Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Pros and Cons of Different Types of Point of View for Your Novel

One of the most fundamental decisions you can make for you novel is what point of view you're going to write it in. Now this isn't a post about the everlasting debate of first person versus third person and this isn't about what tense your novel can be in. This is about many point of views and combinations of point of views I've observed across the many books I've read. My intent for this post is to expose you to different types of point of views and discuss the pros and cons of each point of view or combination to help you make an informed decision for your novel. With NaNoWriMo coming up in just two months, this is a good thing to be thinking about. 

We clear about what's going on?

Glad you think so, Sam.
1.) Third Person Omniscient - This is a classic point of view. It's used in a lot of older storytelling. It's the point of view we think of when someone is telling a fairy tale. 

The Pros: Third Person Omniscient allows a strong narrator voice. Your voice as a writer will come out more than the characters'. You also are allowed to head jump as in you can be in one person's head in one paragraph and another one's in the next or a collective. You can talk about things the characters wouldn't know, because you aren't just in one characters' head. 

The Cons: The popularity of this style has decreased for closeness to the characters. Publishers are less likely to look for this style. Readers can't get to know the characters as intimately as with another tense. Often the headjumping can be confusing and the narrator also tends to infodump in many of these stories. 

Examples: Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, and the Princess Bride by William Goldman.

2.) First Person One Point of View - This point of view has really come into prominence in the last ten years abouts. This is the closest you can possibly be to a character in the story, because they're directly telling the story to you. 

The Pros: Readers are often bonded really closely to this character, because they're so close to him or her. You can tell the story directly out of the character's mouth using their words and phrasing. Because of this the prose gets a bit more flexibility. Many readers become the most immersed in this point of view.

The Cons: If the readers don't like this main character, you're in trouble, because there's no alternative point of view for them to go to. Some people don't like the more flexible prose style allowed for this point of view. Also you're only seeing the world from this character's point of view, so you only get their perspective. 

Examples: The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, Out of Time series by Nadine Brandes (Review of book one here!), Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children series by Ransom Riggs (Reviews of books one, two, and three available!), Reapers series by Bryan Davis (Review of book one here!), Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (Review here!), Failstate series by John W. Otte (Reviews of book one, two, and three available), and Divergent (Review here!) and Insurgent (Review here!) by Veronica Roth.

3.) Third Person Limited One Point of View - This point of view is often the best of both worlds. You can have the intimacy of first person point of view with the stronger narrator voice of third person omniscient. 

The Pros: You can get a bit of both with this point of view. This is a good beginner point of view, because first person can be a bit difficult for a budding writer.

The Cons: You're only in one head, which can create similar problems to like what I've listed with first person one point of view. Also some people won't like this type of point of view and ditch it for a first person, but people are people. 

Examples: The Maze Runner series (Reviews of books one, two, and three available!) by James Dashner, the Eye of Minds by James Dashner (Reviews of books one and two available!), and the Cantral Chronicles by Amanda L. Davis (Reviews of books one, two, and three available!)

4.) First Person Two Points of Views - I've only read one book with this combination and it wasn't done well, but I can see its benefits if it's pulled off. 

The Pros: Instead of being so intimate with one character, you can be that way with two. This is good for a romance, because you can get each side of the romance. 

The Cons: If the voice of each point of view aren't strong, then you're basically screwed. That's how it was in Allegient. Four's point of view was just too similar to Tris's, and I often got confused when switching between point of views, because sometimes I would skip reading the chapter title for the point of view. The successfully pull this off the point of views must be very distinctive from each other. 
Examples: Allegient by Veronica Roth (Review here!)

5.) Third Person Limited Two Points of Views - This has similar benefits to first person two point of views. 

The Pros: You can get two different perspectives to the story and still by close to the characters. This is popular in romances I've heard. 

The Cons: Because it's in third you'll not deal with the confusion of who's head you're in, but you may deal with some people preferring one character over the other one. 

Examples: By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson

6.) Third Person Limited Three or More Points of Views - If you couldn't tell already from that list of examples below this is a very popular point of view combination for fantasy writers. The multiple point of views allow the writer to get the most out of their worldbuilding. 

The Pros: You can get a lot of different perspectives with this combination. You can have the main character, more than one main character, the villain, a side character, anyone you want. This can allow you to have different point of views from all different races and cultures allowing you to really build on your storyworld. 

The Cons: Like with any multiple point of view, the voices of each character must be strong or they'll all seem to blur together. Some of the point of views may seem unnecessary, and some people may skip point of views, because they don't care for them. 

Examples: Dragons in Our Midst series by Bryan Davis, Oracles of Fire series by Bryan Davis, Children of the Bard series by Bryan Davis (Reviews of books one, two, three, and four available), Dragons of Starlight series by Bryan Davis (Reviews of books three and four available), Tales of Starlight series by Bryan Davis (Reviews of books one, two, and three available), The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer (Review of book one here!), The Safe Lands trilogy by Jill Williamson (Review of books one, two, and three here), King's Folly by Jill Williamson (Reviews of parts one, two, and three available), The Songkeeper Chronicles by Gillian Bronte Adams (Reviews of books one and two here!), The Immortal Files by Robert Liparulo (Reviews of books one and two here!), Tainted by Morgan L. Busse (Review here!), Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas (Review of book one here!), The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater (Review of book one here!), the Hive by John W. Otte (Review here!), and Curio by Evangeline Denmark (Review here!). 

7.) First Person Plus Multiple Point of Views in Third Person - I've only seen this done in two series, but I personally thing it's a fun combination as it allows you to be the most intimate with the main character, but also allows perspectives from others. 

The Pros: This is for the person who can't decide if they want to do first person or third person, so why not both? You can have your main main character, but you can have the freedom of other characters without the confusion that first person with multiple point of views can bring. 

The Cons: I've put this idea past some publishers and they weren't totally game with it. It's a rarer point of view combination, so I can see why industry professionals are most hesitant about it. 

Examples: The Maximum Ride series by James Patterson & the Jevin Banks Files by Steven James (Reviews of book one and two available). 

8.) Multiple First Person Plus Multiple Third Person - Maybe somebody out there has managed to pull this off successfully, but the one book I read with this crazy combo was the opposite of successful. 

The Pros: You basically get the all hallowed freedom of any bloody point of view you want with all of the benefits. 

The Cons: IT CAN BE REALLY CHAOTIC! The one book I read from this was so freaking confusing. I couldn't tell what point of view I was in often because the only indicator of a point of view switch was three black pages. I couldn't tell that the second first person POV character was the first first point of view character until near the end of the second first person POV character's chapter. If that confused you, join the club. 

Examples: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (Review here!)

Conclusion - The resounding theme for all of these point of views is to always always have a strong character voice. What makes that point of view character different than all of the others? Can you know immediately by switching chapters without seeing their name mentioned which character it is? For many good books I know this is the case. It can be done. 

After a lot of experimenting, my person preference for point of view is third person with one or more point of views, but that's just my style. Everyone's is different. Try experimenting to see which one works for you. The authors I've listed often pick one type of POV style and stick to that, while others switch it up per series. Which one(s) will you choose?

What do you think of these point of views and point view combinations? Which of these point of views and combinations have you written or read? Do you have any other examples to add to the list? Do you have a favorite POV? 

You may also like: 
Character Chatting: How to Do It and How it Benefits Your Writing
Antiheroes 101: What is an Antihero and How do you Write a Successful One?
12 Things I've Learned as a Writer I Wish Someone Told Me Sooner
Why Reading Regularly is Essential to Being a Good Writer
Basing the Protagonist on Yourself: The Pros and Cons

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