Which Person Point of View Is Best for Your Story?

image by geralt
image by geralt

 

Person refers to how the point-of-view (POV) character tells the story—in first, second, or third person. I’ll explore the three options in deep POV (DPOV).

First Person – Using “I”

 

A character invites us into his thoughts. This character could be:

  • The protagonist
  • A supporting character who tells the story of another character.
  • Multiple characters telling parts of the story.
    • Characters share sequentially, staying within the story’s timeline.
    • Or each character tells his/her version of the same story events.

Example:

image by JasonPinaster
image by JasonPinaster

I turned the corner on Main. Alana stood at a cruiser, talking to the police. I followed the busybody to Melissa’s house and listened through the open window as Alana told her I had stolen Melissa’s passport. I ran my hand over my face. Would she believe Alana and send her buff boyfriend to kill me?

 

Analysis:

The open window seems convenient, but first person creates intimacy between the character and us, and we tend to accept what he tells us.

To learn what happened privately between Melissa and Alana, “I” had to eavesdrop.

We only know what “I” sees, hears, and believes. “I” wouldn’t naturally reveal his name or information about his looks or personality.

Melissa’s boyfriend won’t kill “I” because “I” tells the story.

Sometimes using first person, the author slips into sounding like herself. “I” is a male, and wouldn’t say buff. 

Second Person – Using “you”

 

image by PublicDomainPictures
image by PublicDomainPictures

A character tells the story addressing us directly. The author seeks to involve us as if we’re the protagonist.

Substitute “you” for “I” in the example above. First-person disadvantages apply to second person. We may also feel as if the character is demanding our attention. We’re usually ready to be emotionally involved with characters without the “you” viewpoint.

 

Second person is rarely used and seldom works for children. It’s difficult for the author to maintain throughout an entire novel.

Third Person– Using “he/she”

 

A character tells the story from a slight distance. But third person DPOV can easily provide multiple characters and their perspectives.

Example (for brevity, I’ve used some “telling”)

Scene 1 excerpt:

Karl turned the corner on Main. Alana stood at a cruiser, talking to the police. Who was the busybody getting into trouble now?

Scene 2 excerpts:

passport-881305_1280A. Melissa paced her living room. Who’d stolen her passport? Right when she needed to disappear.

B. Melissa opened the door to Alana. Lines wrinkled her forehead, and her eyes misted. Oh no. Here came bad news.

Alana blurted that Karl had stolen the passport.

Melissa’s heart sank.

Scene 3 excerpt:

Karl ordered a soda.

Melissa entered and strode to his table. “You stole my passport. I want it back.”

Karl’s heart flipped. So that’s what Alana had told the police—and Melissa. He ran his hand over his face. If he told her the truth, would she believe him or send her boyfriend to kill him?

Analysis:

We have two characters to supply information, mystery, and feelings from their perspectives. We have Karl’s name. And his death is a possibility.

How to Know Which Person to Use

 

  • Write a scene in each person option.
  • Have someone read the samples to you. Which version sounds right?
  • Send the samples to your critique partners for their feedback.
  • Experts suggest novice writers employ third person until they’re more seasoned.

First, second, and third person viewpoints—advantages and disadvantages. Click to tweet.

What person POVs do you write in and why?

Enliven Your Dialogue with This Easy Exercise

image by geralt
image by geralt

 

What you can learn about dialogue from actual conversations is amazing.

Exercise

 

Recall a discussion you’ve had that contained conflict. Write the dialogue down as close to what was said as you can.

I had this dialogue with my husband this morning:

image by USA-Reiseblogger
image by USA-Reiseblogger

Me: (descending the stairs) “Are you going to eat breakfast?”

John: (reading from his iPad) “Yes.”

Me: (after performing breakfast and other tasks while he continues to read his iPad) “Well, I’ve done all the tasks I can think of down here.” (my foot on the bottom step) “Call me when you’re ready to have breakfast.”

John: (closing his iPad cover) “I’ve been waiting on you.”

Me: “Me? When I come downstairs that means I’m ready for breakfast. I’ve been doing tasks down here until you were ready.”

