What’s Your POV on POV?

Do you prefer reading novels written in first person as opposed to third person or vice versa? Do you prefer one point of view over the other when writing?

(I won’t be talking about second person in this post simply because it’s so rarely used).

I personally have no preference when it comes to reading books. As long as the story is well written, I’m fine with first person or third person. What I do have an issue with, however, is inconsistency or lack of a definite voice. For example, I’ve come across a few third person pov books which seem to be in third person limited, with the narrator’s knowlege limited to the thoughts, observations, etc of one character. However, well into the story we suddenly get thoughts from another character or two thrown in. Then the story goes back to focusing on the protagonist’s pov. When that happens, I get jolted out of the story and feel disconnected from it. I also tend to feel all “Grrr.”

I’ve also been known to get frustrated with books written in first person but featuring different characters’ povs in different chapters. Don’t get me wrong, this can be done extremely well and I’ve read great books written in this way. However, without a distinctive voice for each character, the story can get confusing. I can think of one book in particular, written by a famous author (who shall remain nameless), that confused me in this way. The character featured in a certain chapter was listed as the chapter heading and I often found myself having to flip back to figure out which character was currently telling the story. I don’t think I should have needed to do that. I would have preferred it to be obvious, because of the distinctive voices, which character’s story I was reading at any particular time.

However, those are more quality/editing issues. When everything is executed well, I don’t care whether a story is told from in first person or the third person.

As for writing…

Up until recently I had written all of my novels in third person. For some reason third person pov just felt comfortable for me. But when I started writing my most recent novel, a cozy mystery, I felt like it should be written in first person. When I started out, it felt really uncomfortable and by the end of the first chapter I was ready to start all over again, changing the story to third person. But then my main character said, “Don’t you dare! This is my story and I want it told from my pov!!!”

I figured that arguing with her would be a bad idea. Plus, I decided that it wouldn’t hurt me to try something new. I decided to give first person more of a chance and now I’m glad I did. I’m halfway through the first draft now and feeling far more comfortable with writing in first person. It’s possible that I’ll always write more in third person but I like the idea of being comfortable with writing from either point of view.

What’s your POV on POV?

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10 Comments

  1. April 17, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    I’m with you, as long as the POV is consistent it doesn’t matter to me.
    As far as writing, I lean towards 3rd person. I’ve tried 1st person, but it feels very limited for my stories…who knows, I may have a character insist on it soon 🙂

    • Sarah L Fox said,

      April 17, 2013 at 6:45 pm

      My MC was certainly very insistent. 😉 Thanks for commenting, Maryellen!

  2. April 17, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    Most of my short novels and all my longer works are 3rd person. I’ve been experimenting with 1st person POV for a couple of short stories and don’t dislike it anymore, although I do find I have to work harder to maintain it. Kudos to you for trying a whole novel that way!

    • Sarah L Fox said,

      April 18, 2013 at 9:13 am

      I also find first person harder to maintain but it’s also getting easier the more I try it. Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  3. Zen A. said,

    April 18, 2013 at 5:10 am

    I’ve written in both 1st and 3rd person, and each of them has a certain appeal. For example, in a book where you’ve got multiple POVs going on, it would be decidedly confusing to write in 1st person.

    • Sarah L Fox said,

      April 18, 2013 at 9:14 am

      I agree. Some people can successfully pull off first person with multiple POVs but I don’t think I could manage it. Thanks for the comment!

  4. SarahB said,

    April 18, 2013 at 8:48 am

    I feel the same way! If the story is told well then it doesn’t make a difference to me when reading. I do however prefer to write in 3rd POV. Mostly because I feel more like I’m telling a story and less like writing a journal entry.

    • Sarah L Fox said,

      April 18, 2013 at 9:18 am

      I can see what you mean about the journal entry… it certainly feels different to write in 1st person. It was really uncomfortable for me when I first tried it! 🙂

  5. April 28, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Great topic, Sarah! I’ve used first, third limited, and third omniscient. They all have their pros and cons, it just depends on the kind of story. I found first person good for a short story, but don’t think I could do an entire novel in it. My current WIP is in third omniscient. I don’t have a problem with multiple POVs or even some head-hopping so long as it’s done well, but I keep mine to a minimum because I know readers tend not to like it.

  6. May 28, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    I wrote in the first person POV for years but my current WIP is written in the third, so trying something new!


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