Character & POV
3 min read

How to choose a point of view

An illustration of multiple eyes.

As a fiction writer, you’ve got a lot of critical decisions to make. Choosing the right point of view (POV) for your story is among those decisions. Think of it as casting the lead role in a film – it can make or break your narrative. The POV determines who gets to tell the story and how it’s told. It shapes your reader’s experience, dictating how close they feel to your characters and the story unfolding.

But how do you decide which POV is right for your story? And how do you select the best character to carry that point of view?

The who’s who of your narrative

First things first: choosing the viewpoint character. This character is the reader’s tour guide, whose eyes they see through, whose thoughts they’re privy to. In choosing this character, consider the following:

  1. Relevance to the story: The viewpoint character should be someone with a central role in your narrative, someone who experiences or influences the key events.
  2. Ability to achieve story goals: Choose a character who can drive the narrative forward, who has the power or potential to achieve the story’s objectives.
  3. Interest factor: Your viewpoint character should be someone your readers will find intriguing or relatable – someone they’re willing to spend time with.

The power dynamic

The choice of viewpoint character can also be influenced by the power dynamics at play in your story. Powerful characters offer a broad view of the narrative landscape, while powerless characters provide a more limited, but often more intimate, perspective.

Powerful characters, like a king or a CEO, have the advantage of a wide sphere of influence. They can offer a macro view of the plot, revealing high-stakes struggles and large-scale consequences. However, their narratives might lack the personal connection that comes with a more relatable character.

Powerless characters, on the other hand, can lend a poignant, ground-level view of the story. They often grapple with personal struggles, offering a micro view of the plot. These characters can tug at readers’ emotions, making them invest deeply in the character’s journey.

Finding the perfect POV

Once you’ve settled on the viewpoint character, the next step is to select the right POV. Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Closeness to the character: Do you want readers to feel like they’re inside the character’s head (first person) or would you prefer some distance (third person)?
  2. Scope of the story: Is your narrative focused on a single character’s experiences (first person or third person limited), or does it require multiple perspectives (third person omniscient)?
  3. Tone and style: Different POVs can significantly impact the tone and style of your narrative. The intimacy of first person can lend itself to a conversational, informal tone, while third person might feel more formal and detached.

The litmus test

Ultimately, the best way to decide on a POV is to write a scene from your story in different POVs. Experiment with both the viewpoint character and the POV itself. Which one feels the most engaging? Which one conveys your story most effectively?

At the helm of your narrative

Choosing a point of view isn’t a decision to be made lightly – it’s like choosing the captain of your narrative ship. But with careful consideration and experimentation, you can find the perfect point of view to navigate your narrative journey.

Remember, the right point of view is the one that best serves your story. In the end, whether you’re gazing through the looking glass of the first person, peeking over the shoulder of the third person, or overseeing the action with an omniscient eye, the choice of point of view is your chance to shape your reader’s experience.