Whose Story is This?: Point of View

While shifting back and forth between worldbuilding and story writing, I’ve been thinking about my use of point of view (PoV) lately. And not just with the current piece, but with most of what I’ve written in fiction. In some ways, I think this is an important choice, but in others I think it is an organic choice.

 Certainly the choice of PoV is important in that it determines the perspective from which the readers get information. Obviously, this perspective can color and affect the spin put on events, interpretation of other characters, and knowledge of the world. I’ll use Rowling as an example: Harry’s perspective gives us several interpretations of characters from McGonagall to Snape, Black to the Malfoys. In some cases, his interpretation is correct, in others not so much, in a few he’s halfway there. Likewise, his perspective decides how we learn about Rowling’s world, mostly through others. If Ron had been the PoV, we would get information differently; through a somewhat knowledgeable but biased lens. As it stands, we learn about the world through three means: Hermione (inexperienced, textbook information), Ron (mostly rumor, stories, and customs), and Harry’s teachers/ad hoc family (experienced mix of common knowledge and formal information).

 On the other hand, I think there is an organic element to choosing PoV. Sometimes PoV just feels right for the style, protagonist make-up, or writer.

 When I’m writing a single protagonist, I know that I favor a 3rd person, omniscient, single PoV perspective with a fair bit of inner dialogue. This just feels right to me for the characters and settings I tend to use. I’ve tried first person before, but don’t particularly care for it, and really don’t like second person (which is very difficult to pull off well anyway).

 For multiple protagonists (as in my current fictional endeavor), I seem to favor a quasi-limited, multiple PoV perspective with some inner dialogue. Again, this feels right to me for the characters and settings. To that end, the PoV often shifts, sometimes fluidly and sometimes less so, throughout the piece, often in the same section/chapter. This, I think, allows for different events and actions to be covered in different places at the same time, rather than one PoV reflecting on things that (s)he heard about later. Obviously, this can also change by chapter/section rather than midstream, ex. George R.R. Martin (ASoIaF)and Rick Riordan (Kane Chronicles and Heroes of Olympus).

 Sometimes the genre or target audience comes into play as well. I think multi-protagonist, single PoV is common in YA literature, possibly because it can be easier to follow while still allowing a range of skill sets and voices. Rowling comes to mind, along with Holly Black, Cassandra Claire, Black & Claire together, and Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson & The Olympians series.

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