My Point of View on Point of View

As I’ve developed my writing style, I’ve played with several different points of view in order to figure out what works best for my way of storytelling.

For a long time, first person was my poison. It was easy to write that way – it helped me relate to what happened to the character. Besides, when I first started writing, I was writing about all of the adventures I wished I could have myself, so I was the star in all of my stories.

As my writing matured, I realized how limiting first person was. If you want a scene in your story, your protagonist has to be there, or has to be told about it. You don’t really know what other characters are thinking. How much can you trust your first person narrator to correctly interpret another character’s words or actions? I also found it difficult to give the character his or her own voice. It always came out sounding like my voice, and all of my characters in all of my stories sounded the same.

I’ve never experimented with second person. As a rule, I don’t think it’s an effective way to write, at least not an entire novel. I’m reading a book right now that seems to effectively use second person – mostly because it’s used intermittently and flows well. I won’t say I’ll never never attempt second person, because maybe someday I’ll find a story that needs to be told that way, but I don’t find it likely.

Nowadays, I’m toying with different kinds of third person. The obvious next step from first person was third person limited: where the only character’s head you’re in is the main character. I like this because it keeps you close to the protagonist, it doesn’t break the flow of the story, and there’s only one voice to worry about.

Since I’m always trying to challenge myself as a writer, I recently experimented with a multiple point of view third person. It turned out well, however I don’t think I will ever use quite so many points of view in the future. It was a huge challenge to make sure all of the characters had a distinguishable voice, and it was also incredibly difficult to decide which part of the story should be told from whose perspective. I ended up with unnecessary points of view, in the end, so in the edit I have to decide how to tell certain scenes from other points of view. It’s a tangled ball of multi-colored yarn to have so many different characters trying to tell the same story.

I will continue to challenge myself as a writer, but aside from second person, I think I have exhausted all of the POV possibilities. I’ll have to find new ways to challenge myself, and I will probably need to experiment with third person before I can decide what my actual preferred point of view is.

Sara is a Kansas-grown author of the fantasy and horror persuasions. She is convinced that fantastical things are waiting for her just around the corner, and until she finds the right corner, she writes about those things instead.

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