When I belonged to the Minneapolis Writers Workshop, the critique fiction writers heard most often dealt with point of view errors or inconsistencies. With that in mind, I offer a point of view (POV) primer. Think back to basic pronouns and you’ll see the differences among first person, second person, third person, and omniscient points of view.
First Person: The first person character uses the “I” viewpoint. Since the reader gets the story exactly as the character does, the character has to be present at all important story happenings.
Second Person: The second person character uses the “You” viewpoint. This is a difficult point of view to write because your writing has to constantly help the reader figure out who “you” refers to.
Third Person: The third person point of view can be limited to one character or it can be used with multiple characters. However you decide to use it, third person characters use the “He” and “She” viewpoint. The advantage of third person is that the author is not limited to one person’s head (as in first person). The author can share the story from one character’s view, then see the story from a different character’s view (but you can only be in one head at a time). For example, one character may be visual while the other may be more auditory. They both experience a concert, but the visual character sees the stage, costumes, lights while the auditory character hears the melody, beat, and various instruments. CAUTION: Be kind to your reader and try to limit your writing to one POV character per chapter, or at least per scene. Let your reader know which character’s head you’re in for that chapter or scene. You can do that by starting the scene with that character’s thought or action. Also, be careful that you give all your main third person characters equal presence in the story.
Omniscient: This point of view has no single character. Instead, it relies on author comment to help the reader follow the story that jumps from point of view to point of view. Readers don’t get the opportunity to relate well to any character, but the author can easily make major points in the story. CAUTION: While the omniscient point of view may look easy, playing God and jumping from one character’s head to the next, inserting judgments, and keeping reader attention can be more challenging to you as author (to write) than any of the other viewpoints.
If you’re a fiction writer, I trust this point of view primer will be helpful. Happy writing!