Why is Point of View important?

For a long time, writers commonly used a point of view that we now most often call omniscient (also called eye of god or camera). It was the POV that saw everything, often in great detail, and rather than dwell on one character, took us into every major character in the story. There was a lot of setting, a lot of authorial intrusion (the author explaining stuff to the reader in various ways) and even times where the reader was directly

Whose eye is seeing the story - what happens, and how?

addressed.

More and more now, stories are told in first person or third person intimate. Why? Because readers want to feel close to the main character. They want to be inside that character’s head and emotions, seeing what they see, feeling what they feel, understanding how they think. YA fiction has been using this first person POV for some time, and it’s gradually creeping into middle grade fiction. Adult genre and literary fiction also use intimate POVs a lot, and the use of first person/present tense has made a lot of readers grind their teeth! It’s actually quite difficult to do it well.

Why this shift to such intimate POVs in fiction? Probably our changing world, where reality TV, Facebook and Twitter make us feel like we “know” people, even people like Paris Hilton. That experience of “knowing” can’t help but creep into our fiction. But what does this mean for the author?
For a start, it means you have to get a real grip on point of view. What all the different POVs are (even though they might have different labels) and how they operate, for a start. But more importantly, how POV affects the way you tell a story.

You might think My character is Joe, I’m telling this in first person, and I want to show my reader what happens in Joe’s life. That’s a good start, but it won’t get you very far in terms of reader engagement. What does the reader want from you (and Joe)? Stay tuned to find out.

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Comments

  1. Wanda McGregor says:

    Hi Sherryl

    I found this very useful. I struggle to get my head around the different points of view, especially the objective and subjective aspects of omniscience. I once wrote a story for a course which I thought was third person limited, but it turned out to be omniscient!

    Thanks

    Wanda

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