Craft Chat CRAFT CHAT: Point of View (POV)

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Carol Rose

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Point of View

Point of view (POV) is not the same as voice, although you may see it referred to as voice. But for our purposes, voice refers to that distinct quality and syntax of writing that is unique to each author. There's a Writing Wiki post that further explains this HERE.

We also sometimes see voice used to describe grammar, as in passive voice or active voice. Again, for our purposes, when we talk about passive versus active verbs in writing, we will refer to them as verb tenses, not voice.

POV refers to the perspective of who is telling the story. It's the person's head we're in when we're reading.

Again, the POV terms are sometimes used differently, but for our purposes I'm going to label them one way and give definitions, just to keep things clear for us. I'm also going to use the same scene for each POV example to illustrate the differences when reading it. This scene is from the first chapter of His Majesty's Secret, a book published under my Carolyn Rosewood pen name by Siren-BookStrand. It's written in third person POV, alternating between the heroine's and hero's POV.

Keep in mind as you read the scene transcribed into each POV, that the original opening scene was written in the heroine's POV. Ravenna is fleeing her homeland into another kingdom. One which is not an ally of the kingdom where she was born. She's close to the castle and has been spotted in the woods by a couple of Castle Guards. In Ravenna's world, women have no rights and it's definitely not safe for them to travel alone, especially in a hostile kingdom.

OMNISCIENT POV. This is a story told from a narrator's POV, but the narrator is not a character in that story. Rather, they are an unseen, all-knowing story teller looking down on the action. They can see everything that each character is doing, and are able to tell the reader each character's thoughts. Sometimes writers will take the approach of limiting the omniscient POV to only a few characters, per chapter or per scene.

The downside to using this POV is that it creates distance between the reader and the characters, because we are never squarely in one person's head during any part of the story. Using a limited omniscient POV can soften this a bit, but because the story teller is still a narrator as opposed to a character, readers can often have a difficult time getting a sense of being there with that character as the story unfolds.

This POV is usually written in past tense, and this refers to the verb tenses used. It could probably be written in present tense if the author wanted to experiment and see how it came out, but I'm not going to try it here.

Remember: the scene we're going to use for each example was originally written in third person, past tense, and this particular scene was told from Ravenna's POV. When I illustrate the differences between writing in past or present tense for each POV (where we're doing that) I'll change the scene to reflect that.

The Guards explored the ground near the fir tree. “I know what I saw,” said the taller one. “Someone was here.”

The other man bent down and examined the loam. “Boot prints. But it has not rained for several days. They could be old.”

“Then how do you explain the glint of metal?” asked the first one.

Ravenna glanced around for a higher branch.
Her skirt caught on a twig as she pulled herself to a higher position. When she tried to disengage the fabric her pack slipped. She caught it before it fell from the tree, but both Guards whirled around at the noise.

They sprinted toward the tree, the heavier one scanning straight ahead while the taller man glanced upward. He spotted her first and motioned for his companion. Both men stared at her, their faces full of disbelief. “Come down from there, lad.”

Ravenna wore a dress. How could they mistake her for a boy?

“I said come down from there. Who are you? Why are you hiding in trees?"

Then the other one realized how she was dressed. “Tis a lass,” he said softly.


This scene, written in omniscient POV, is very dry. We don't have anything in the way of motivation, feelings, or internal thoughts of the heroine. It's very matter of fact.

Now, that isn't to say the author can't add other elements in there, but then the line between omniscient POV and third person POV would become thin. Writers often don't understand this and try to write in third person POV, but it comes out as this example instead. When we get to the third person POV example, you'll see how the emotion and internal struggles have been added in to give this scene depth and character substance.

You probably also noted the head-hopping. Head-hopping is when we're not squarely in one character's head for the entire scene or chapter, but rather the writer hops back and forth between POVs. When this is done with great skill (and I'm talking only a few writers can truly pull this off), it does work, but when it's done poorly, it confusing for the reader. Remember, we're trying to ground our readers in the Who, What, When, Where, and Why. If we're hopping back and forth between POVs and characters' heads, that grounding is more difficult to accomplish.


SECOND PERSON POV used to rarely be seen, but it's becoming more popular, especially in certain genres. In this instance, YOU is the character. This solves the issue of distance, but can be awkward to read and difficult to write. Because I chose the YOU in this scene to be one of the guards, we have nothing of Ravenna's thoughts, feelings, or actions until both Guards spot her.

