Writing 101: What is POV?

Writing 101: What is POV?

POV, or Point of View is a concept that can challenge the new and more experienced author alike. Point of view comes in one of three basic varieties: 1st Person, 2nd Person, 3rd Person. There are variations of each of these, but let’s break down the basics.

1st Person POV

This is often the easiest POV to recognize, but don’t let that fool you. There are nuances to writing in this POV. Stories written in first-person are told from the “I” perspective. Some books will feature a singular first-person POV, meaning the entire story is told from one character’s perspective. Other books may use multiple first-person POVs where the character perspective changes from one character to another, usually with each chapter change.

Here’s an example of first-person POV:

I couldn’t see anything in the darkness. The floor beneath me was cold and hard, and my back screamed in pain as I forced myself to sit up. Water dripped somewhere nearby and I was suddenly overwhelmed with thirst.

Many writers feel a natural inclination to write in 1st person. But ease of use does not mean that it doesn’t take technique. We’ll dig into this more in a later post.

2nd Person POV

Second person is undoubtedly the most uncommon of the POVs and can be difficult to master. This POV is told from the “you” perspective and often relays a story as if the reader is a character in the story. If you ever read those choose-your-own-adventure stories as a kid, you’ll be familiar with this POV.

Here’s the example from above, written in second-person POV:

You wake up in total darkness. You can feel a cold stone floor beneath you and your body aches as you try to sit up. From somewhere nearby, you can hear the sound of water dripping. The sound makes you realize how thirsty you are.

Done well, this POV can create a unique and memorable reading experience, however, many readers balk at reading books in this POV. It can be done, but just like POV, there are some nuances that can make or break a story told in this POV.

3rd Person POV

I would argue that third person POV is the most popular POV, and yes, like the other two, there are techniques specific to this POV that can destroy your book or really bring your story to life. Third-person POV tells the story from a removed third-party perspective, and are written from a he/she/they/it perspective. While this POV creates distance from the characters and the reader, used effectively it can actually give a writer more room to explore and expand a storyline. This POV makes the reader feel like an actor in the book, watching from just off to the side.

Here’s the same example written in third-person:

She couldn’t see anything in the darkness. The floor beneath her was cold and hard. She winced in pain as she sat up. Water dripped somewhere nearby, the sound drawing attention to her dry mouth and growing thirst.

There are variations of this POV, everything from omniscient to close. Watch for future posts where we’ll dig into each POV more in depth.

What about you? Do you have a favorite POV to write in? To read in?

Veronica Jorden

Veronica Jorden

Developmental and substantive editor. Semi-professional cupcake baker. Writer. Gardener. Living a pre-apocalyptic life.

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