EDITING 101: 29 – Types of Point of View…

Originally posted as the Dun Writin’—Now Whut? series on this blog, EDITING 101 is a weekly refresher series for some of you and brand new for others.

Courtesy of Adirondack Editing

Types of Point of View

Erik (ThisKidReviewsBooks) has graciously requested a blog post on types of POV, and I am happy for the request! If anybody else has anything they’d like to see addressed in this series, please don’t hesitate to mention it.

While writing, an author may try out different types of POV (point of view) until they find one they are happy with. Each POV type has benefits and pitfalls, and some of them just feel more natural than others.

The most common POV style is third person. Using third person feels natural because it’s the style most storytellers use when narrating a piece of fiction. The following paragraph is taken from The Poor Girl by Deborah Marree Wise, which I edited (used with permission). It was written in third person:

<ital>Alone again, she began looking for somewhere to escape the crowd. She’d already had more than she could bear in confrontation, and the noise and crush of the room was stifling. She was afraid to stand still again, in case someone else saw it as an opportunity to give her the benefit of their opinion.</ital>

You can tell it’s third person by the use of the pronouns she and her. It also happens to be written in past tense. I’m going to leave all the examples in past tense, but they also could be crafted in present tense.

Now let’s look at this written in second person.

<ital>Alone again, you began looking for somewhere to escape the crowd. You’d already had more than you could bear in confrontation, and the noise and crush of the room was stifling. You were afraid to stand still again, in case someone else saw it as an opportunity to give you the benefit of their opinion.</ital>

Second person POV has the effect of really drawing the reader into the story, making them feel a part of it first-hand. It’s not used often in fiction writing, though. The most frequent use of second person POV is in books where the reader chooses what steps to take next in the story, leading to a different outcome every time.

Here is the same material written in first person:

<ital>Alone again, I began looking for somewhere to escape the crowd. I’d already had more than I could bear in confrontation, and the noise and crush of the room was stifling. I was afraid to stand still again, in case someone else saw it as an opportunity to give me the benefit of their opinion.</ital>

I happen to enjoy reading first person material, but other readers hate it. It also draws the reader into the story, but has a distinct limitation. The main character—and, therefore, the reader—can’t know anything they don’t already know. For instance, if the main character—I, in this case—is meeting somebody for the first time, they can’t know any prior history about them. There is no additional information or backstory that can be imparted. This is especially true if it’s written in present tense.

I hope you found this useful, Erik! 🙂

Next week we’ll discuss ‘Ellipses’

To see the index and catch up with missed episodes of this series – CLICK HERE

NOTE:

This series is not meant to be (nor will it be) simple static information.

I’ll be here for each post to answer questions, offer suggestions as necessary, and interact with you.

If there’s something you specifically want (or need!) to see addressed in terms of self-editing, please let me know in the comments under this, or any of the articles of the series.

Susan

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55 thoughts on “EDITING 101: 29 – Types of Point of View…

  1. What about when two characters are having a conversation, with one of them the POV character, and a third character enters the scene – is describing the third person’s actions, slotted between the conversation, head hopping or just plain narrative?

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Ha, ha 🙂 When I say ‘bed’ I actually mean shutting down the computer then sitting up in bed for two hours or more writing (I ‘write’ longhand then type it up the next day) followed by half an hour of reading, time I get between the covers it’s usually gone 4.00am.

    Liked by 3 people

      • I tend to sit up late. Sometimes writing. sometimes reading, and sometimes a bit of both. I have a question. I’m working on an SF series. I’ve never written this genre before and it is new but that is not part of my question. What is happening in this series is that there are two main characters. the one tells the story in the first person from her POV and the other’s story is told in the third person is this method wrong? I’ve seen it done in a couple books, but the only thing I’ve ever published thus far has been my own story and it was Nonfiction and I did tell it in the first person. Thanks.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi Susan. I’m currently working on editing my wip to change from third person omniscient (effectively I’m telling what everyone can see, do or think) to third person limited, from the perspective of one character, which changes to another character when the scene changes. I’m finding it difficult. Have you any tips for this? Especially pitfalls to climb out of?

    On my other wip I’m working in first person narrative, which I find MUCH easier!
    Jemima

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Jemima! Thanks for asking—yes, I do have some tips and thoughts. 🙂

      First, keep an eye on your filter words. (There is an upcoming post on them, #36, but if you email me, I’ll share the link from Dun Writin’ for that specific article. You can find my email address anywhere in the links above or in my Gravatar or WordPress profiles.) Filter words are a great indication of POV. If the scene is in Sarah’s POV and Paul is thinking/feeling/wishing/any other filter word, then it’s a head hop and needs to be changed.

      Second, when you’re all done, I suggest carefully flagging each and every paragraph (I think you can omit dialogue, unless there’s a filter word in the action tag) with whose POV it is. If you choose to print it out, you can just mark the first initial on the side with a marker. Or in the Word document, you can use Review, Comment, Insert New Comment and type in the person’s name. This will help you identify paragraphs where the POV is iffy/questionable, and also clearly indicate paragraphs where there’s a head hop: Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, Paul—whoops! Then you can decide whether the information communicated in that paragraph can be cut entirely, amended so it’s in the correct POV, or moved to another scene in the correct POV.

      😀

      Liked by 3 people

    • Wow! You guys are certainly keeping my brain busy on this one! 😀

      I have to say that I prefer editing 3rd person limited because it’s cut and dried. It’s easy to identify head hopping and can be fixed. Third person omniscient, done well, can be wonderful, but there’s a LOT of confusion as to what is omniscient and what is head hopping. Even we editors struggle with it sometimes and need assistance from excellently written articles or other editors. Writing omniscient well is a task best left to very experienced writers. Writing sloppy 3rd person limited full of head hopping and calling it “omniscient” is becoming a trend, unfortunately.

      There are some genres where head hopping is actually encouraged/accepted because the reader gets to see what everyone is thinking at once, thereby supposedly heightening the reader’s experience. I don’t necessarily agree, but… 🙂

      While reading for pleasure, I don’t have any preference—as long as it’s done well and I don’t notice the POV or any POV issues. If I notice them, I get annoyed. 😉

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Sigh . . . It’s happened again! Spotted this just as I’m about to shut down prior to going to bed. But I’ve been looking forward to this one – I’ll be back.

    Liked by 2 people

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