First-person narrative? Third-person narrative? Even Second-person narrative?
What exactly is “Point of View” (POV)? And, perhaps more important, How do you know which POV to employ for your story?
POV is where you stand when you tell your story.
Picture yourself at a party. Are you near the center of attention, “in your own head” and unconcerned by the fact that somewhere else in the house, there is drama or intrigue (you may not even notice that burning smell coming from the kitchen)? Or, do you “hang back” and observe what everyone else is doing? Do you notice that glance between the hostess and your best friend’s husband? Did you find it curious that Jim (we’ll call him Jim) stepped outside for a cigarette (he doesn’t smoke) only to be followed a discreet five minutes later (you timed it) by Sue (your hostess, who also doesn’t smoke)? We don’t even have to discuss the relative dishevelment of their persons upon their return to the party.
If the party in question is a birthday party, and you’re the birthday boy (and your wife, Sue, is throwing your party – yikes!) then you will likely interpret all the action and events of the party as being all about you. If you are a friend of a friend of a friend, you might feel very much the outsider, and simply observe the goings on.
In the one case, you will likely employ a first-person narrative, telling the story as “I” see it. In the other, you will likely tell the story by hovering outside the crowd and employing the third-person narrative.
The first-person narrative’s great strength is intimacy and immediacy. It is “me, me, me” even when it’s about someone else. All things are filtered through the “I”. The downside, of course, is that just like Mr. Rogers taught us, when you write in the first-person, you can never really see what someone else is thinking or feeling. That is, you are limited in your ability to completely develop any character other than the narrator. (You still have to develop three-dimensional, believable characters! You just can’t fully get into their souls!)
The ability to develop the inner thinking and feeling of all the characters requires you to stand back and tell the story from the third-person perspective, sometimes referred to as the omniscient narrator or, the God’s eye view.
Think about the kind of story you are telling – is it “your” story or a story that is outside of you that you find interesting? Are you able to imagine the story from someone else’s point of view (I know what you’ve been thinking, but Sue and Jim were disheveled because they were straightening up your tools in the garage. Don’t you feel sheepish now?) or do you only see action from the relatively narrow, but powerful, view in front of you?
Your narrative POV will depend on your story, and your ability to imagine, commiserate, emphasize or dig deep into your own psyche. As we all know, “telling it like it is” does not exist. “It” is only a particular POV.