Here's the scene in second person, past tense POV.

Your companion explored the ground near the fir tree. “I know what I saw,” he said. “Someone was here.”

You bent down and examined the loam. “Boot prints. But it has not rained for several days. They could be old.”

“Then how do you explain the glint of metal?”


You heard a noise and both you and your companion whirled around and sprinted toward the tree from which the noise had come. Your companion fixed his gaze straight ahead while you glanced upward, spotting a lad hiding in the tree. “Come down from there, lad.”

He didn't respond.
“I said come down from there," you repeated. "Who are you? Why are you hiding in trees?"

Your companion grinned, and it was then you realized the lad wasn't a lad at all. Not unless lads had suddenly started wearing dresses.

“Tis a lass,” your companion said softly.


A bit more interesting than reading the omniscient POV, but like first person POV, we only have one person's POV. It's also more difficult to write, but I suspect that's because we're not used to writing that way. I thought about writing this from Ravenna's POV for illustration, instead of one of the Guards, but she'd be watching them as an observer and I didn't think it would be as interesting.

To re-write this in second person, present tense, we need only change the verb tenses.

Your companion explores the ground near the fir tree. “I know what I saw,” he says. “Someone was here.”

You bend down and examine the loam. “Boot prints. But it has not rained for several days. They could be old.”

“Then how do you explain the glint of metal?”


You hear a noise and both you and your companion whirl around and sprint toward the tree from which the noise came. Your companion fixes his gaze straight ahead while you glance upward, spotting a lad hiding in the tree. “Come down from there, lad.”

He doesn't respond.
“I said come down from there," you repeat. "Who are you? Why are you hiding in trees?"

Your companion grins, and it's then you realize the lad isn't a lad at all. Not unless lads have suddenly started wearing dresses.

“Tis a lass,” your companion says softly.


FIRST PERSON POV is popular in fiction. The character is one person in the story. Sometimes, a writer will switch POVs and tell the story in first person from more than one main character, but this can become confusing to readers if the writer is not careful. While this does solve the problem of distance, and provides immediacy and intimacy to the writing, it's limiting in that the writer must be skilled to provide a reader with the other characters' thoughts and feelings when using only one person's POV for the entire story.

This is the scene written in first person, past tense POV:

The Guards explored the ground near the fir tree. “I know what I saw,” said the taller one. “Someone was here.”

The other man bent down and examined the loam. “Boot prints. But it has not rained for several days. They could be old.”

“Then how do you explain the glint of metal?”

Oh stars of Rohesia. One hour from the portal and I'd suddenly grown careless? Not acceptable. Cursing myself for not being more diligent, I glanced around for a higher branch. Perhaps if I moved slowly they wouldn’t hear my ascent.

My skirt caught on a twig as I pulled myself to a higher position. When I tried to disengage the fabric my pack slipped. I caught it before it fell from the tree, but both Guards whirled around at the noise.

They sprinted toward the tree, the heavier one scanning straight ahead while the taller man glanced upward. He spotted me first and motioned for his companion. Both men stared at me, their faces full of disbelief. “Come down from there, lad.”

Lad? He must have poor eyesight if he couldn’t see I wore a dress.

“I said come down from there. Who are you? Why are you hiding in trees?"

My stomach contracted in pain as he tilted his head, his lips drawing back in a lecherous grin. Apparently I wouldn’t have to wait to descend the tree to reveal my gender.

“Tis a lass,” he said softly.


As you'll see when we get to third person, the only thing that changes from that POV is the pronouns. You, as a reader, will have to decide if this gives you a more immediate feel as you read it, as opposed to reading the same scene in first person. In both, you're squarely in Ravenna's head, seeing what she's seeing, hearing what she's hearing, and feeling what she's feeling.

Here is the same scene in first person, present tense. Again, all we change are the verb tenses.

The Guards explore the ground near the fir tree. “I know what I saw,” says the taller one. “Someone was here.”

The other man bends down and examines the loam. “Boot prints. But it has not rained for several days. They could be old.”

“Then how do you explain the glint of metal?”

Oh stars of Rohesia. One hour from the portal and I have suddenly grown careless? Not acceptable. Cursing myself for not being more diligent, I glance around for a higher branch. Perhaps if I move slowly they won’t hear my ascent.

