-view presentation or, on occasion, to convey the thoughts of a character being presented in the third-person-point-of-view. So we’ll delegate a discussion of second person point-of-view to  another time and another place.

To make your pov decision, you need to know what each pov offers to your novel, because they both have strengths and weaknesses. Let’s talk about some of those.

First Person Point-of-View Strengths:

  • First person generally pulls the reader into the protagonist’s mind more quickly, so the reader identifies more easily with the main character.
  • First person is often best for readers who prefer their novels to follow only one main character.
  • First person is usually (not always) the POV of choice for literary novels because stream-of-consciousness and an unusual “voice” (My next “Writing the Third Dimension” will be about voice.) are often very important to literary novels, and for most novelists stream-of-consciousness and an unusual voice are more easily achieved through first person pov presentations.
  • First person is often used for mysteries in which the novelist wants both the reader and the protagonist to be struggling to figure out who-dun-it.
  • Novelists who write in the young adult genre often use first person pov because a certain percentage of their readers are not reading by choice. They are reading by assignment, and thus they are more antagonistic to characters and plot. A first person presentation, with its limited pov and strong emotional pull, captures them more easily.

Third Person Point-of-View Strengths:

  • In multi-character novels with a wide historical or geographic scope, third person pov makes for an easier presentation of extensive ideas and a wide variety of cultures and characters.
  • With third person pov, the reader feels more distance between himself/herself and the characters, which means the writer can more readily present some of the action through the eyes and mind of a villain without grossing out a sensitive reader. This is a who-is-your-audience situation and will depend on your novel’s genre. In the horror genre, writers don’t hesitate to convey a villain’s thoughts from a first person pov. In an inspirational genre, that might not work so well.
  • In some suspense and mystery novels, the writer wants the reader to know what is going on while the protagonist remains clueless. In third person pov, secondary characters can provide information through conversations or thoughts that are presented to the reader but not to  the protagonist.

First Person Point-of-View Weaknesses:

  • Some readers refuse to read books written in first person pov. This is a personal preference, but I’ve yet to find a reader who refuses to read a book written in third person pov.
  • The writer can’t suddenly hop into another character’s mind in first person pov. If the character telling the story doesn’t know some fact, that character can’t suddenly present that fact to the reader. Now I know there are successful exceptions to this rule, but 98% of the time, in first person pov, if the main character doesn’t know something then it can’t be presented to the reader.
  • In first person pov, it’s very easy to fall into “telling” the story rather than “showing” what’s going on. If this concept is confusing to you, please refer to my last “Writing the Third Dimension” post (June 2013)  entitled “20/20.”

Third Person Point-of-View Weaknesses:

  • In third person pov, it sometimes takes a reader longer to feel an emotional bond with the main characters.
  • Novels written in third person are often more complex in plot, which for some readers is a disadvantage.

When I’m deciding which point-of-view to use in a short story or a novel, I sometimes write the first chapter both ways. Then I can tell which one flows better, and I make my decision according to that.

Point-of-view is a complex topic, so, if I’ve managed to do nothing more than confuse you, please feel free to ask questions. Otherwise, as a reader, do you have a preference – first person point-of-view or third person point-of-view?

Sue

*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 August 22, 2013, for part 8.