Point of View (POV)
Are you scared yet? A lot of writers, dare I say most writers, break out in a rash when they hear the term. In my critique group we are constantly struggling with POV. The first hurdle is which POV you need to use. I say need rather than want because I firmly believe the material, not the writer, dictates the POV. But that’s for another day. In fact, any POV you use will present its own challenges.
Many writers believe that first person is the easiest to write in. I beg to differ. Staying in one character’s head is harder than it seems. How to get the reader the back-story? The physical description? It’s common to see the main character’s back story in another character’s mouth. “I remember when you were born on that April day in 1975. Your mother was blind and your father a drunk and you left home at sixteen to roam the streets of New York.” A whole paragraph of that is not only boring but unnatural.
As for physical description there is the overused mirror technique. “I gazed in the bathroom mirror at the heavy black eyeliner around my light blue eyes and tucked a strand of bleached blond hair behind my ear, glistening with three studs.” I have attended numerous workshops and conferences and have been told umpteen times not to use the mirror technique for first person POV descriptions. But come on—who hasn’t resorted to it?
Then there is omniscient or God’s POV. It solves some problems but creates others. God is all knowing, all seeing, and much better at organizing that information than mere mortal writers. How do you decide what to tell and what to leave out when presenting the past, present, and future of each character in your story? I wrote a whole novel in third person only to rewrite it in first. It needed more intimacy than the God view allowed. Or so it seemed. I am currently reading Edward P. Jones’ novel The Known World and am astonished at his use of the third person. His story is intimate and dramatic without being overloaded with information. He surprises me with details of what the character will experience in the future, without distracting me from the present plot. I am learning a lot from this book on POV while enjoying it. Critique groups help to pointing out where POV diverges; reading a writer who uses POV masterly shows you how it should, and can, be done. It is inspirational.
As for second person—you don’t want to get me started.
flow chart from https://booksbytrista.wordpress.com/category/point-of-view/