My skirt catches on a twig as I pull myself to a higher position. When I try to disengage the fabric my pack slips. I catch it before it falls from the tree, but both Guards whirl around at the noise.

They sprint toward the tree, the heavier one scanning straight ahead while the taller man glances upward. He spots me first and motions for his companion. Both men stare at me, their faces full of disbelief. “Come down from there, lad.”

Lad? He must have poor eyesight if he can't see I'm wearing a dress.

“I said come down from there. Who are you? Why are you hiding in trees?"

My stomach contracts in pain as he tilts his head, his lips drawing back in a lecherous grin. Apparently I won’t have to wait to descend the tree to reveal my gender.

“Tis a lass,” he says softly.


Personally, I like present tense better when writing in first person POV, because I feel the immediacy more. I'm right there as it's happening. But some readers really dislike reading this particular POV. This is all very subjective, so you may have to play around with POVs to get the one you as the writer feel is best for your story.

THIRD PERSON POV is also popular in fiction. It's told from the POV of more than one character at a time. This is where you will find pronouns used - she, he, hers, his - in place of "I" statements or "you". When written correctly, sometimes called deep third or close third, it can achieve the same immediacy and intimacy as first person. This is usually told in past tense, as opposed to present tense. The advantage is that the writer can tell the story from more than two POVs if needed, and still achieve the same effects as if writing it in first person POV, but without the confusion that sometimes occurs using first person POV for more than one character in a story.

We're only going to see this scene in third person, past tense POV. And this is how it's actually written in the published book.

The Guards explored the ground near the fir tree. “I know what I saw,” said the taller one. “Someone was here.”

The other man bent down and examined the loam. “Boot prints. But it has not rained for several days. They could be old.”

“Then how do you explain the glint of metal?”

Oh stars of Rohesia. One hour from the portal and she’d suddenly grown careless? Not acceptable. Cursing herself for not being more diligent, she glanced around for a higher branch. Perhaps if she moved slowly they wouldn’t hear her ascent.

Her skirt caught on a twig as she pulled herself to a higher position. When she tried to disengage the fabric her pack slipped. She caught it before it fell from the tree, but both Guards whirled around at the noise.

They sprinted toward the tree, the heavier one scanning straight ahead while the taller man glanced upward. He spotted her first and motioned for his companion. Both men stared at her, their faces full of disbelief. “Come down from there, lad.”

Lad? He must have poor eyesight if he couldn’t see she wore a dress.

“I said come down from there. Who are you? Why are you hiding in trees?"

Ravenna’s stomach contracted in pain as he tilted his head, his lips drawing back in a lecherous grin. Apparently she wouldn’t have to wait to descend the tree to reveal her gender.

“Tis a lass,” he said softly.


Not much different than the first person, past tense POV. As I said, you as a reader have to decide which POV you like reading and writing better.

I know readers who refuse to read a book written in a particular POV. There's no way to anticipate this, just as there's no way to please every single potential reader out there. I'd suggest getting a feel for what's currently selling in your chosen genre. Take a look at what others are publishing, and which POVs seem most popular. Then play around. Experiment with scenes, just as we did here.

Okay! That's it! Now let's talk about it. :)
 
I didn't realize it and I suppose I'm not even sure I agree with it but I've been told that The Great Gatsby is omniscient. I was told that sometimes a character in the story can be an omniscient narrator. But if that doesn't make sense to you, I agree. It only sort of makes sense.

It sort of makes sense because it can be done... if the character is a sort of reporter who still has a strong point of view (voice)... like Nick in The Great Gatsby. But that isn't actually omniscient as we understand it. It's not all knowing because the omniscient narrator isn't actually all knowing but still limited by their understanding.

I guess it can be called Limited Omniscient and I've seen it described that way too. What makes it confusing is how the experts don't seem to make up their minds. It could be argued that Nick has a stake and plays a role in what happens. Although, it is true he sort of travels through the narrative as an outsider looking in, well... that says something about his character too.

I think the best omniscient is the one you don't know about.

Second person always sounds accusatory to me. More than any other pov, I think I'd have a difficult time reading a whole story in second person.

I like first person and have been writing in first person for a while. At first, it made me feel self-conscious and I think I slip into my own person pov while I'm using it.

But that's fine because I can edit it. Sometimes I find third person somewhat dull to write in.

This is interesting. Thanks Carol Ann.
 
