A couple of months ago I wrote about the different types of writer there are (see here), namely Plotters, Pansters or, as in my case, Plansters! This month I thought we’d take a look at one of the more important literary devices of a novel, often referred to as Point of View – or POV.
For now I’ll keep it simple and look at the three most popular POV’s.
First Person Narrator – is from a single perspective, a personal one – where the narrator uses words like “I” and “me” and “my” – and where the world the writer creates is seen through the eyes of a single character.
Pros – first person allows you and the reader direct access to what your character is thinking and feeling. This means your readers are instantly connected with your narrator, creating more empathy and emotional investment in your overall piece.
Cons – there are limits as to what your narrator can and cannot relay to your reader. Everything is from a particular person’s line of sight so there will be details that they and therefore your reader, won’t know.
Second Person Narrator – uses the pronoun “you” and puts the reader into the story, and if done right can plunge the reader into the narrative completely.
Pros – you can tell the reader what to feel and how to react, and, as they are part of the story, by default there is already a strong sense of empathy.
Cons – writing in second person has to be done carefully to avoid poor writing. Also, by telling the reader what they are thinking and feeling, you run the risk of alienating them.
Third Person Narrator – a popular POV, is a narrator who tells the story from outside the narrative itself and uses phrases such as “he said” and “she said” and gives the author the option of an omniscient narrator (an all-knowing narrator) – who knows every character, every event and every detail.
Pros – generally, writers have more freedom and fewer limitations when it comes to third person narration.
Cons – what a writer gains in narrative freedom they lose in intimacy. This POV doesn’t give characters a direct voice to the reader. The narrator is not speaking subjectively to the reader so it can make it harder for them to empathise and connect with characters.