Deciding on a POV
by Cynthia Simmons
Finally! You sit down at the computer and put your fingers on the keys, ready to write. But wait! First you have to decide which point of view you will take. Point of view or POV is the person through which you tell the story. Since the choice you make matters, let’s discuss your options.
If you decide to use first person, then you will tell the story as if it happened to you. Of course, you will use the pronouns ‘I’ and ‘me.’ Your emotion splashes all over the page. First person point of view pulls the reader in. He can feel your excitement or grief.
The Psalmist used first person when he wrote, “I am weary with my sighing; every night I make my bed swim, I dissolve my couch with my tears.” Psalm 6:6 (NAS) Those words make my heart tremble because I can sense his grief. Joshua used first person plural when he said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord…” Joshua 24:15b.
Writers tend to avoid second person, but it can be powerful also. If used in a story, the narrator uses the word ‘you’ which includes the reader in the story. Job spoke in second person when he cried out to God, “…why have you set me as your target…” Job 7:20. As you can see, second person tends to accuse, and should be used with care. Those who write greeting cards, however, employ second person. It’s easy to imagine a card that says, “Your kindness touched my heart.”
Today most novelists use third person since it offers the greatest scope for imagination. Third person brings into play the pronouns ‘he, she, him, hers.’ Jesus often used third person when describing his role as Messiah. “The Father loves the Son and shows him all things…” John 4:20. (NAS)
In the past, writers often used third person omniscient. The narrator could describe the scene as well as the feelings and thoughts of each character in the scene. Notice this section from Luke. The narrator used ‘he’ to refer to Jesus and knew what the crowds thought and what Jesus thought:
And He (Jesus) was casting out a demon and it was dumb; and it came about that when the demon had gone out, the dumb man spoke; and the multitudes marveled. (their thoughts)But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of demons.” And others to test him (their thoughts) were demanding of him a sign from Heaven. But he knew their thoughts (Jesus thoughts) and said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste…”
Today most editors prefer the limited third person, or deep POV. While the pronouns ‘he, she, him, her’ appear, the writer conveys just the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of the POV character. This technique challenges the author’s skill, but it has the same power as first person point of view. Here’s an example of deep POV from Breach of Trust by DiAnn Mills:
Paige’s pulse raced into high gear as her foot pressed the accelerator. If the guy thought he’d succeed in making her nervous, he’d better think a little harder. All he’d managed was to turn up her internal temperature. She changed lanes again while watching him in the mirror. The Camry swung behind her. This was not a good ole boy taking a break from picking turnips. She caught his attention, and he tipped his hat. Whether he was another one of Keary’s thugs or just a jerk playing on a woman, he needed to know “defenseless” wasn’t just part of her company file.”
Understanding point of view gives the writer precise tools to communicate. You might want to practice by writing a passage in each point of view. Once you master the techniques, you can choose the best point of view to accomplish your goals.
Cynthia’s writing appeared in CAG publications, NATHHAN NEWS, Chattanooga Regional Historical Magazine, Georgia Right to Life Newsletter, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Catholic Exchange, and Christian Devotions.com. Her first book, Struggles and Triumphs came out in 2008. While promoting her book, she had interviews on radio and TV across the nation, and was nominated for Georgia Author of the year in 2008. Cynthia and her husband, Ray have been married for over 30 years and they have five children.
Visit Cynthia online at: www.clsimmons.com