The thing I struggle most with is the difference between Omniscient and 3rd person, especially in scenes when there's a lot of action.

And the differences can be varied, depending on how deep the third person is written in. When a writer doesn't go very deep with third person, it can sound almost exactly like one POV written in omniscient. The main difference in omniscient is that the writer isn't usually focused on staying in one character's head for any specific length of time. Instead, the story has more of a narrative feel to it. We're looking at all things at once, rather than going deep into one character's POV for a scene or a chapter, or the entire book. Hope that helps. :)
 
I didn't realize it and I suppose I'm not even sure I agree with it but I've been told that The Great Gatsby is omniscient. I was told that sometimes a character in the story can be an omniscient narrator. But if that doesn't make sense to you, I agree. It only sort of makes sense.
Yes, that's true! It is. So are the Harry Potter books, although in both examples, the narration stays focused on only one character. Nick in The Great Gatsby, and Harry in the HP books. But there's a fine line between that technique and writing in third person. :)

It sort of makes sense because it can be done... if the character is a sort of reporter who still has a strong point of view (voice)... like Nick in The Great Gatsby. But that isn't actually omniscient as we understand it. It's not all knowing because the omniscient narrator isn't actually all knowing but still limited by their understanding.

I guess it can be called Limited Omniscient and I've seen it described that way too. What makes it confusing is how the experts don't seem to make up their minds. It could be argued that Nick has a stake and plays a role in what happens. Although, it is true he sort of travels through the narrative as an outsider looking in, well... that says something about his character too.

I think the best omniscient is the one you don't know about.

Second person always sounds accusatory to me. More than any other pov, I think I'd have a difficult time reading a whole story in second person.

LOL! Yes, it does, doesn't it? I almost imagine the writer pointing a finger at me while I read. :)

I like first person and have been writing in first person for a while. At first, it made me feel self-conscious and I think I slip into my own person pov while I'm using it.

But that's fine because I can edit it. Sometimes I find third person somewhat dull to write in.

This is interesting. Thanks Carol Ann.

So glad you found it helpful! :)
 
I always thought the Harry Potter books were in 3rd person. I was just in a debate with my daughter about this the other day and we pulled one out and decided it was 3rd person because it always seemed to be from Harry's POV
 
I always thought the Harry Potter books were in 3rd person. I was just in a debate with my daughter about this the other day and we pulled one out and decided it was 3rd person because it always seemed to be from Harry's POV

She actually wrote them in third person limited, which a lot of people who write endless blog posts about these kinds of things say is the same as writing in omniscient but staying focused on one character. :) Clear as mud, right. ;)

But she does give us the occasional all-knowig POV, so it’s a modified form of third person in which she sometimes slips into omniscient POV.

And that’s a perfect illustration of why these labels are fluid and should not be taken as gospel truth. :)
 
I'm having trouble deciding what POV to use for my current project (YA Fantasy) but I'm waffling between omniscient and 3rd. I know first is all the rage but it just doesn't work for this story (for several tedious reasons). Is it fair to say the POV isn't terribly important in draft one? At this point in my writing I feel like it's more important to get the story out and then maybe play around and decide what POV to settle on in a redraft.
 
I'm having trouble deciding what POV to use for my current project (YA Fantasy) but I'm waffling between omniscient and 3rd. I know first is all the rage but it just doesn't work for this story (for several tedious reasons). Is it fair to say the POV isn't terribly important in draft one? At this point in my writing I feel like it's more important to get the story out and then maybe play around and decide what POV to settle on in a redraft.

I totally agree with that! :) Play around. See what feels right for your particular story.
 
I wrote a 3-book series in first person present tense as an experiment. I wanted to see if my readers liked an erotic BDSM romance in that POV from me. Up to that point, every one of my books had been written in deep third past tense. They loved it for the most part, but I had a few who were quite vocal about telling me they loved the stories but hated the POV. LOL! Can’t please everyone all the time. I loved writing in that POV and will do so again.
 
I wrote a 3-book series in first person present tense as an experiment. I wanted to see if my readers liked an erotic BDSM romance in that POV from me. Up to that point, every one of my books had been written in deep third past tense. They loved it for the most part, but I had a few who were quite vocal about telling me they loved the stories but hated the POV. LOL! Can’t please everyone all the time. I loved writing in that POV and will do so again.

The first romance I read in the first person, I strongly disliked. I missed having 2, 3rd person POV as you normally do in a romance. I think I could enjoy it more now but still prefer 3rd for romance esp erotic.
 
