Before you start writing there are a few decisions you have to make. What are your character’s motives? Is your plot important to them? Is your story past, present, or future tense?
Oh, and what point of view is your story from? Does a single character tell the story? Or are the actions of one character described with the narrator a step back? Maybe your narrator isn’t even in your story? He’s sitting up on the moon watching down as your story unfolds so that he can tell his friends about it later.
Knowing who your narrator is, is crucial to writing your novel.
To help you along, I’ve done you the great service of creating a pros and cons list! Woo, organization!
To get started, we’ll take a look at all the good first person POV can do your story.
First Person: The Golden Days
–Write Character’s Thoughts
When writing as a specific person you must understand that person. You have to know what they would be thinking at every moment and find a way to communicate that to the audience. Many authors choose to do this by adding lots of the characters own thoughts to things. Say your characters get in a car accident. The main character (usually the one the POV is centered on) makes it out of the accident unscathed. He looks back to his friends, though, to discover two of them dead and one mortally wounded.
In a moment like this, you’ll definitely need to show what your character’s thinking. Your audience will be dying to understand him, so this is when you can take a paragraph or two to explain what’s going through his head.
If you’re feeling salty, you can thrown your characters into more suspense. Actions speak louder than words, so you could avoid saying anything. Instead, have your character spring into saving the dead when he should be rationalizing and saving the living. Such an action expresses to the readers that your character is not mentally stable at the moment. Sometimes a character’s actions are easier for the audience to interpret than there actual thoughts and words.
All of this, meanwhile, is done best with First Person POV.
– Understand Why Characters Do What They Do
First Person POV puts you in a very personal relationship with a select character. That helps you (and the reader) better understand the things they do.
Maybe your character will flat out explain why he does something. Or maybe the audience can just use your intensive knowledge on his personality to understand.
Either way, you’re close enough to the narrator that you understand the things they do.
– In-depth Explanations of Actions
Third person can never give you the amount of detail that First Person can. First Person throws you directly into the story so you can ‘experience’ it all the same.
As a writer, you should be wary of too much detail, though. Only give enough to clearly explain what your character is seeing and doing.
–Limited to Only One Character’s Feelings
The great thing about writing from only one character’s POV, is not having to really bother much with the other character’s reasons. If the narrator doesn’t find out then neither do you. It’s gone. You never has to think about it again.
But. . .
First Person: a Hard Day’s Night
–Limited to Only One Character’s Feelings
Just the same, being limited to only one character isn’t always perfect.
When you’re not allowed to just tell what their feeling, you narrator has to find out for himself. He has to put the actual effort into a conversation just like you have to put the effort into writing the scene and coming up with a motive. That’s a lot of work!
–Difficult to Write
Not only do you have to write more, but it’s harder to write. For one, you have to become the character. If your own personality peeks through for even a second, your whole character is off.
Also, you have to describe more than you bargained for. People see a lot in their daily lives so you have to find a way to interpret that to the audience without over whelming them.
It’s not all dancing with leprechauns for First Person POV.
Third Person: The Free Life
For the Third Person POV, the narrator is a step back from the story (I’m only considering the normal Third Person limited version, not omniscient). The narrator is still technically in the story, but they’re describing it as if they weren’t. They don’t have to tell the reader everything so some details are removed. Hence, the author is spared having to create details. Also, the author doesn’t have to waste time with boring descriptions.
–Alternate Characters Easier
If you’re the kind of writer who likes to change narrators a lot, then Third person might be your safest bet.
Due to the removal of the characters from the actual story, it’s easy to switch them in and out without jarring the audience much. As long as you can do it without too much confusion, you’ll be smooth sailing with Third Person.
Since you don’t have to focus on expressing a character’s personality, your writing can be much more formal.
You can have all the fun with word play that you want and no one can tell you not too!
You can write like an old Victorian author, or settle for a drab modern American.
Just be careful that your own personality doesn’t leak through during your fun.
Third Person: Rough Seas
A lack of personality in writing can sometimes kill a story. Your writing will feel like it’s coming from a robot and that can depress the audience. Sometimes it’s just safer to use First Person so your writing has some life to it.
–Can Confuse the Reader
Confusing the reader is the one thing you must not do. This can happen if you haven’t mastered the art of Third Person yet.
Changing narrators at all during a novel is risky. Every time you change characters, you chance losing your audience’s focus. It’s safest to only change narrators when you desperately need to. Only change them for a few pages, at the least. Your audience will thank you when your return to your main character.
Everything you do as a writer has to be done carefully. That’s especially true of Third Person writing. Just be wary of confusing your audience.
My Novel’s POV
As I often do, I need to add my own experience into the mix so I’ll tell you a bit about my Novel.
My novel is a bit of a Frankenstein. . .
I don’t know how else to describe it so I’m just going to say that it’s a Frankenstein.
My novel is technically First Person POV, present tense. Due to the circumstances of my plot, though, my main character can’t tell the story by himself. So, to keep the plot moving at all points, my POV has to change.
I could have been normal and written the book in Third person so the transition would be easier. Yet, I’m not normal so I had to be crazy and make things hard for myself.
When transitioning between my main character and supporting characters, I switch to Third Person limited, past tense. Every time the change is made I’ve added a shape to signal that something’s happening. Here’s the shape I use:
To also alert my characters of a change, I usually have the characters name be the first word after the shape. Doing so, expresses to my audience that the POV has changed and a new narrator has taken over.
The past tense also helps alert the audience of differences. I’ve managed to find a way to make the shift less jarring and I’ve begun to love the way it’s written. Sometimes I’ll look back and wish I just wrote the whole thing in Third Person, but now I’m to far in to change my mind.
Writers are stubborn people 🙂