The Trio of Prose: POV

I suppose I should have added Point of View to the things I would discuss this week, because it is an important link in the intertwined Trio of Prose.

Point of View

There are three main types of POV used in fiction; first person, third person limited, and first person omniscient.

First Person: The reader is seeing the story directly from a single narrator’s head. This POV is often characterized by its use of the pronoun ‘I’. Books written using this point of view include The Hunger Games (first person present tense) and The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (first person past tense). A book which uses multiple first person POVs is Across the Universe, by Beth Revis. To link this to Aztec mythology (which I love to do), and our beloved Smoking Mirror (I am loving the SM), I am going to say that First Person POV is like the reader using the Smoking Mirror on the narrator, directly revealing their heart and their thoughts without any outside interference.

First Person POV is when the reader is on the receiving side of the mirror, and the narrator is on the transmitting side of the mirror.

Third Person Limited: The reader is immersed in the mind of a single narrator, but has some outside perceptions, and more freedom to look around. Third person limited often has alternating narrators (The Blood of the Kings Trilogy), although sometimes only one narrator is used (Graceling). It is often characterized by its use of the pronouns, ‘he, she, it’. In this POV, the reader is viewing the narrator not only through the mirror, but also around the mirror; seeing not only the thoughts and perceptions of the narrator, but also the scenery which the characters would not necessarily think about directly, particularly how they and their environments look.

Third Person Limited is when the reader is looking at the narrator through and around the mirror.

Third Person Omniscient: The reader is able to see anything and everything the author can see. It is, in fact, the story from the author’s POV (or assumed author’s POV), although the author may choose to be more or less intrusive. For example, Bryan Jaques is fairly unintrusive in his Redwall series, although he does hop heads quite a bit. Terry Pratchett, on the other hand, is extremely intrusive in his Discworld series, going so far as to insert footnotes in his narrative (which I greatly enjoyed). Like third person limited, it uses the pronouns ‘he’, ‘she’, and ‘it’; unlike third person limited, it is not limited. It is as though the reader is looking through the mirror being held by the author at the whole story world.

Third Person Omniscient is when the reader is looking through the mirror at the whole story world.

Here are my problems.

1) I can’t find my way into a character’s head unless I use first person POV, but–

2) This story needs to be third person limited for it to work correctly. However–

3) The style and voice I am writing in may not work in either POV.

This is because POV is linked at the core to voice and style.

If you are using third person omniscient, your prose can sound however you please. Depending on the content of the narration and how you want to twist the reader’s emotive response, you can write tersely, lyrically, cynically–anything, really, because it is the author’s voice, and the author can create their own personality regardless of the characters within their tale. Style and voice in this POV are dependent upon the desire of the author.

Once you move into third person limited and first person POV, your choices are far more exclusive. The first and most important thing you have to consider is the character who serves as your narrator, the culture they are immersed in, and the events which have shaped their personality. These factors will directly influence the voice you, as the writer, have to use to have a cohesive storyworld, and the style you must adopt to bring it about.

What is your favorite POV in which to write? Why? What are some books you enjoy written in that POV? What are some books you think are excellent examples of the use of that POV? And, of course, why?


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