Last week I told you why Point Of View (POV) is essential in good writing and the effects it can have on your story.
Now I want us to delve a little deeper into it and take a look at the difference between 1st, 3rd, and 2nd person POV.
I’m sure we’ve all read books that are written in the way that the narrator is the main character telling you what happened. It generally looks like this.
I wasn’t sure what they planned on doing to me but I knew it was nothing good. I glanced up to meet her seemingly innocent eyes. She grinned at me.
“Well goodbye,” I said launching into a run. She called after me but I didn’t even look back.
This is called first person POV. It is when the story goes, I did this, I did that.
In the more experienced group of writers 3rd person is really popular. It’s when the narrator isn’t a character and the story is told as if simply observing everything. It normally goes like this.
Charles wasn’t sure what they planned on doing to him but he knew it was nothing good. He glanced up to meet Sarah’s seemingly innocent eyes. She grinned at him.
“Well goodbye,” Charles said launching into a run. Sarah called after him but he didn’t even look back.
Third person is all about he did this, she did that.
The last point of view is hardly ever used because really it’s weird. 2nd person POV is when you tell the reader what they did. As if they are a character in the story. Normally a book is only written like this if it’s a multiple choice book.
It looks like this.
You weren’t sure what Sarah planned on doing to you but you knew it was nothing good. You glanced up to meet her seemingly innocent eyes. She grinned at you.
“Well goodbye,” You said launching into a run. Sarah called after you but you didn’t even look back.
As you can see this is a confusing way of writing because you are telling your reader what they did to which they will shake their head and say… No I did not do this.
I still thought it was worth sharing because in truth there are no one way to write and when I was little I had read a book exactly like this.
It told me what I did and at the end of each chapter I got to make a choice. Each decision I made would lead me to a different chapter, a different way for the story to pan out.
So while I can’t share with you all the tips and tricks of writing 2nd person POV there really are people who use this and if you feel like you want to give it a go who am I to stop you?
Now I want us to take a closer look at the first two POV’s, 1st and 3rd, and compare them.
Telling and showing.
One of the most shared piece of writing advice out there is show don’t tell and a lot of people take it close to hart. While I do agree that showing is a writing skill every writer should learn I think that to what degree you use it is your choice.
A first person POV is based on a lot of telling while 3rd person POV is based on showing. If you want to work mainly with showing then try 3rd person. If you want to add that little more voice to your story try 1st.
This is a rather simple rule in writing. When you write in first person you can only have one POV character while if you write in 3rd you get to have as much as your story needs.
This is because if you write ‘I did this, I did that’ you have chosen your narrator for your story and it get’s confusing when you keep switching between narrators so the best advice I can give you here is stick to 1 POV if you write in 1st. If you write in 3rd you are given more leeway.
This is where 1st gets a lot of good words because you get to give your reader an easy access to your character. You get to show them how your character thinks. You get to add funny monologue without trouble. 1st person really is the best for getting your reader close to your character.
If you plan to write in 3rd POV though you can still add a lot of your character’s personality to your writing through deep POV which is a topic on its own for a next week.
This is something I like to play with for no better reason than I’m secretly evil.
You can use the limitations of both 1st and 3rd POV to add secrets to your writing.
If you’re writing 1st then it’s easy because you can’t share anything with your readers that your POV character doesn’t know. That way you can hide something in plain sight but make your POV character look straight past this leading to a big surprise for your reader when they find out.
In third it is just as fun because you can torture your readers by giving them only pieces of information. You can warn your readers that bad things will happen by writing from the villain’s POV in one scene so they’ll sit on the edges of their chairs during the next when they helplessly wait for your MC to step into danger. (Evil Laughter!)
This is something you have to be careful with though because if you surprise your readers to much with 1st you might actually hurt their feelings so much they will stop reading. They will stomp their feet and ask why you didn’t warn them who was going to die. When hiding secrets in 1st remember to hint at what’s to come just a little. This way your reader will be mentally prepared for hart brake.
The danger of 3rd person is that you can’t keep showing your reader what the villain is doing. This is a trick that should only be used one in a story. Maybe twice if you’re this generations JK. Rowling and can pull it off. The reason you can’t keep showing your reader this is because it works on their nerves and it makes them angry.
I know the general rule of writing is to toy with your reader’s emotions but you want them to be angry and sad with your MC. The minute the anger is no longer attached to a character the anger becomes directed at you and they’ll put the book down. So remember you want to add suspense using secrets but you also want your reader to keep reading.
Now the last point between 1st and 3rd is…
The fact is that 1st is easier than 3rd to pull off.
If you are completely new to this and considering writing for the first time I will suggest to you what was suggested to me when I started… Write in 1st.
It’s really easier than third. It is good way to simply get into the writing swing.
If you are more experienced and you haven’t tried 3rd yet then I really suggest you do. It might be hard and suck at first but it’s worth the practice and a good skill to have even if you don’t plan on ever using it.
So that’s basically the difference between 1st and 3rd. For the record while I had started with 1st I now prefer writing in 3rd person. Having written in both I really suggest you keep practicing both.
Here is a little exercise to go with the post. If you normally write in 1st person then write something in 3rd today and vice versa.
So what do you think? How do you write and do you have any tips? Have you ever read or written something in 2nd POV?