The first romance I read in the first person, I strongly disliked. I missed having 2, 3rd person POV as you normally do in a romance. I think I could enjoy it more now but still prefer 3rd for romance esp erotic.

A lot of authors I know are now writing them in first, but they alternate between the heroine and hero POVs, writing both in first. I don’t mind that, as long as they’re skilled at writing in first.
 
A lot of authors I know are now writing them in first, but they alternate between the heroine and hero POVs, writing both in first. I don’t mind that.

I don't know why I dislike it so much in romance (I dont mind in any other genre). Maybe because I started out very old school reading the likes of Julie Garwood and Linda Howard. I think a lot of newer fans started out in twilight or Fifty shades. That was never my cup of tea.
 
There is another option, and in the modern era, it's one that makes sense to me.
A continuum for third person, which a camera at one end - with no brain, just observes and needs careful movement to avoid whiplash, etc., and sees the outside of things - all the way down to deep, internal pov, with thoughts and feelings and all the narrative from the pov character.

Regardless of which POV a writer chooses, though, the one issue that stops me reading is when too many paragraphs begin with the name or pronoun - it's a point where (if I'm critiquing), I'd ask for action first - for the character to do something, rather than to tell the reader who did it before it happens.
POV sounds a simple thing, but it's not, and more than just keeping within the chosen POV, there are issues with each POV that make it easy for a writer to slip into the deep, dark holes that each one hides.
First person POV makes it difficult for the reader to disassociate if there's something horrible happening, and slipping out of POV while that thing is going on will throw a reader for six. It's also the easiest POV to do the 'I' on too many para beginnings. It becomes less story, more diary, so separation by too much 'I' - sounds funny, but it's out there.

I've learned to love third person, and will probably stick with that - with absolutely no sign of omni-anything (but with a camera handy on the POV character's shoulder).
But that's just me, and an opinion formed after years and years of trying to understand why so many 'experts' applied different explanations for the same word!
 
I don't know why I dislike it so much in romance (I dont mind in any other genre). Maybe because I started out very old school reading the likes of Julie Garwood and Linda Howard. I think a lot of newer fans started out in twilight or Fifty shades. That was never my cup of tea.

Until Twilight and Fifty Shades I don’t think first person in a romance was very popular.
 
There is another option, and in the modern era, it's one that makes sense to me.
A continuum for third person, which a camera at one end - with no brain, just observes and needs careful movement to avoid whiplash, etc., and sees the outside of things - all the way down to deep, internal pov, with thoughts and feelings and all the narrative from the pov character.

Regardless of which POV a writer chooses, though, the one issue that stops me reading is when too many paragraphs begin with the name or pronoun - it's a point where (if I'm critiquing), I'd ask for action first - for the character to do something, rather than to tell the reader who did it before it happens.
POV sounds a simple thing, but it's not, and more than just keeping within the chosen POV, there are issues with each POV that make it easy for a writer to slip into the deep, dark holes that each one hides.
First person POV makes it difficult for the reader to disassociate if there's something horrible happening, and slipping out of POV while that thing is going on will throw a reader for six. It's also the easiest POV to do the 'I' on too many para beginnings. It becomes less story, more diary, so separation by too much 'I' - sounds funny, but it's out there.

I've learned to love third person, and will probably stick with that - with absolutely no sign of omni-anything (but with a camera handy on the POV character's shoulder).
But that's just me, and an opinion formed after years and years of trying to understand why so many 'experts' applied different explanations for the same word!

Yes, it’s always a good idea to vary how sentences are begun. Even when writing in third, it’s easy to slip into starting every sentence with he or she.
 
She actually wrote them in third person limited, which a lot of people who write endless blog posts about these kinds of things say is the same as writing in omniscient but staying focused on one character. :) Clear as mud, right. ;)

But she does give us the occasional all-knowig POV, so it’s a modified form of third person in which she sometimes slips into omniscient POV.

And that’s a perfect illustration of why these labels are fluid and should not be taken as gospel truth. :)

I get what you're saying. There was a definite feel of a narrator or a storyteller in the Harry Potter books.
 
There is another option, and in the modern era, it's one that makes sense to me.
A continuum for third person, which a camera at one end - with no brain, just observes and needs careful movement to avoid whiplash, etc., and sees the outside of things - all the way down to deep, internal pov, with thoughts and feelings and all the narrative from the pov character.

