In fiction, point-of-view is the lens through which the story is told—which isn’t always the protagonist. If you keep wondering how many POV characters you need within your story or which point-of-view is best for the genre you’re writing, then this is the place for you!
What are the main point-of-view types?
Before you even write the first word, you have to ask yourself who your story’s narrator is. Or, who has the most at stake in your story? While most modern fiction follows the protagonist as the point-of-view character, this isn’t a hard and fast rule every story must follow.
Honestly, there are many amazing classic novels that don’t follow the protagonist and use a secondary perspective to add depth and style to the novel’s subject.
Once you’ve decided who will be narrating your story, you can decide which POV to use. The three main points-of-view include:
- First-person POV uses pronouns such as “I” and “we”.
- Second-person POV uses pronouns such as “you”.
- Third-person POV uses pronouns such as “he”, “she”, “it”, or “they”.
Aside from these general POVs, first-person and third-person point-of-view have sub-narrator styles, which include:
- In First-person Reliable, the narrator tells the story how they perceive it.
- In First-person Unreliable, the narrator actively deceives the readers.
- In Third-person Limited, the narrator only knows the thoughts and expressions of one character at a time.
- In Third-person Omniscient, the narrator knows the thoughts and feelings of all of characters in the story.
Now, you might be thinking that there are a lot of point-of-view options to choose from… And, writer, you’re probably right. But before we move on, let’s explore how the main point-of-view are most often used.
- First-person POV is most often used Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction.
- Second-person POV is most often used to transform the reader into a character, where the reader is addressed directly.
- Third-person POV crosses many genres, but in fiction, it’s often used for high-action stories.
How many POVs should you include in your book?
There are two main things to consider when giving a character a POV. Firstly, giving a character a point-of-view signals to readers that the character is important, and that the reader should pay attention to those characters. The second thing to think about is how the character is important and why they matter within the context of the plot or subplots.
You should be able to explain why this character is so integral to the plot and how their unique perspective will further engross readers into the story. Without these two things, why does the character deserve their own perspective?
While many people will tell you to use this or not use that perspective, it’s a decision you must make for your own story. Which narration style and point-of-view character(s) will give your book the story it deserves?
Remember: Tense and POV are more than just decisions writers must make to move forward. They are necessary stylistic elements of your story and you want to ensure you make the right decision the first time around.
Ask any writer who’s gone through a rewrite because they decided to change tenses or POVs partway through.
At the end of the day, there’s no one “best” point-of-view, because every POV has its own strengths and weaknesses. To choose the right point-of-view for your story, consider the genre, story themes, and your own personal reading preferences!