Point of View: Yours, His, Hers or Theirs?

How do you decide whose point of view to tell your story from?  Do you simply choose the point of view that is easiest for you to write from?

Since my last short story, Out of the Pit, I have given this a lot of thought.  Should I become the main character and tell my story from the first person point of view?  This really limits what your main character can know, because they can not tell anything about the story that they are not knowledgeable of.  They can’t tell you what happened in a place they weren’t at.  They can’t tell you what happened to a character they weren’t with.  It might make it easier to keep your story focused and not stray from your story line.  I know at least one writing teacher who stresses that their students tell their first novel from the first person point of view.

Do I create a main character, male or female, and tell the story from their point of view, but not becoming them.  In other words, third person?  And, of course, if I write in third person, it should be limited to keep from abrupt changes that would lose my reader.  That means that I tell the story from my main character’s point of view, but use “he” or “she” pronouns instead of “I”.  That allows me more freedom to offer details to my reader that my main character may not know about places he/she hasn’t been.  If you choose to write in third person and use two main characters, it is important to make clean breaks between whose point of view is being used when.  In other words, after the part that is told from the first character’s perspective, use a page break, like extra space between paragraphs, a line between the last paragraph and the new section, or change your chapter, to make it clear to your reader that the next part of the story is being told from the second character’s point of view.

It is very rare that a writer writes from multiple characters’ points of view, and it is very difficult to pull off successfully.  Often, a story told this way is choppy and difficult for the reader to follow.  Also, there isn’t a protagonist for the reader to really get to know and care about, which causes the reader to dislike the story or maybe, stop reading the story.  Readers like to get lost in the story.  They want to feel like they are the main character or that they know the main character personally.  If there are too many main characters, the story will lose this ability and may turn the reader off.

My opinion:  write in either first person or third person from just one character’s point of view.  This keeps it fairly simple to write, and because you become so in tune with that one, main character, that character becomes richer and more realistic to your reader, and your reader will be able to relate to that character, like that character, and care about that character.  It allows you to create the kind of character that a reader wants to read about again (they hate to see the story end because they feel as though they are losing a friend).  You can create other rich characters in the story as well, but it is your main character or protagonist that will capture your readers’ hearts.

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One thought on “Point of View: Yours, His, Hers or Theirs?

  1. I’ve been writing a story in 3rd person. I tried to do it in 1st for a time, but, as you pointed out, I felt so limited. There were things I felt the reader should know, but because I was actually being the main character, I didn’t know about those things. I’m sure that there must be a way to successfully write in 1st person, but I haven’t figured it out yet.

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