John: (rising from chair) “I’ve been waiting on you. You haven’t cut your apple yet.”

Me: (pointing to table) “It’s already on the table.”

John: (looking at apple slices in a baggie) “How was I supposed to know you had apple slices in the refrigerator?”

Me: “I’ll try to be more specific when I come downstairs for breakfast in the future.”

What did I learn from this dialogue?

 

image by yank_sobirova
image by yank_sobirova

1. We don’t always say what we mean. I asked if he was going to eat breakfast because that’s the question he usually calls upstairs to me. Sometimes I skip breakfast. But he always has breakfast. What I wanted to know was whether he was ready for breakfast.

2. We use our actions to speak for us. I’d hurried downstairs because I didn’t want to keep my husband waiting for breakfast. When he didn’t rise immediately, I retrieved our breakfast items and performed other tasks. All obvious activities showing I was ready to eat. Wrong.

3. We create conflict through what we say. Instead of asking him if he was ready, I brought out my big gun. I told him to call me when he was ready.

4. We may speak truth from our perspective, but it doesn’t mean we’re right. John was waiting on me, but he was basing this on his expectation I would cut apples.

5. We can choose to keep the conflict going. I had ammo in my gun: I had apple slices on the table.

6. We become easily defensive by tone. When I pointed to my apple slices with my ta-da! attitude, John shifted blame. How was he supposed to know I was ready if I didn’t cut apples?

7. We may understand the other person, but we don’t want to give in. I could’ve said, “I should’ve told you I was ready.” Instead, my apology was a droll statement.

Much subtext occurred during our dialogue. It also showed the woman wanting the man to be in tune to her and know her wants. It depicted the man enjoying his “newspaper” and expecting the woman to tell him what she wants.

Use this exercise to create models for better story dialogue. Click to tweet.

What have you learned from actual dialogue that you used in a story?

When Can You Call Yourself a Writer or Artist—Comfortably?

“The artist finds a greater pleasure in painting than in having completed the picture.” — Lucius Seneca.

 

by veggiegretz
by veggiegretz

Do you dream of people buying your art masterpieces or reading your bestseller or attending your sold-out performance? Or do you picture the Most Creative Teacher of the Year Award resting on your mantle?

You’ve purchased the beret and the smock or the getup of your craft. You look marvelous. Then it comes time to study the craft. You realize it encompasses so much than you thought. Maybe God hasn’t called you to the craft.

Don’t get discouraged. Your desire may need to mature a bit. It did for me.

You’ll know you’re on the right track: 

  1. When you connect to everything you do through the perspective of your craft.
by vilhelm
by vilhelm

I’m a writer. My husband looks at the price and functionality in buying a tractor for our garden. I look at its seat and visualize my grandsons riding on Grandpa’s lap. I imagine their smiles and excitement. I picture them telling their children stories about Grandpa taking them for tractor rides. I see everything through story.

An artist told me her artist’s eye never shuts down. While she reads a novel, she sees paintings.

A creative preschool teacher looks at a toilet paper roll and pictures hundreds of uses for it as a craft or a learning tool.

  1. When you care less and less about fame-filled success.
kconnors
kconnors

I want my novels to sell, yes, but am I seeking fame as a bestselling author? No. I just want to write stories that will touch others as the stories have touched me. Through my relationship with God, I believe this is where I should be.

Two artists told me how the economy has made it tough for them. For one, it’s few people signing up for her art classes. For the other, it’s few sales. In their success slumps, did they quit offering art classes or stop painting? No.

  1. When you jump on opportunities to learn something new about your craft.
Pobello
Pobello

You actually practice what you learn from conferences and workshops you attend. Your bookshelf lined with books on your craft has expanded to two shelves. And you’ve read the books.

You spend time perusing the works of your betters, soaking in how they create something marvelous. You no longer care about looking marvelous.

Tweetables

  • Call yourself a writer or an artist when you view the world through your craft’s perspective.
    click to tweet
  • Call yourself a writer or an artist when you care more about the craft than the fame.
    click to tweet
  • Call yourself a writer or an artist when you dig deep into learning your craft.
    click to tweet

What made you comfortable to call yourself a writer or artist?