Point of view is one of the most important aspects of writing and is the most common of all writing mistakes. Its purpose is to direct the readers attention where the writers wishes it to go. There are three classifications of point of view: first person, omniscient, and third person. Each classification has its own benefits and rules, which limit the writer but also add depth to the story and flush out the characters.
When determining what type of point of view the writer will be working from she/he must first consider what kind of feel she/he is looking for in the story. First person is more intimate, yet it is also very limiting. The omniscient point of view sees all, yet feels nothing; there is no connection to the characters or reasons behind their actions. Third person is a combination of the first two; third person is different from first by the pronouns used and how much information is available. While first is limited to what one character sees, feels and knows, third is a step backward to also include what is happening around the character. The information can be included even if the character isn‘t aware of the situation. If the writer was looking for action thriller, omniscient or third would be the best point of view to work from; however if the writer was looking to explore the inner workings of a character, first person would give the reader the inside access to what, why and how the character thinks. First person is a story told from the main character’s point of view. I and me are the main pronouns. The benefits include intimacy and a very full character development. The reader gets to know exactly what motivates the character--all the loves, fears, hopes, and thinking process. However it is very limited. Action that happens outside of the character’s knowledge is only known if another character shares the information. One character is known very well, however the others are only seen through the main character’s perspective. For example, if the main character is paranoid, she or he could see the others evil or a threat and act accordingly. This may not be true. But told in the first person, the reader would never know the true motivations or actions of the other characters. Omniscient point of view is told from outside of all the characters. There is no personal involvement. Pronouns are she, he, or they. What happens and when are the only details the reader is given. It is like watching a movie. If omniscient has been chosen, everything is visual. If a character laughs or cries, the reader is told what they are doing, but not why they are doing it. Using the same example, the character could be shown staring at others and being hostile when approached. The reader wouldn’t know why, only that character is angry and aggressive when approached. Third person point of view is described as having an angel sitting on the character’s shoulder. The angel knows what the character is feeling, thinking and seeing, but is also aware what is happening around the character even if the character doesn’t know. Once again the pronouns are she, he, or they, but in this case when referring to the thoughts of the main character I or me can also be used. In the third person, the reader would know that the character thinks the others are out to harm her or him, however the angel on the shoulder would objectively show the others’ actions. The reader would then know if the others were actually out to get the main character or if it was just a delusion. Shifting point of view is one of the most common mistakes writers make. Once a point of view has been established, especially in smaller works, it must be maintained through the entire piece. Longer works can shift point of view as long as there is a definite break between them. Starting a new chapter is the most common way of shifting, however visual breaks within a chapter can be made with asterisks or other visual markers. Changing characters or getting inside other characters heads are also frequent errors writers make. If the writer chooses first person, the reader can not be given any information that character can not see, hear or feel. If the character doesn‘t know it, the reader can‘t either. In addition, unless the character is psychic, there is no way the main character can know what the other characters are thinking or feeling. Choosing which character will tell your story will also influence how the point of view will be expressed. Physical and emotional traits will help direct the attention not only of the character but the reader as well. Point of view could help the writer tell more about the main character and how she/he reacts to the environment. For example, if a character is always noticing other people’s shoes, they could be foot or shoe obsessed or they are always just looking down. In first person, the reader could learn what shoes mean to the character. Are they status or is it a compulsion? Do they look down because they are emotionally stunted and afraid to meet others’ eyes or is it a physical defect? The omniscient point of view would only tell the reader that the character notices shoes. In the third person, the reader would not only learn why, but the difficulties, which arise from the behavior. In addition to giving information, point of view can also create drama by restricting the flow of information. In a murder mystery the suspense in maintained as the detective unravels the clues and solves the crime. A story told by a child will be more limited than one told by an adult. Adults see more not only because of physical size but maturity brings awareness. Children, on the other hand, bring a fresh awareness and an amazement that gives a unique perspective. Character and story development can be helped when the proper point of view is established and maintained. It can add a three dimension quality or limit the reader to a visual perspective only. By choosing correctly, the writer can create drama and suspense or memorable characters that leave the reader satisfied.
Theresa Chaze is a fully dedicated Wiccan Priestess. Her first novel, Dragon's New Home--The Beginning of the Dragon Clan Trilogy is now available. It is based on her philosophy that all people can live together in peace as long as they come from respect. She invites you to visit her site at: http://www.geocities.com/tirgana/Tirgana.html