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Advice for writers

The Power of Point of View

The Power of Point of View 1

Choosing the Right Narrative Perspective for Your Book

As a writer, I’ve come to appreciate the pivotal role that narrative perspective plays in crafting a compelling story. Choosing the right narrative perspective can make all the difference in the success of your book. The point of view (POV) can shape the reader’s experience, evoke emotion, and convey the story in a way that resonates with your audience. So, how do you choose the right POV for your book? Let’s take a look at the power of point of view and how to make it work for you.

What is Narrative Perspective?

First, let’s define narrative perspective, which is more commonly known as POV. Point of view is the perspective from which the story is told. It’s the lens through which the reader sees the world you’ve created. There are several POV options to consider, including first person, second person, and third person. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and the right choice depends on the story you want to tell.

First-Person Narrative Perspective

First-person POV puts the reader directly into the character’s head, using “I” to narrate the story. This perspective can create an intimate connection between the reader and the character, allowing the reader to experience the story as if they were living it.

Approximately 40-50% of published fiction books utilize first-person POV, showcasing its enduring popularity among writers and readers alike. However, first-person POV can limit the reader’s understanding of other characters and events happening outside the narrator’s purview.

Second-Person Narrative Perspective

Second-person POV uses “you” to address the reader directly, making them a part of the story. This POV is less common (used in approximately 5-10% of published fiction books) but can create a unique immersive experience for the reader. However, it can also feel contrived or gimmicky if not done well.

Third-Person Narrative Perspective

Third-person POV is almost as common as first-person (around 30-40% of published fiction books utilize third-person POV) and offers the most flexibility. It uses “he,” “she,” or “they” to narrate the story and can give the reader access to multiple characters’ perspectives. It can also offer a more objective view of the events unfolding in the story. However, third-person POV can feel less intimate than first-person and can be more challenging to establish a connection with the characters.

Choosing the Right POV for Your Story

So, which POV is the right one for your story? Consider the story’s tone, the characters’ motivations, and the themes you want to explore. For example, if you want to explore a character’s inner thoughts and emotions, first-person POV may be the best choice. If you want to create a sense of urgency or tension, second-person POV could work well. If you have multiple characters with their own storylines, third-person POV may be the most effective way to weave them all together.

But don’t be afraid to experiment with different narrative perspectives! Sometimes, switching between POVs can add depth and complexity to the story. For example, using first-person POV for one character and third-person POV for another can create contrast and highlight the differences in their experiences.

Considering Tense Choice

In addition to narrative perspective, the choice of tense—whether past, present, or future—plays a significant role in shaping the narrative tone and reader experience. This consideration aligns closely with the selection of narrative perspective, as the two elements work in tandem to create a cohesive storytelling framework. In my own book, I chose to narrate in first-person present tense to create a sense of immediacy and intimacy, drawing readers directly into the protagonist’s journey as it unfolds!

By considering narrative perspective and tense choice together, you can create a cohesive narrative structure that enhances reader engagement and immersion.

Navigating Narrative Distance

In addition to choosing the right POV, it’s essential to consider the narrative distance. Narrative distance refers to how close the narrator is to the characters and events in the story. A close narrative distance puts the reader right in the character’s head, while a more distant narrative distance can create a more objective view of the story, making it pivotal in selecting the right narrative perspective.

Close Narrative Distance

Immerses readers in a character’s psyche, fostering empathy and introspection. Often employed in first-person POV for character-driven narratives.

Distant Narrative Distance

Provides a broader perspective, enabling objective analysis of events. Commonly utilized in third-person POV for complex plots or ensemble casts.

Aligning with Storytelling Goals

Choose narrative distance based on storytelling objectives and reader audience preferences, tailoring it to evoke the desired emotional response and engagement level. Consider your target audience’s preferences—whether they prefer immersive experiences or analytical narratives—to ensure resonance and impact.

By considering narrative distance alongside narrative perspective, you can craft engaging stories that resonate deeply with readers.

Harnessing Emotional Impact

Finally, consider the impact of the POV on the reader. The POV can shape the reader’s emotional response to the story, and you want to choose the POV that will evoke the emotions you’re aiming for. For example, if you want to create a sense of empathy for a character, first-person POV may be the most effective way to do so. If you want to create a sense of awe or wonder, a more distant third-person POV may be the better choice.

In conclusion, the power of point of view cannot be overstated—it’s the narrative compass guiding readers through the labyrinth of your imagination. By strategically selecting and skillfully wielding POV, you unlock the full potential of your story, captivating audiences and leaving an indelible impression. Embrace the art of narrative perspective, and watch your story flourish!

EKB author photo 1

Erin K. Larson-Burnett, Production Manager at Atmosphere Press (submit your manuscript here!), is a born-and-raised Southerner currently living in Katy, Texas, with her husband and their small domestic zoo. She is an avid ink drinker who lives and breathes books—during the day, she works remotely with authors around the world, honing and perfecting books published through Atmosphere Press. By night, she crafts her own stories…or at least tries to. The Bear & the Rose is her debut novel.

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