A Deep Dive into POV with Kim McDougall

by Exsanguine Hart

You may be familiar with a writer’s point of view (POV) — first, second, and third person — but how do you know which one to use, and how to use it effectively? And what about omniscient versus limited POV, or having multiple first-person narrators? There are two main rules for choosing. The first is your genre. For example, young adult (YA) books are usually written in first person. The second is your writing style. Choose the POV that you’re most comfortable writing. If you really enjoy writing in third person and feel uncomfortable in first person, go with third person.

Different POVs have different uses, advantages, and pitfalls. First person (I, we, us) is great for creating suspense because the reader can only know as much as the character. Second person (you) can work for short stories or paragraphs but tends to fall apart in longer works. Third person (he, she, they) can be limited, where the narrator does not have access to the thoughts of the characters, or omniscient, where the narrator does.

Deep POV is created by getting truly immersed in a character, which includes changes to word choice, such as eliminating filter words. For example, instead of saying she thought or she hoped, where thought and hoped are filter words, say what it is that the character thought outright. Deep POV doesn’t suit every story, but it is a valuable asset when it is used.

The main thing that interferes with any POV is head hopping. This occurs when an unintentional switch is made from the point of view of one character to another. It can be tricky to catch, which was why Kim had us do a few exercises to practice. Some ways to avoid head hopping are intentionally choosing POV characters and having a clearly defined, single POV for each scene.

No matter the POV, its main purpose is to connect your reader to the story. It gives the reader a view of the story, and choosing when to obstruct that view helps to create tension, suspense, and an emotional connection.

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