May 22, 2011

Sunday Salon - Points of View

I promised I would write about points of view in novels in my blog about present vs. past tense. I haven't had much time to sit down and write my own stuff lately, so here's my newest offering. This blog post will be dedicated to points of view. I'll talk about first-person (I), second-person (you), and third-person (he/she), and I will give my opinion, because that's what I like to do. *wink*

Before I start, it would be helpful to ask yourself if point of view is something you notice when you read a book. Sometimes I think it is taken for granted that a story is just being told, so we don't often take notice of who is telling the story. It's a major decision by the author, though. Should the main character be telling the story from his/her own point of view? Should an omniscient narrator tell the story for the characters? It's a tough choice, but each different view point allows for different things to happen as the story unfolds. Let's examine closer the different points of view, shall we?

Join me for a journey down first-person lane. This is my favorite way of hearing a story, because I always like to hear things first hand. I especially like it when the book in present-tense as well, but we've gone over this. First-person narrative allows an author to let the the main character tell his or her own story to the reader using the words I and me. I suppose this could also be a side character telling a story about other people in first-person, but that's more like third person to me. Either way, you do have to question whether or not a first-person narrator is reliable and trust-worthy in his/her account of the story he/she is telling. Hearing things first hand doesn't always mean they are true, but we all know the old saying about there being three sides to every story. We only know what they tell us, but who's to say they're not leaving stuff out? Sometimes trust isn't an issue for readers, though. Maybe we take that for granted as well. Where this POV lacks is in the fact that we can only know what the narrator knows, and that's only what the main character knows. This is also to say that we don't know what the narrator doesn't know. I suppose that's okay with me because I only know what I know, right? And this makes sense if you think of it as a biography, unless it's past tense and maybe they can fill you in along the way. First-person narrative allows for thoughts and feelings from the main character, things you might not get from a third person POV. This makes it personal and and highly internal. However, we do not always understand other characters' actions and judgments because our narrator isn't in their heads too. We do get his/her opinion on it, though, and that usually helps. Some authors will let a story be told by more than one person where they both/all use first person narratives, or alternating narratives. Try some out and let me know what you think.

Books written in first-person (that I've read this year):
  1. Lisa Lutz - The Spellman Files
  2. Carrie Vaughn - Kitty and the Midnight Hour
  3. Audrey Niffenegger - The Time Traveler's Wife
  4. Nicholas Sparks - Three Weeks With My Brother
  5. Jodi Picoult - Sing You Home

I will only briefly mention second-person, as I have very little written in this form. It's pretty rare. I started a book recently written in second-person and found it strangely refreshing. I will continue on with this book; I just became busy. Second-person narrative is the kind where one of the characters is the narrator and refers to 'you' when narrating instead of 'I' or 'me' about the character. This creates a feeling of being in the story when it's being read. It's like the narrator is literally talking about you. Sometimes, though, second-person and first-person are used simultaneously in order to compare thoughts, feelings, opinions, etc.

Books written in second-person (and I haven't read these):
  1. Tom Robbins - Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas
  2. Iain Banks - A Song of Stone
  3. Jay McInerney - Bright Lights, Big City
  4. Italo Calvino - If on a winter's night a traveler
  5. Chuck Palahniuk - Diary

Third-person is very common, just like first-person. This narrative style finds every character being called 'he,' she,' 'they,' etc. This allows the most flexibility when it comes to telling different parts of the story. The author can right subjectively or from an omniscient stance. Subjective follows one or more character's thoughts and feelings. It's like first-person but with different pronouns. On the other hand, the omniscient narrator may not even be a character. Since the narrator is omniscient, he can be everywhere and see everything. Readers can know anything the narrator wants to tell us, which sounds familiar, but it can be for every character in the novel instead of just the main narrator in first-person. The reader can visit different settings with totally different people and find out more information, discover facts a first-person narrator might not find out until the end. I like this style as well, but not as much as first-person. As I always want to be surprised, I don't always like knowing more than the main character knows. Main character, not narrator, because, as we've seen, they're not always one and the same.

Books written in third-person (that I've read this year):
  1. Jack Kilborn - Afraid
  2. Karen Marie Moning - Beyond the Highland Mist
  3. Jennifer Crusie - Manhunting
  4. Jodi Picoult - Nineteen Minutes
  5. Jillian Larkin - Vixen

Like I've mentioned, some books have different points of view mixed throughout the novel. Some authors like to use this, and it works when you want a main character to tell a story while letting the reader learn more about other supporting characters. It's also possible that third-person novels can switch between the subjective and omniscient POVs. It's all up to the author and how he/she wants the story to be told, what he/she wants the reader to know.

Books with mixed POVs (pronouns, not characters):
  1. Marisa de los Santos - Love Walked In
  2. Marisa de los Santos - Belong To Me
  3. Jodi Picoult - Picture Perfect
  4. James Patterson and Maxine Paetro - 10th Anniversary
  5. JA Konrath - Whiskey Sour

Mario's POV while he's running through the game. Interesting, huh? I thought that was a good picture and example of seeing things from a different point of view. This is a big choice when writing a novel, and it's very important to how the story should be told. Just as tense is important, choosing a narrator is pertinent as well. I certainly have a preference, but it may not be yours. Let me know what you think. What's your favorite POV? Least favorite? Good examples of each from your list of books? I want to hear it all!

Happy weekend!


  1. This post reminded me of The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe, where the narrator is the murderer and the readers are puzzled if the murderer is really telling the truth or his words are reliable. Good post
    Ivan Bookworm

  2. Enjoyed your post. Thank you for sharing. I am a new follower. I would love a follow over on my blog when you have a moment. I just posted a new review yesterday. Thanks. Donna

  3. POV is such an important piece of the book. I spend a lot of time considering whose voice I want to tell the story in. Thanks for the post and welcome to BB.

    I'm at and hope you'll visit.

  4. I've been having fun changing things up in my narrations. In my first five books, I used third person exclusively, but in my current WIPs, I'm using first person narration for the MC, with third person on the secondary characters.

    Thanks for this interesting post.


  5. When I was little, I made it a point to avoid "I books". This irritated me. I don't know why, really.

    Here's my Sunday Salon: Library-less. I hope you will stop by!

  6. Thanks everyone! I think I got back to everyone on your blogs. :o)

    @Ivan - I very much agree about the Cask of Amontillado! Great example of trust in a narrator.

    @Donna - I'm following your blog! Thanks for visiting :o)

    @Clee - Thanks for stopping by. I agree, POV is very important!!

    @Laurel - Good luck with switching it up. :o)

    @Deb - Do you try "I books" now at all? I stopped by your blog too :o)

  7. POV is extremely important; I know we have all read books in which the point of view selected just does not work. This is particularly important with first-person narrators. What happens if you detest the main character in a first-person novel? While this POV creates the most intimacy between the reader and the narrator, it is also the most dangerous IMO. I definitely do not have a favorite POV, as they each can work amazingly well in any particular story. The success of the POV is solely the result of the author's talent. Great post!

  8. Thank you! You're right.. it's dangerous. I think I didn't like The Catcher in the Rye because I couldn't stand the narrator character. Ick. Good point!! I appreciate the comment :o)

  9. Interesting post. I enjoy reading both 1st person and 3rd person novels. The book sometimes just demands the story be written in one or the other.

    I came over from Book Blogs. Nice site.

  10. Interesting post. I almost always notice point of view, since I also teach writing and look for it in student work. I think third person can be a little distancing, and second person can be gimmicky. I'm reading Rebecca Stead, When You Reach Me, which uses it in a limited way.

    The Sunday Salon @ The Scarlet Letter


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