Friday, March 25, 2011

POV: Privately Owned Vehicle

Recently, I admitted I only write in first person POV. Call me lazy, but it's easy for me. There's one person to keep track of, and I've been able to blissfully ignore all the POV issues that writers discuss.

(Addendum: I'm getting flack for saying first person POV is easy! I've never tried any other POV's because first person is my comfort zone. :) I feel better knowing that it's not an easy POV at all. Yay, I'm not lazy after all!)

So I thought I'd look into it a bit.

After Googling "POV" I found that the first searches that popped up said it stood for "Privately Owned Vehicle."

Not what I was looking for.

Or was it?

I mean, when we choose a POV (as masters of our fictional universe) we are choosing Our Privately Owned Vehicle of story delivery, so to speak.


So what are the different Privately Owned Vehicles encountered in fiction?

1) FIRST PERSON. The "I, me, my, myself" point of view. Many find this a great way of making the reader intimately identify with the main character. In this case, the character's voice colors the descriptive passages.
Limitations include the fact that many behind-the-scenes experiences cannot be included if the MC isn't there. You can't get inside the head of anyone else.
Example: Lots of YA, like the Hunger Games Trilogy

a) First person collective (like the Borg! "We do this, we do that"). Very unusual but striking nonetheless.
Example: The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides

b) First person omniscient. Told as first person, but the MC has knowledge of those around them. Also rarely done.
Example: The Book Thief, by Zusak

2) SECOND PERSON. This is the "you did this, you go there." In some ways, it feels very commanding. It also forces the reader into the shoes of the main character, which can be compelling. Another hard-to-find one.
Example: Jay McInerny's Bright Lights, Big City is famous for this POV.

3) THIRD PERSON. This is the "he, she, they" kind of writing. In these, the descriptive passages are colored by the author's voice, rather than the main character's.

a) Third Person Omniscient:
with this method, the narrator has no personal part in the story itself, and has a God-like, all-knowing perspective of that fictional world.
Example: Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Jane Austen's books

b) Universal Omniscient, in which the narrator knows everything, including things the main character does not ("Little did he know, he'd be eating his toenail clippings for breakfast").

c) Third Person Subjective/Limited: here, the reader is allowed into the mind of only one character at a time, but sees all through the eyes of that character. It lacks the "all knowing" perspective seen in the omniscient POV.
Example: Harry Potter books

d) Third Person Objective,
in which the narrator is devoid of any emotion, often seen in journalism like articles.

Here are a couple of sites that further discuss POV:

POV for Dummies
The Writer's Craft

Writers in Progress

So, do you have a favorite POV to read or write?


Karen Amanda Hooper said...

I'm a 1st POV gal just like you. Except I tend to write in multiple 1st person POVs, alternating between 2 or 3 main characters.

Although, I've been debating taking a stab at 3rd for my new adult MS. I worry I won't be able to pull it off.

Melissa said...

I knew 95 percent of these but there was a few I didn't!

Despite the aggravating pitfalls of first person (action scenes are so hard to write and you don't know any extra and sometimes the MC can distort what another's doing and the reader can't know) I would never write anything else. I love the urgency and intimacy of first.

Read my books; lose ten pounds! said...

I like writing in first person also, I think becuase I like reading in first person.

Laura Pauling said...

I write in 1st and 3rd, depending on what the story call sfor. But I write in a deep 3rd person pov in which the descriptions are colored by the main character's voice. :)

salarsenッ said...

Nice breakdown. I've written in 3rd POV, which I converted to 1st POV. Um...and now I'm shooting for 1st POV present tense. Each POV and tense has advantages and disadvantages. I think it depends on the perimeters of the story and exactly what the writer is looking to communicate. Once again, we do have choice.

Jess said...

I like third person, but it's harder for me to develop as much personality or voice for my Main Character, so I've been sticking with 1st person lately. I do have a project in the wings that features a Narrator, and I plan on having fun with that!

Liz P said...

I prefer Third Person Limited. It's the POV I enjoy both reading and writing the most.

Rachna Chhabria said...

I prefer the Third Person Omniscient. But I am dying to try the first person one, which I have tried for a short story but not for a full length book.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Great post, Lydia. I don't think I have a favorite. They can all work if they're done well. In my own writing, I've done 3rd omni, third limited and first limited. (And in one case I wrote the entire book in third limited and shifted it over to first. That was fun.) Whatever works for the story.

Erica Mitchell-Spickard said...

