Thayer Literary Services ~ Book Editing

Point of view

Point of view (POV) is the perspective from which a story is told. Writers have three basic choices: the first person singular, the second person (“you”), and the third person (“he”/”she”). In the first-person point of view, the story is told by an “I” in the story. In third-person the author has two narrative perspectives to choose from—the third-person pure omniscient POV, which is told by an “outside” voice that has access to any character’s actions and thoughts, and the third-person limited omniscient point of view, which is limited to the thoughts and perspective of a single character per scene. First-person and third-person limited novels are the most common and acceptable ones today.


In third-person limited, the viewpoint is confined to a single character in each scene. Nothing appears in the scene that the VPC character doesn’t experience. If a POV character walks out of the room, faints, or dies, the scene has to end. The third-person pure omniscient narrator is godlike, seeing and knowing everything. I encourage new writers to avoid this POV. Readers should experience the story firsthand via a fictional human being. A limited POV grounds readers in one space, behind one person’s eyes.


POV shift example

In the work of new writers I often find another type of POV shift, not from one character to another in a scene but from the POV character to an omniscient narrator—the writer himself. I found the following paragraph in the novel manuscript of one of my writers. It’s a good example of how a writer inadvertently shifts the viewpoint away from the proper POV character.


Todd sat next to Julia as they drove down the Tamiami Trail. The road was lightly traveled now that it was eight o’clock.  Sarasota is half a city in the summer; by November, driving this stretch of road becomes a nightmare.


This is what I told the author: The reader knows that neither Todd nor Julia is familiar with Sarasota, Florida. Although anyone might guess that the population of Sarasota is much diminished in the summertime, neither of these story people would know where particular areas of congestion might occur. The underlined portion brings the author to the forefront and violates point of view.


"In the next paragraph you expostulate on the bridge issue, inserting facts and opinions into the narrative and again bringing yourself to the reader’s attention. If you want to relate this information to readers, have one of the locals talk about the controversy. But make sure you are forwarding the plot. At a crucial moment, for instance, a character could get stuck in traffic on the drawbridge."



<< Back to Writing Help












Book editing  |  Writing services  |  Manuscript evaluation  |  Critiques

Fiction writing tips  |  Copyediting  |  Proofreading



© 1997-2015 Thayer Literary Services

Blog badge