There are lots of different deciding factors on which point of view (POV) you should use. The one that I will be focusing on today is your narrator, and the many viewpoints the main character can have.
Consider this my masterclass: buckle up.
This is the most common technique used by writers. The narrator only knows what the character does and generally feels and sees what they do also. This narrator doesn’t know anything outside of what he already knows. If something is happening on your bad guy’s side of the story. Your hero cannot know about it because of that your reader cannot find out about the new plot point until your narrator does. This is one of the limitations of using this method.
This technique is also known as ‘single character point of view’. It is mostly used because it is the best way to see the inside and outside views of a character. Limited omniscience allows the connection and intimacy that a first-person perspective would, without being having to listen to every thought. The hidden narrator can paraphrase organise and comment on the story in a way that a first-person narrator would be unable to do.
This POV is the most authoritative and widescale point of view. A writer that utilises this technique can enter the consciousness of any character, describe appearances, speech, thoughts, history, motivations or behaviours.
The narrator retains the knowledge of what happens elsewhere, in the past, and what will happen in the future. The narrator can intervene in the narrative by making comments on the action or give forewarning or reflections on what is happening. This method allows the reader to know what the bad guy is up to before our protagonist finds out.
Shifting third-person method
This method involves alternating third-person points of view. This is like omniscience but a more modern form.
If you want to use this method, you should establish it early on in your story because your reader will need some time to adjust.
It is considered more reader-friendly to separate your transitions by chapters or sections you can show the changes in perspective by starting a new paragraph.
Objective Point of view
This perspective is impersonal; the writer here is limited to reporting on external facts and appearances. The narrator will never interpret the character’s thoughts, emotions or judgements.
This technique is similar to film in that everything must be conveyed externally. This technique is best suited for writers who enjoy a more austere style.
The reader has to do more work when engaging with this writing style. They have to find clues and signs to figure out what is happening.
Stories like this can turn out as cold and clinical, so while this method may suit some of your stories most likely, it will not suit all of them.
Second-Person narration is less common in the writing world for the reason that the main character in this style is referred to as ‘you’. This method is challenging to do, but when it does work, it can create a deep emotional impact on the reader.
Second-person narration can be a difficult reading experience and can be met with some resistance by the reader. Often when a piece of work implies ‘you’ are doing something you immediately think “no, I’m not”. It can pull a reader out of the piece and prevent the reader from connecting with the narrator as themselves.
This type of writing is best used when attempting to convey a universal but individual situation. For instance, stories about lonely or obsessive characters would work well in this format because it is something that most people experience at some point in their lives. ‘You’ in this case refers to a divided self, where the main character is talking to themselves, and that works quite well.
The trickiest thing about writing in this narrative form is writing in it for an extended amount of time. It can become quite tedious for writers and readers. To avoid this, a lot of writers add alternate characters and explore their narratives at the same time.
This method is used whenever the ‘I’ wants to tell their own story. The narrator is usually the main character. Their decisions propel the plot forward.
This narrative form, despite usually being used for the main character, can also be given to witness or peripheral characters. They would watch the main character and tell us what is going on. We would see how watching the main character could impact our narrator.
It is best to make sure that your opening paragraph explains exactly who the ‘I’ is to make it clear to the reader who the story is going to be about.
First-person is the easiest storytelling technique for most writers as you can access the narrators’ thoughts effortlessly. There is no filter narrator, just our main narrator and the reader. You don’t have to translate or paraphrase anything.
Using this method allows you to make ‘free’ characters with strong voices. You can utilise slang, bad grammar and colloquialisms as this character is an ‘I’ and not a ‘them’.
The pitfall of this technique is one that is difficult to evade. Your text may become filled with a lot of ‘I’s. This one can be avoided though by allowing the narrator to talk about other characters, action or setting.
If you chose to use first-person narration, you must have your character in the middle of the action, because they have to be able to tell you about it. Make sure that your character is one that naturally slots into all of your plot points; otherwise, the narration can feel awkward and forced. Your narrator should belong in the story and not just be in it.
I hope this guide helps you pick the best perspective for your story. If you’re still not sure which perspective best fits your work, I encourage you to attempt to write the same paragraph or two in each style. In doing this, you can establish which voice fits your piece of work best. I hope I have cleared up some of the confusion about perspectives and as always, I cannot wait to see you on the bookshelf!