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Bob Nailor

Point of View aka POV

Exactly what is POV? To begin, it is not the easiest thing to describe but I will attempt something feeble.

I would call POV the perspective view the reader of a story will experience. In other words, will the reader be participating as the character or watching as the character or looking down at the tale as God, so to speak?

There are basically three types of POV. They are FIRST, SECOND, and THIRD. But it really gets a little more complicated. All three of them have what I like to call a knowledge factor. This is call Omniscience and it comes in varying degrees. There are four layers of omniscience: Omniscient, Objective, Subjective, and Limited.

If you think that last paragraph was a lot of gobbly-de-gook, let me attempt some clarification. For those who are much older, remember back to your elementary school days and those horrible recitations of "I say, you say, he she or it says; we say, you say, they say." as we conjugated our verbs. There was singular and there was plural. Hopefully the following table will help.

SINGULARI, me, myself, myyou, your, yourself, yourshe, she, it, his, her(s), its, him, himself, herself, itself
PLURALwe, us, our, ours, ourselvesyou, your, yours, yourselvesthey, them, theirs, themselves

Most people will write their story using either 1st person or 3rd person and singular. Very seldom does one use plural and only certain books would consider using 2nd person. What type of book uses 2nd? Basically a which-way book where you are guided to a point, being told what YOU are doing.

As stated, there are four forms of Omniscience and each of them have their own pros and cons for both the reader and narrator.

Omniscient: The narrator sees and knows everything that is happening with each character and therefore can analyze the thoughts and emotions of said characters. Many consider this the "God" complex since the narrator has total control over the chronology of the tale by moving forward or backwards as needed to fill in details and reveal to the reader the outcome of such actions.

Objective: The narrator is an observer only; the proverbial 'fly on the wall' reporter. The narrator cannot enter the mind of the character or know what they are thinking.

Subjective: This is a limited narrator who can only reveal what a single character knows and only see what they see.

Limited: Here the narrative story is dualized between Omniscient and Subjective. The narrator can only reveal the story from the one character's viewpoint. The narrator can 'head hop' to different characters but only reveal what that character knows.

So now you realize not only is there 1st, 2nd and 3rd POV but also a plurality AND a knowledge factor. So how does one tie it all together?

Omniscient Narration is God-like; all seeing, all knowing, all places.

The Good: As a writer you can be all characters, revealing all plans.

The Bad: There are NO secrets; even the bad guy tells all because if s/he doesn't reveal it outright, the mental notes are exposed to the reader.

Even here the narrator floats above, dictating what will be.

The Good: Complex plots are easier to write by revealing items and viewpoints.

The Bad: Sometimes there is a lack of focus due to the free-wheeling by the writer.

Objective In this POV, the writers is more like a reporter who is in the story but not part of the story. The author tells what is happening as if there.

The Good: The reader is more of a sleuth or detective rather than a charcter of the novel.

The Bad: More telling by the narrator than action by the character.

This POV is best suited for a novel and storytelling. The facts are given and revealed but not acted upon by the author.

The Good: This allows the author to detail items and create intrigue or mystery.

The Bad: The narrator is stopped from interpreting the facts BUT the reader has the ability to do with the given information.

Subjective 1st person POV is best written in this style as it allows "I" to control the content knowledge.

The Good: This permits the storyteller to be an active part of the story and also allows the reader to know the character better.

The Bad: The storyteller is limited to only being able to tell what the current character immediately knows and sees. The character can be literally painted into a corner for lack of knowing what is happening beyond their scope.

This POV is very similar to 1st person with one slight difference; there is a tie between the character and the reader rather than being connected.

The Good: The writer can manipulate the reader in the POV, for better or worse.

The Bad: You are bound to one person and must remain true to the events for that period.

Limited This is used mostly for SF, fantasy and the horror genres; otherwise it is shunned by the others.This particular POV is custom made for writers as it allows them to jump around from character to character revealing ideas, plots and viewpoints.

The Good: This allows the writer loopholes of omniscience without truly being omniscient.

The Bad: The reader can lose focus. If the writer does too much head hopping, the reader gets confused about who they are.

As you probably noticed, the above was all done for Singular. Plural POV is awkward and difficult, if not almost impossible to pull off properly.

I hope this has cleared up some aspects of POV.

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