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  • Writer's pictureGrammar Boss


Overhead view of four kayaks in water

One of the most important decisions you’ll make early on in the process of writing your novel or memoir is choosing who is going to tell your story. This will determine the story’s primary point of view (POV), the lens through which readers experience the narrative.

Let’s look briefly at the three most common POV options and the advantages and challenges of each.


Third-person omniscient POV

Think of third-person omniscient POV as a bird flying overhead, telling the story from this all-seeing, all-knowing vantage point. The bird’s-eye point of view sees everything in the story world, including past and future events, and it knows the thoughts, motives and desires of every character.


Often thought of as a more formal, distant approach, the omniscient narrator can create a panoramic, epic story well-suited for fantasy, science fiction, or literary novels.


Third-person omniscient can focus on multiple characters’ storylines at different times, but only externally—not from inside their minds. And therein lies its greatest advantage and challenge. While there’s plenty of flexibility and complexity to this bird’s-eye POV, it can be difficult juggling multiple perspectives and storylines without confusing the reader.  


Third-person limited POV

Now imagine our bird perched on the shoulder of one of the characters, telling the story. The reader sees the outside world and the other characters from this limited perspective, but we are also privy to the thoughts and desires inside our main POV character. Thus, we’re able to forge a strong emotional bond with them, making their journey more personal and engaging.


Because it’s still third-person, this POV can hop around to different characters at different times in the story. The result is an immersive experience for the reader, deepening their connection with the story and its emotional stakes for the characters. Which can be a big plus when you want to employ multiple narrators and their unique POV’s.

Be careful of “head-hopping”—jumping from various characters’ thoughts or POVs within a scene or chapter.


First-person POV

Here, our imaginary bird lives inside the character telling the story. Everything that happens is now filtered through the “I” of the narrator. It is the most intimate and revealing of all the narrator options. Walls are removed and the writing is often much less formal, making it popular in modern romance and other genre fiction.


This POV also has its limitations. The biggest one being that the reader doesn’t have access to any other characters’ thoughts, motives, or desires. We only have the first-person narrator’s assumptions, feelings, and observations. A popular workaround for this is to have multiple first-person POVs taking turns telling the story.


Each POV has its strengths and pitfalls, and the best choice depends on the story's goals, themes, and the kind of emotional journey you craft for your readers.

If you want a broad, comprehensive view of the narrative world, you may want to try third-person omniscient POV. If you want to provide a deep, personal connection to the characters, get in closer with the third-person limited POV. And if you want the character to experience the story simultaneously with your narrator, you might find first-person works best for you.


You might try taking a pivotal scene from a work-in-progress and rewriting it in one or two different POV’s, seeing which one has the most impact. As with any writing device in your toolkit, practice, practice, and more practice is the key to mastery.





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