This sounds a lot like deep third person.

The camera analogy is useful. I believe readers must respond to it -- not the analogy -- the use of a film like narrative -- for want of a better term.
 
Thanks @Carol Rose, that really helped solidify my understanding. When deciding the POV for my book, I found it useful to write the first page in first person and then write the first page in third person limited (always knew I wanted to go deep). Then I compared the two and asked a few honest people (the kind who don't pat you on the back) which they preferred.
 
Thanks @Carol Rose, that really helped solidify my understanding. When deciding the POV for my book, I found it useful to write the first page in first person and then write the first page in third person limited (always knew I wanted to go deep). Then I compared the two and asked a few honest people (the kind who don't pat you on the back) which they preferred.

Glad you found it helpful! :)
 
Another trick I use when trying to layer in the emotion for my characters is to write a scene in first person, even if the book is being written in third. Sometimes, I find it easier to feel the scene when I write it in first. Once I get the emotion exactly as I want it for that scene, I simply change the pronouns so the scene is in third person.
 
I didn't realize it and I suppose I'm not even sure I agree with it but I've been told that The Great Gatsby is omniscient. I was told that sometimes a character in the story can be an omniscient narrator. But if that doesn't make sense to you, I agree. It only sort of makes sense.

It sort of makes sense because it can be done... if the character is a sort of reporter who still has a strong point of view (voice)... like Nick in The Great Gatsby. But that isn't actually omniscient as we understand it. It's not all knowing because the omniscient narrator isn't actually all knowing but still limited by their understanding.

I guess it can be called Limited Omniscient and I've seen it described that way too. What makes it confusing is how the experts don't seem to make up their minds. It could be argued that Nick has a stake and plays a role in what happens. Although, it is true he sort of travels through the narrative as an outsider looking in, well... that says something about his character too.

The Great Gatsby along with the Sherlock Holmes books utilise a trick where you combine 1st & 3rd person, so that your narrator is there in first and they describe the actions of the titular protagonist in third.

You would almost never need to do this. The only reason that Fitzgerald & Conan Doyle do it, is to create an air of mystery about their protagonists. It's the only viewpoint that allows you to be at a balanced distance where the narrator, in both cases a supporting character, can express his feelings about the protagonist without it seeming contrived.

I'm not sure about Sherlock, but The Great Gatsby from any other viewpoint would have failed miserably.

A 1st or 3rd person perspective from Gatsby's perspective kills the novel immediately because it would betray Gatsby's web of lies straight away. The only alternative in this scenario would be to have Gatsby lie to the reader, which usually just hacks readers off.

2nd is obviously out of the question.

3rd omniscient doesn't work either as it requires you to jump inside Gatsby's and the other characters heads, which again you can't do without giving the fallacy of Gatsby's parties away. (Fitzgerald does go a bit omniscient in his general descriptions of the West & East Eggs, but I think this is just a convention of the time rather than a demand of the novel).

3rd from Nick's point of view just confuses the reader as they don't understand why they're in a supporting character's head.

1st from Nick's perspective is therefore the only available viewpoint. It gives the reader the outsiders point of view of Gatsby's world and it allows us to be drawn in by the glamour and then at the end of the novel repulsed by the charade surrounding all of Gatsby's class peers. It also means we only learn about Gatsby's affections for Daisy and his false identity when Nick learns about it, so the reader doesn't feel cheated.

Although this is very similar to third from Nick's point of view, it feels different because it's become Nick's story about Gatsby, instead of Fitzgerald's story about Gatsby. In the former I accept that I can't get closer to Gatsby as it's Nick's story. In the latter I'm annoyed with Fitzgerald because I don't understand why he's put me in this character's head when I want to be in Gatsby's.

The Great Gatsby is a book that probably demands a particular viewpoint. Other books can have any viewpoint and still retain the same essence. Before you select your viewpoint you've probably got to look at:

Number of Viewpoint Characters
How intimate/personal is the story?
Lies & Misinformation

If you've got loads of viewpoint characters you want the reader to spend time with then first becomes quite difficult. The reader's going to have to be constantly checking who's head they're in if it's in 1st and that will frustrate your reader. If you've only got 1 or 2 characters then 1st is more acceptable, but then if you are doing 1st with more than one character, each character needs to have a very distinctive voice. The same applies to 3rd limited with multiple characters, but distinctive voice is vital in 1st if you have more than one viewpoint character.

