When you have an idea of what your story is about, you have to decide who is going to tell it.
Our job as writers is to pull our readers so deeply into our story that they forget they’re turning the pages. Choosing the right point of view is critical to this. It is the eye through which you tell your story. In his book Guide to How to Write, William Ryan says that its ‘useful to start by thinking of point of view (POV) as equivalent to the camera angle in a movie. In other words, the character you choose to ‘tell’ a scene is the camera through which your reader sees the scene.’
Most novels are told from the main character’s POV but sometimes it’s necessary to write from multiple character’s points of view. It can add another layer of complexity to your story, it can help to develop suspense and even reveal an unreliable narrator. It’s not easy to do this as you have to juggle motivations, different personalities and make each character distinguishable. It is like marmite; some readers love a story from different viewpoints and some hate it.
Here are some articles which give advice and tips:
Writer’s edit gives the writer six quick tips for mastering writing from multiple points of view.
This article shows the writer plenty of examples where multiple points of view have worked well in published novels. It explains the importance of using distinct characters with unique voices and it also helps the writer decide whether to write in the first or third person.
Read this for practical POV examples and guidance on writing with multiple narrators.
Five tips are given in this Masterclass article to help you when writing from multiple points of view.
This blog/podcast talks the writer through writing from one character’s point of view, which they call Deep POV. Writing from Deep POV immerses the reader fully into the story, making it more personal and gripping.
Once you’ve decided whose POV or how many POVs you are going to use in your story, you have to decide how they will tell it. Will it be told in the first person (‘I’) or the third person (‘he’ or ‘she’) or through omniscient narration. Point of view filters everything in your story. In his book, The Art of Fiction, James Gardner talks about the narrative distance. Where does the narrative (and the reader) stand in relation to the character? He says that it’s important to think about how much distance you want to cultivate between your reader and the story.
The voice you choose to tell the story determines how it’s perceived by your reader. Writing in the first, second, or third person will affect how it unfolds, its mood, and tone. Writing from multiple points of view, from different characters will also affect this.
The articles below help to explain the different narrative voices:
This article explains the different styles of writing: first person, second person, and third person. He breaks down each style with examples.
This excellent article from Masterclass outlines four easy steps in which to help you decide which POV will work for your story. It explains how using certain POVs can help with creating suspense, unreliable narrators, comedic and tragic irony. There are two exercises to try writing from different points of view.
Reedsy explains the different choices when it comes to points of view and includes examples to demonstrate them. It explains common points of view used in popular genres.
The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt (Episode 118) discusses how to make a success of third-person limited point of view in your writing.
In this podcast, point of view is discussed in a critique of a short story ‘The Second Prayer: A Confession for the Dead’ by David L. Storm. They list questions for the writer to consider when deciding and reviewing point of view.
The different points of view are effective in various types of stories. Reading your genre is invaluable preparation for writing. If you are thinking of writing from the first or third person or even from multiple points of view then read some novels that use this method and see for yourself how it works. Experiment with different scenes. try writing in them using different points of view. Share your writing and ask for feedback on the style you’ve used.
I hope this week’s column has been helpful for you. If there are any particular writing topic you want me to cover, please get in touch.
(c) Lucy O’Callaghan