Character & POV
3 min read

The subjective point of view vs objective point of view

An illustration of a person looking at a mirror relection.

In the adventure of storytelling, the point of view serves as a magic mirror. Depending on how you wield this mirror, it can offer an intimate look into a character's inner world (subjective point of view) or serve as a window into the external reality of your narrative (objective point of view). In this guide, we'll dive deep into both these perspectives, unlocking their mysteries and potential.

The deep dive: subjective point of view

When a subjective point of view is used, the narrator gives readers access to the thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of one or more characters. It's like diving into a character's consciousness and experiencing the world through their eyes.

Subjective POV provides an emotional depth to your narrative. It fosters a close connection between readers and characters, allowing readers to engage with the characters' inner worlds. Think of The Catcher in the Rye – Holden Caulfield's subjective perspective brings his alienation and vulnerability to life.

The outside look: objective point of view

The objective point of view, on the other hand, keeps readers at arm's length. Here, the narrator merely describes what happens without delving into any character's thoughts or feelings. It's like watching a silent movie – the actions are visible, but the motivations are left to interpretation.

Objective POV often feels more like reportage, lending a sense of realism to the narrative. Readers are invited to draw their own conclusions based on the events and dialogue. Ernest Hemingway's Hills Like White Elephants is a classic example of this POV.

The best of both worlds?

Subjective and objective points of view each have their strengths and can be employed to great effect in different narrative situations. Sometimes, a story might even shift between the two, providing an intimate look into a character's psyche in one scene, and stepping back to provide a neutral account in another.

The balancing act

Choosing between subjective and objective POVs is like choosing the right lens for a camera. It depends on what you want to focus on: the inner life of the character or the outer events of the plot. Each choice will give a different tone and depth to your narrative.

Tips for choosing the right point of view

  1. Consider your narrative needs: If your story is character-driven, you might lean towards a subjective POV. An objective POV could work better if your narrative focuses more on action and plot.
  2. Think about your readers: Do you want them to know what your character is thinking and feeling, or do you want them to infer it from the character's actions and dialogue?
  3. Remember, consistency is critical: If you're switching between objective and subjective POVs, make sure the transitions are clear to avoid confusing your reader.

💡 Read more tips for choosing the right point of view for your novel.

Picking the right mirror

Whether you choose a subjective or objective point of view, the decision can drastically shape your narrative. But remember, the choice is yours at the end of the day. Pick the mirror that best reflects your narrative vision.