“I am writing a book.”
“You are writing a book.”
“She is writing a book.”
All of these phrases are telling the same story, a book is being written by someone, but they sound very different and evoke a different response. These are the options that an author has when deciding from which point of view their novel will be written. To help with this decision making process, here is a quick overview of your choices.
First person point of view means that the narrative is told using the pronoun I and is limited to the experiences of one character.
“I went there…”
This POV is good for letting your readers really get to know your main character because the only thoughts they receive are those of this character. First person stories read similarly to a diary and your reader has to trust that your character is telling the story as accurately as possible. This is a good choice if you are planning on taking advantage of the unreliable character trope. It has recently become popular in the Young Adult genre.
One of the difficulties of writing in this POV is that you are restricted to the one character and can’t switch between characters. To get around this some authors utilize multiple point of view switching. Usually separated by chapter breaks, this style of first person switches between the point of views of a handful of characters in order to provide more context or opinions. However, this style has to be carefully navigated or the switching can confuse the reader.
Some examples of books that are in 1st person:
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
Divergent – Veronica Roth
Twilight – Stephenie Meyer
Third person point of view is outside of the characters in the book. The novel is told about them rather than by them.
“She goes here…”
“They open it…”
This is one of the most popular point of views in literature. There are two forms of third person: Limited and Omniscient. The limited form of this POV focuses on the thoughts and experiences of one or two people, usually following the main characters closely, with very few cut aways to elsewhere. The omniscient form has more freedom and means that the author can take the story anywhere. The thoughts of all the characters, even the thoughts of a cat or a baby, for example, can be shared with the reader. This form of POV is ideal if your novel has a lot of different events happening in different locations at the same time.
A potential downside of this form in that it can make it harder for the reader to feel close to the characters on a personal level, especially if there are a lot of characters. Also, for unpracticed writers it is more familiar to write in first person and may accidentally slip into it mid-writing process without noticing.
Some examples of books in 3rd person:
Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
Maze Runner – James Dashner
Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin
Second person is one of the less popular point of view to use. This POV takes on the voice of a narrator who is telling the story of the reader’s own actions and experiences.
“You enter the door…”
“You went that way…”
“You need to think…”
Second person is most popular in the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure genre. Though it also appears frequently in short stories and poetry. It is less common in novel form, but that isn’t to say that such novels don’t exist.
There is usually a more distinct purpose for using this POV than the others. Second person has a very strong effect on the reader because it addresses them directly. As such, it can sometimes make the reader uncomfortable. If you want that effect, second person is the perfect POV to use. A modified version of Second Person was used by Mohsin Hamid in his novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist where the first person narrator address the reader as “you” directly.
Some examples of books in 2nd person:
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler – Italo Calvino
Stolen: A Letter to My Captor – Lucy Christopher
Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography – Neil Patrick Harris
BookHive Corp. does beta reader editorial research for authors with Fiction (all kinds), YA/Middle Grade & Memoir manuscripts.
$699 for 8-10 beta readers, $1,099 for 16-18 beta readers.
The results are a 35+ page report full of quantitative and qualitative feedback.
Kim Batchelor is a recent graduate of University of Michigan and avid consumer of media. She is the Buzz Manager at BookHive and is working on creating her own blog.