Point of View

When I start writing, I never consciously think "I will use third person limited" or "this has to be first-person perspective." I start with whatever feels best and run with it.  Third person limited is my mainstay because it suits the plots I have and the way my imagination works, but I have played around with the first person and enjoyed it.  I think first person is extremely difficult to get right but it's such a great way to get into a character's head.

There are a few ways to tell your story.  If you're not sure, here's the Official Miss Cole Guide to Perspectives!

It's okay to be in total awe of my artistic talents

First Person: The main character is the narrator.  The "I" style! I've read multiple first person perspectives and they can work, but there are to be a clear break between each character so the reader doesn't get lost.

Third Person Omniscient: The narrator, usually the author who may even address the reader directly (Hello, Charles Dickens!), knows all.  Characters are all refered to with names... although if your narrator is an omniscient deity, I guess you could have first person omniscient.  Anyway! Fun to write but sometimes hard to read.  I finished a book last night using this perspective and even the central character got lost under the mound of things I didn't need to know.  However, it can be used extremely well. It's all about striking the right balance.  If you want to write this, think of yourself as a camera, starting with an establishing shot and zooming in on the people and places the action will focus on.

Third Person Limited: (AKA Subjective) The story comes from the perspective of one character but uses names rather than "I".  I find it frees me up more than first person because I can borrow a little from the omniscient when setting the scene without sounding forced and unnatural (because I firmly believe first person must sound like a train of thought) and I can also step away from my character and show reactions of others from a more neutral position.  Again, multiple characters can be used but clear breaks are essential.

Third Person Objective: The plot without the emotional depth because the story is told without going into the characters.  I can't say much about it because I don't think I've read or written anything like it.

Second Person: "You".  I've read some really amazing second person stories and it will throw you deeper into a character than any other perspective.  I like to think of it as the first person perspective addressing itself, rather than the first person talking to their perceived audience (the reader).  It's very intimate and very, very, very good for character-driven work.  I really enjoy it, and once you get started, you'll find it'll flow quite easily. 

There are also books written from the "We" perspective (I have no idea what it's called) and it's quite an interesting idea to have a group of people reflecting on one person or a huge event.  Then there's epistolary perspective which is the letter writing format.  I quite like that too.

So yes, there are lots of ways to frame the way your story is told.  If you find you're getting stuck, try changing it.  My problem was having two narrators.  It didn't work because one was too dull to carry the plot.  If you're using two or more narrators in third person limited (and think very carefully before using more than three, because it could get hard to keep track of everyone), make sure you don't wander off into another character's head without making an obvious chapter or scene break.

What's your favourite style?


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