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Third-Person Point of View (POV)

Third-Person POV is a common choice for current fiction. Writing from this POV means using the pronouns "he, she, or it."

POV Chart

The advantage of Third-person POV is that it is comfortable and familiar to readers. It can be limited to a single character's point of view, or it's easily adaptable to multiple viewpoints. It allows you to use your protagonist's name. So that you can say: "Jim said" as opposed to: "I said." And you have the flexibility of deciding how much to share with your readers. This can be critical in say a mystery novel, where you may not want to let the audience in on everything the protagonist is thinking.

However, the third-person viewpoint can be difficult to control. It is common for writers to unintentionally shift from one viewpoint to another. Suddenly you're in a different character's head or seeing things your POV character can't see. This can make your book confusing to read. A common solution to this issue is the "one scene, one point of view rule" or limited third-person POV perspective. To use this you start a new chapter or leave some white space in the text before starting a section with a different character's POV.

The author James N. Frey writes, "Don't believe the pseudo-rules about what you can do in first vs. third person… Virtually anything you can do in first person you can do in third person and vice versa."

The Lord of the Rings movies are all built in the limited third-person viewpoint, as are many films. Perhaps this is why readers in the modern era are so comfortable with it. Filmmakers' will often fade to black while going from one scene to a different one with different characters. This is the equivalent of white space between POV's in a novel.

Another version of Third-person POV is omniscient viewpoint. Writing from this perspective allows the author to float from the mind of one character to another to share what each of them is thinking. It is the hardest viewpoint to write effectively and seldom is used in both films and commercial fiction. The Shawshank Redemption is written in the omniscient style as the character Red tells the story as an all-knowing narrator who knows the ending, even though he appears as a character.

The omniscient Third-Person point of view can provide instant insight into the emotions or motivations of multiple characters in the blink of an eye. It also has the power to create a muddle of chaotic thoughts. The worst feature of this POV style is that it makes it difficult for the reader to bond with any particular character. As a POV type, it's the least used… and with good reason.

For more of about Third-Person POV, see Article or Article.

First-Person Point of View (POV)

First-Person POV is all about telling only one side of a story (at least one side per chapter anyway.) If you wrote 'Tom turned his head.' That's not first person, because anyone could see this. But if you wrote 'I turned my head,' You're in downtown First-Person POV. To put it bluntly, whenever you use the word "I" or some variation, you're in First Person POV territory.

POV Chart

The classic movie for First-Person POV is Rashomon (made in 1950.) It's the story of a bride and the murder of her samurai husband. Everything is recalled from the perspectives of a bandit, the bride, the samurai's ghost, and the woodcutter who finds the body. The bandit is captured shortly afterward and is put on trial, but his story and the wife's are so completely different than a psychic is brought in to allow the murdered man to give his testimony (remember this is ancient Japan.) He tells yet another completely different story. Finally, a woodcutter who found the body lies and claims he saw the whole thing, and his version is again completely different from the others.

For another example, imagine Victoria is talking about her breakup with Ted, she can't say, "When I told Ted I wasn't in love with him, he felt as if he'd been gut-punched." But what she can say is, "When I told Ted I wasn't in love with him, the color drained from his face as if he'd been gut-punched." Victoria can infer or guess how Ted felt, but she can't come out and say it with certainty—unless, of course, Victoria is the type of character who always assumes she knows exactly how everyone else is feeling, in which case we'll know her assertion about Ted feeling gut-punched is meant to tell us something about Ted, rather than how Victoria felt.

Basically, there are Five points to First Person POV:

  • Every word the storyteller says must in some way echo their point of view. (Yes, it's Narcissism run amuck.)
  • The storyteller can't mention anything that doesn't affect them in some way.
  • The storyteller draws a conclusion about everything they mention. (Because as humans, everyone has an opinion… and we pass judgments constantly.)
  • The storyteller is never impartial; they always have an agenda.
  • The storyteller can't tell us what anyone else is thinking or feeling.

So how do you deal with the emotions of others in a First-Person POV chapter? One word – backstory. The storyteller might not be able to tell you about someone else's feelings. But they can remember a scene they'd seem with that character in the past that lets the reader intuit exactly how the character is feeling. Imagine a backstory where a young boy watches his parents brutally murdered. Now the reader has some understanding of what that character is feeling in Robin's personal narrative where he is the POV character.

For more of about First Person POV, see this article.

How to Identify an Unhelpful Editor

[This is taken from a YouTube video on Brandon Sanderson's YouTube Channel. Brandon is a well published author who was chosen to complete Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series after his untimely passing. He teaches creative writing at BYU. He's also the only author to make the short list for the David Gemmell Legend Award eight times in seven years. He has hit the New York Times Best-Seller List fifteen times, most recently at #1 with Oathbringer, which is also Audible's most pre-ordered book of all time. Brandon's books have been published in thirty-five languages.]

The worst kind of editor is the kind who wants you to change your story to be a version of the book the editor wants to read. Rather than the version you want to write. Most editors are able to align those two things. The want to make a better version of the book you wanted to write. So that people will enjoy reading it more. That is the goal and that is a perfect spot for an editor.

As a new writer, you have to be settling on what story you want to tell. You have to be deciding on what things work for you. You also have to be figuring out what you are wrong about. A lots of things such as being very info dumpy… in most cases you're wrong… that is weak writing you can learn to practice and get stronger at.

So, watch out for editors that you fell want to make you book into something… the way they would write it, rather than help you write it the way you would write it better. That's the number one thing.

Then of course, watch out for editor who are leading you toward scams… There were some editors who basically would pretended to be editors, pretend they could publish your book, but really what they did was they picked up your book… then recommended you toward a vanity press or toward editors from whom they got a kickback for if you worked with them.

It's not bad to pay an editor, a freelance editor… editing is totally a thing… worthwhile to do, but they should be upfront that they are a freelance editor. I'm always skeptical of someone you send a submission to for traditional publishing who then refers you to an independent editor.

Patterson

Other Book Sales Hints

Spiegel Research Center found that displaying reviews can increase conversion rate by as much as 270 percent, with the earliest reviews having the greatest impact on sales. This is also true for individuals considering buying your book.

Giving away advance copies of your book in exchange for honest reviews on Amazon or other listing sites will help build that initial credibility that gets hesitant readers to make a purchase. The more reviews you can get, the better your book will appear.

 

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