Last updated on December 3, 2017
“POV is going to affect every single page of your book. That’s not a decision to be made lightly.”
In the first part of this series, “The Importance of Point of View: Part 1: The Types of POV,” I briefly introduced the three basic points of view: first person, second person, and third person.
In this installment of the series, I focus on the first person point of view. As Alicia Rasley, in her book The Power Of Point Of View: Make Your Story Come To Life, explains, “First-person POV explores questions of persona and identity: What of myself do I reveal the world? What do I conceal?”
In a novel, writing in first person does not mean that you can present only one character’s point of view. You can choose to switch characters but still remain in first person. As Rasley continues, “Multiple–first person…adds the dimension of contrasting views both of the world and of the self.”
The choice of point of view is more complex than it first appears. First, you must choose the character or characters whom you are using to tell the story. You must choose how reliable they are in telling it. Finally, you must choose how deeply you wish to delve into the point of view that you have chosen.
To illustrate first-person point of view on a fairly intimate level, I have pulled a scene from an unfinished story out of my own writing archive. In future installments, I will use this same scene to illustrate other points of view. This was originally written in third person. I noticed that as I wrote the scene from Sarin’s first-person point of view, I chose to share different details. Some things became irrelevant, and others became more important.
Excerpt, The Magician’s Wife by Janell E. Robisch
“Sarin, you must be careful.”
“Do not speak that way. There is nothing to worry about. It is just another spell. As soon as Kaleo arrives with the herb, everything will be fine.” My voice was shaking terribly, although I was trying desperately to be calm for Lew’s sake. I wrung a warm, wet cloth between my trembling hands and gently applied it to his cheeks and forehead. Oh, my darling husband!
“Look at me, at my face!” he said, pulling my wrist and the cloth away.
I didn’t want to, but I looked at his eyes, my own blinking back tears. His green eyes were bright, but the flesh around them was pale and drawn. I reached out to touch that bit of skin, as if by doing so I could bring the life back into it. I felt his hand touch mine, and he squeezed gently. “Sarin, this is the last time. The Guardians are calling me. It’s time to go.”
“No.” I shook my head hard and felt my hair brush the sides of my face. It seemed so unimportant.
“Listen to me. You have to be careful with the magic. Do not trust anyone. Do not tell anyone. If I had known . . . . I never should have taught you anything.” His voice was soft. “You must promise me to be careful.”
I touched his lips as they faded to a lighter shade of pink. It was as if all of his blood were rushing down to his ailing heart, but I knew the truth. I could feel its beat slowing as surely as if it were my own. Soon, it would stop. I thought my own would stop with it.
“I promise,” I nodded. “I promise.” The familiar emerald sparkle of his eyes began to fade.
I could feel warm tears sliding down the side of my nose as I made the four-pointed sign of the Guardians over Lew’s chest. “I love you,” I whispered, burying my face in his shoulder. I felt his cool hand rest on my neck with the lightest of touches. “Don’t forget me.”
“Never, my little star. Never.”
His hand slipped slowly from my neck, and I couldn’t help it. A sob burst from my mouth. I grabbed his tunic in both fists, wrecked by the knowledge that I would never hear his voice again.
In future installments, I will use this same scene to illustrate other points of view. As you read each, try to decide which point of view works most effectively for this scene and why. Alternately, is it the intention of the writer that decides which point of view works best?
Please share your thoughts in the comments.