Okay Miss Lydia, I never want to hear you say that writing in first is "lazy of you" because writing in first is just as difficult in it's own right.
I write in first, present tense. Yeah, cause I like to make my reader to feel like they are right up next to the action at every second. It's my preference in both writing and oddly in reading as well.
I tend to read more first than third and I read first faster. Strange...I don't care to read third omni. It' too distant.
I love how you made POV/POV analogy.
Have a good one hun!

Cherie Reich said...

Great post on POV! I tend to write in third limited, but I have branched over to first person with a few works.

Connie said...

I've written in both 1st and 3rd. I don't think one is easier or harder, just different. In my experience, each with its own strengths and pitfalls. First person is intimate. But there's no distance so unless it's handled correctly, it can get tedious. Third subjective has a bit of distance, but you have to be careful that it's not too much or the character isn't sympathetic enough.

Carol Kilgore said...

Deep third person. It's my favorite to read and write.

mist of the blossom rain said...

I usually write in 1st person, but I want to explore some other styles as well, 1st person is getting a little old.
May I ask where you find your illustrations? They are so cute, and bring a smile to my face.:)

Munk said...

We like to write in 1st person plural.

LTM said...

I tell you what, I write in 1st person POV all the time, too, but it's not really "easy," if you think about it. It can be quite challenging at times. I remember in my first book, there was a mystery component, and I kept having to figure out ways for my MC to know things in a 1st person POV setting.

She ended up being a regular little snoop/eavesdropper! LOL!!! :D

Great analogy, though~ <3

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I didn't know there was first person collective. Weird.

Also didn't know there's a POV for Dummies guide. Wow, is there a topic they don't have a guide for? ;)

Jessica Bell said...

Gee, I didn't know about some of these POVs! I write mostly in first and third limited. Trying my hand at third omniscient lately. Quite fun! But I always write in present tense!

Old Kitty said...

Privately owned vehicle!! LOL!! That's great!!!

Thanks for this handy breakdown of types of writerly povs!!!

I'm a third person omniscient type of gal!!!!! I started writing in first person - got much too personal but found distance worked for me!

Take care

Chris Phillips said...

I've mostly written in 3rd limited, but am slowly getting acclimated to 1st.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

POV is so important to get right. I can and do read any book from any perspective as long as it's done well. And I've tried writing in different POV styles, which are dictated to me by the character and story.
Mostly, I write in deep third, which allows a lot of voice to come through. In my current WIP, I'm using alternating chapters for the protagonist and antagonist.

Erin Cole said...

I usually write in 3rd Person Subjective, but I encourage every writer to experiment with all POV's, because you never know where you might excel.

I think experimenting with POV's regularly also helps with writer's block, because it forces you to shift perspective, which can open a flood gate of creativity. Sometimes.

I have always steered away from 1st POV, but when I did start experimenting with it, I came up with some of my best stories.

Another thing, check with publications before you write a story geared toward it - many of them will not accept 1st POV, and others don't mind.

Great post, Lydia.

Tana Adams said...

First person present tense! I love it, and it's all I feel comfortable in. Thanks for this breakdown it's invaluable.

Holly Ruggiero said...

I don’t have a favorite to POV to read, but I usually right in third.

Sarah said...

I lean toward 1st person pov because I think it's easier to develop the voice. However, my current wip is in 3rd person limited with alternating perspective between 2 main characters. This breakdown was great--and your line about fingernail clippings made me laugh so hard I nearly choked on my lunch. So, uh, thanks.

Heather said...

There is also Third Person Personal. It is Third person but with the added flavor of being in touch with the MC a lot more. Many YA books are written this way.

Tracey Neithercott said...

I also feel most comfortable writing in first. And I like reading it best. I don't mind close third, but I'm not a fan of omniscient. I like to be attached to one character while reading. Of course, there's always one author who does something so well I end up eating my words.

Krispy said...

I'm a Third Person/Limited girl. I find too many things in first person awkward to do. Plus, I like writing in a kind of descriptive, sometimes flowery way, and it's hard to do that in first person because most people don't think like that. I was reading a book before where the first person narrator was a boy, and he described something with a metaphor and it just jarred me right out of the story because I was like WHO thinks/describes like that offhand, especially a teenage boy? :P

So yeah, kudos to you because 1st scares me. :)

Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss lydia! for me im just telling a story so im thinking i do that third person stuff. i didnt ever do one on that first person but it could be fun to try it. im just learning bout the different povs so this is a good post for me.
...hugs from lenny

Jeigh said...

