Wednesday, January 26, 2011

So Whose Viewpoint Is It Anyway?

As we drove to Montana last week, I realized my point of view of our journey was much different from Hubby's. I was merely a passenger, while he was driving. Yes, there were times that I feared we might end up in the gutter with the other cars, but I'm sure Hubby was much more concerned about skidding off the road. Not only was he worried about hurting me, but the car and others on the highway. If I were to write that scene in a book, I'd make my protagonist my husband because he had the most stress and most to lose, while I was just a passenger.

As you sit down to write your book, ask yourself:

Who is watching?
Why are they watching?
And who has the most to learn?

Viewpoint, as I'm sure you already know, is the place from which your reader views your story. As a refresher let's make sure you have a firm grasp of viewpoint and which one you feel most comfortable writing.

How many viewpoints are there? Quite a few and when you add tense to the equation we could be here for quite a while. But I'm only going to dwell on three viewpoints: first person, third person and omniscient.

First person...
In this viewpoint the reader only sees the world through the main character. First person is used a great deal and there's good reason for that. Once you're locked into this viewpoint you're not likely to slip into another character's because everything is seen, heard, and felt through you.

Example:  I could smell the thief coming. The scent of spoiled milk churned my stomach.

Third person ...
This viewpoint takes a step away from the main character, but is widely used. You  have to be especially careful of pronouns because clarity can become an issue. And there is also the danger of head-hopping. You know what I mean, switching pov in the middle of a scene. Again clarity is most important. You may have read some stories where within a scene pov is switched. I know several romance authors who are quite comfortable head hopping, but I don't recommend it.

Example:   He could smell the thief coming for the scent of spoiled milk roiled in the air.

Omniscient ...
Think of this viewpoint as a wide lens that sees everything. It's not used a lot because immediacy is yet another step away from the reader. Think of this point of view as a movie camera. A camera doesn't think or feel, which makes it difficult for books written in this pov to convey emotion because they can't dig down into the inner psyche of characters and show layers of thought. I'm not saying it can't be done, because it can. Just know that having clarity and showing emotion will be an uphill challenge.

Example:  A smelly thief ran down the alley.

Which viewpoint are you most comfortable writing?


  1. Hi Kathy,
    I tend to use third person the most. Someday I might try first but when I have in the past, it doesn't quite seem to work well enough. And I also like other POV as well:) Have a great day!

  2. Hi Kathi -

    Congrats on hitting 200 Followers!

    I'm most comfortable writing in Third Person, but would like to try First Person someday.

    Susan :)

  3. Terri,
    The important thing is to write in the viewpoint you're most comfortable using. Thanks for stopping by. :D

  4. Susan,
    You're not alone feeling most comfortable writing in third person. I've written books using first person for some and third person for another.

    Thanks for dropping by and blessings to you and yours. :D

  5. Hi, Kathi! I use third person most of the time. But I have dabbled with first person pov for short stories. Both are interesting to use. I think first person is certainly deeper, but it also has more limits. Another excellent post!

  6. Stacy,
    Third person seems to be the most popular. And I understand why. I write my romantic suspense books in third person. Though I have toyed with doing one in first person. Could be even more suspenseful. Thanks for stopping by. :)

  7. I tried omniscient unsuccesfully, but my current wip is first person and it's coming along nicely.
    I'm glad you made it back from Montana safe and sound. What an adventure!

  8. MT:
    I think writing in first person really grounds the writer into pov. I know it did for me. I hope you find it helps you as well.

    Montana was fun, but it's nice to be home. :)



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