• Rachel Paige

Point of View Types

Point of view (POV) can be easy to mix up. First we'll talk about close and distant, then the different types. We're going to think of POV as a camera.


Close:

-Camera is behind the eyes of a character (called the viewpoint character)

-Reader can see the thoughts of the viewpoint character

-Everything in the narration must be visible or audible to the viewpoint character

-Readers can only see the viewpoint character as they see themselves (like looking down or in a mirror)

Distant:

-Camera is away from the characters

-Readers can see all the characters

-Narration is not tied to what a certain character can see or hear

1st:

-Camera is behind the eyes of the narrator

-Always close

-Uses I and me

-The viewpoint character is the narrator

-The narrator is a character in the story, usually the protagonist, but not always

-Readers can see in the character's head

-Readers cannot see in any other heads

-Readers can only see and hear things the narrator sees and hears

-Description should be tailored to what that character would notice

-Voice should be tailored to that character as well

-Common in young adult and middle grade

Examples: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt

My work-in-progress novel Chaos in G Major is in 1st person


2nd:

-Camera is behind the eyes of the narrator, kind of

-Usually close. Hard to pull off as distant

-Hard to pull off at all

-Uses you

-Makes the reader the narrator and (usually) the protagonist

-Common in choose-your-own-adventure books

-Basically exists no where else


3rd close (or 3rd limited):

-Behind the eyes of one character, and only one character (hence limited)

-Uses he/she/they

-Narrator is not the viewpoint character, but the story is told from the viewpoint's perspective

-Reader can only see and hear what the viewpoint can

-Events not involving the viewpoint are omitted

-Reader can only see the viewpoint as they see themselves

-Very similar to first, but uses third person pronouns

Examples: The Giver by Lois Lowry and the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling


3rd distant (or 3rd objective):

-Not behind the eyes, no viewpoint character

-Reader can't see the thoughts of any character

-More like a TV show, readers are objectively looking at the scene

-The narrator is not a character in the story and is typically objective

-Not very common

Example: "Hills Like White Elephants" by Earnest Hemingway


3rd Omniscient:

-The camera can move to be inside or outside a head

-Readers can see the thoughts of any character

-The narrator is usually not a character in the story, but can still have a personality and opinions

-Narration "jumps" between heads

+NOTE: When jumping, you MUST go from close to distant and back to close to avoid confusion.

+Look in one character's head, pan out to see the scene objectively, then go into another character's head

Examples: Lord of the Flies by William Golding and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis


Multiple points of view

-can be first or third

-typically close

-reader can see into multiple characters heads, but only at designated times

-not omniscient because there is always a grounded viewpoint character

Examples: Wonder by R.J. Palacio (1st person) and the Heros of Olympus series by Rick Riorden (3rd person)

My work-in-progress novel, Definitions of Life is in multiple 1st person.

An argument could be made for Chaos in G Major here, because I have a "guest narrator" for one chapter. But majority of the novel is from Olivia's POV, so I'll keep it as 1st.

Exercise 1:

Choose 3 of your favorite books and decide which POV they're told from.


Exercise 2:

Consider The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

This is often called omniscient, but I'd say it's actually a first parson narrator using third person close.

Death is the narrator and he read the protagonist's, Leisel, self-recorded life story. He is retelling what he read and giving insight into things he's saw that Leisel didn't.

He seems able to see in multiple characters' heads, but it's unclear if he can or if he's restating what those characters told Leisel.

He also seems to not understand human motives and thoughts, implying that he is not omniscient.


If you've read it, what would you consider the POV of The Book Thief to be? Have you read any other books with unusual POVs?

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