I'm working with third person limited right now, but I've played around with first person, too. I can't decide which I like better. It depends on the story I'm trying to tell.

jbchicoine said...

I'm with you--I love writing in first person POV. Because of that, I alway appreciate a brush-up on my options--Thanks for the reminders!

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

What a good post, Lydia. Great description of the differences, and also nice links to learn more.

I see-saw between writing in two p.o.v.s: 1st person limited, and 3rd person limited. Can't say why I choose one over the other on a particular WIP, but probably the WIP just lends itself to it. I did try 2nd person once for a short story, but for me, it really didn't work. I will probably go back and put that story in 3rd person.

M Pax said...

Third person is preferred in my genre, so I usually write in it. I keep to the POV of the character who is the star of the chapter. No head hopping.

Jennifer Hillier said...

Excellent breakdown of POVs!

You know, I really think writing is first person is HARD. I've tried it so many times and just can't sustain it. So kudos to you for being able to do it, and think it's easy! I think third is so much easier, but that's just me... :)

Kari Marie said...

This is a great breakdown of POVs with examples (they help a lot).
I wrote the first novel in third limited but am switching to first for the second. The change has been difficult to make.

K.V. Briar said...

I write YA in first person present tense (same as Hunger Games) but MG in third limited (same as Harry Potter), I also write romance in this style. As a creative writing student I've played around with POV's a lot. It takes time to know what comes easiest and what's best for the story. Great post Lydia!

David R. Matteri said...

I prefer the third person subjective/limited. I think it's fun to hop in and out of different character's minds and see the story unfold through multiple perspectives.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this list. I like to write in 1st person, but I used to write in 3rd.

And I learned about second person.

Have a great weekend.

Jonene Ficklin said...

I write third person subjective, but I've been thinking of trying first person. I read somewhere that we should try the one we've been avoiding. Often we avoid it because we're afraid of it, and facing that point of view can be very powerful and force our writing to a new level. It will be interesting to try and see.

Nick Thomas said...

Or you could write/talk like Charlie Sheen - in the fourth person, whatever that is?

Manette Eaton said...

I do 3rd person limited. I've always wanted to do first person but it's never worked out and I get better descriptions in third person, anyway. Weird.

(When I saw you list The Book Thief as an example I shouted "Yay!" in my head. It's on of my favorite books.)

Beth said...

I prefer first person, because I feel it helps me get closer to my protagonist. Of my three published books, two are in first and one in third. I wouldn't say first person is easier, but I seem to enjoy it more. (Both of my still-unpublished manuscripts are first person too.)

Ciara said...

1st person can be a challenge to get all the information to the reader. I'll never forget when Stephanie Myer had to change to a different character POV in the middle of one of the books. Crazy. :)

Meredith said...

Yay for the Bright Lights, Big City shoutout! One of my fave books. I write only in 1st person, too. It gives that instant connection to the character, and I prefer it as a reader.

Vicki Rocho said...

I tend to write in first person, too. I'd agree with you that it just seems easier. When I do third person it is too easy for me to slip into someone else's head or pop in details/information that the MC really has no way of knowing.

Jodi MacArthur said...

Great post and refresher! I can remember 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and dabble in and out of all of these privately owned vehicles depending, whichever feels right for the story. ;-) The omniscient pov's are the ones that trip me up with the universal and 3rd person subjective/objective/adjective(wait). I can never remember, but I think the title isn't as important if you can keep the pov consistent.

Sticking to 1st person pov sounds like a great idea to me. ;-)

Carol Riggs said...

Very interesting that first person comes easy (flows easier) to you. A lot of people are like that. I always use 3rd person limited and really enjoy it. With reading--I don't mind other viewpoints and enjoy it all if done well. :)

Ghenet Myrthil said...

So far I've only written in first person. It comes easier to me too! I've tried third person but it's harder for me for some reason...

Nas Dean said...

Hi Lydia,

Thanks for the breakdown regarding the POV!

Missed Periods said...

I really enjoy reading first person. I am currently writing in the third person limited, but I am interested in trying first person one of these days- like in 50 years when I finish this first novel.

Anonymous said...

Lotsa POV's out there! Second person sounds challenging.

Nice list!

Hema P. said...

A good one, Lydia! The ms I'm working on is in fisrt person POV. Like you, I find it simple and easier to keep track of. However, I have been thinking of trying a third person POV for my next project -- I find it helps add a layer of complexity to the story and setting for the narrator to be everywhere. Thanks for sharing the online resources you found!

Adeeva Afsheen said...

Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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