I feel that intimate/personal stories should be 1st or 3rd limited to that character only. Omniscient is suicide in personal stories; you're too far away to develop empathy with the protagonist and therefore the reader cares less about their plight.

Stories with an epic scale are more suited to omniscient or 3rd limited with multiple viewpoints. In these stories it's the plight of the world that usually matters more to the reader than the intricate feelings of each character.

Lies and Misinformation is also very problematic when looking at viewpoint. If a certain character knows something you don't want to reveal yet, you can't go near their head. At the same time your reader is clamouring to get in there and find out what they know. The longer you hold certain information back from your reader, the more likely they are to get annoyed with you. You can do first in this situation, but you have to establish early on that your protagonist is a liar/delusional so that your reader doesn't feel cheated later on when they didn't tell them something.

I don't think present or past tense matters that much. Present is more immediate and probably better for 1st person narratives, but apparently readers stop noticing what tense a story is in quite quickly.
 
I agree with you, @Robert M Derry that The Great Gatsby would never have worked in any other POV. It's a masterpiece, and the writing was superb.

While we're on the subject of authors who used POV to make a story remarkable and unique... I have to give a plug for To Kill A Mockingbird. It's written in first person past tense, but from the POV of a character who is six years old when the story begins. Yet, the adults in the story know what's going on in their adult world, and so do the readers. At the same time, we never lose the view of the world from the eyes of that six-year-old girl. As she grows in the story, so does her world view, but as a reader we still have an adult view of what's going on in the story. Amazing skill!!
 
I wrote the first draft of my current WIP in 3rd person past tense, then changed to 1st person, past tense. I'd been experimenting with 1st person, present tense, and am almost finished a rewrite in 1st, present tense, which is by far the most enjoyable (for me!).

Also, I feel I've "seen" it from several angles which is really interesting.

I'm really enjoying these conversations @Carol Rose (when do you sleep?!) and I'm learning loads :)
 
I wrote the first draft of my current WIP in 3rd person past tense, then changed to 1st person, past tense. I'd been experimenting with 1st person, present tense, and am almost finished a rewrite in 1st, present tense, which is by far the most enjoyable (for me!).

Also, I feel I've "seen" it from several angles which is really interesting.

I'm really enjoying these conversations @Carol Rose (when do you sleep?!) and I'm learning loads :)

I'm glad you're finding them helpful! :)

Sleep? What's that? LOL!! ;)
 
Also, I feel I've "seen" it from several angles which is really interesting.
That's a really interesting point, @Rainbird. Doing this gives various perspectives. You really get to know your story. I shall try that sometime.

I'm currenly writing in first person present. It's my fave because it really lets you into someone's head. And it works for what I'm trying to do. Having said that, I have to try very hard to stop my protagonist from getting too thoughtful. He does rabbit on at times and the inner dialogue threatens to become boring or moany or claustrophobic.

My last novel I also wrote in first person present tense. It was about a daughter and her elderly mother. But I never realised the big mistake I made: the daughter narrated the mother's timeline from her own POV. The daughter can't narate the mother's timeline in the present. How whould she know the mum is going out to buy an axe. I hadn't spotted it until my pop-up when Pete pointed it out. He said: this is quite disturbing. I giggled for days. It still makes me laugh now.

Note to self: do not brain hop.
 
One of these days, I'm going to explore second, present tense. I can't wait to disover the pitfalls (I haven't fully caught up with all the contributions on this thread here yet, so it might be covered above). I suspect it can't be maintained over an entire novel, or can it? Any thoughts?
 
One of these days, I'm going to explore second, present tense. I can't wait to disover the pitfalls (I haven't fully caught up with all the contributions on this thread here yet, so it might be covered above). I suspect it can't be maintained over an entire novel, or can it? Any thoughts?

I suppose it could be maintained for an entire novel. Just not sure how it would read. Guess it would depend on the story. I still find it jarring to read, even for short periods of time.
 
One of these days, I'm going to explore second, present tense. I can't wait to disover the pitfalls (I haven't fully caught up with all the contributions on this thread here yet, so it might be covered above). I suspect it can't be maintained over an entire novel, or can it? Any thoughts?
The problem with these experiments, is 99 times out of 100 they are no fun for the reader. They are just annoying.
 
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