POV

by Tracee
(Brooklyn)

Hi Glen,


Quick question about POV. I started my novel in 3rd person. Just way too many characters for 1st. It is a YA novel as all of the main characters are 18 & 17. I was reading that 1st person is more popular among YA readers. But I also saw a post that said Tight Third Person was good, but its difficult. I think I have a grasp of what tight third is...I think! I'm not sure why it would be more difficult than omniscient. Any insight on this?

Thanks Tracee

Answer: It's not really difficult, but people often make the mistake of switching into omniscient narration, which destroys the illusion and the real advantage of limited 3rd person.

The advantage is that limited 3rd person confines itself to the point of view of one character. This gives the reader the enjoyment of seeing the world through that person's eyes. The readers imagine themselves as the main character. The story can feel even more intimate than first person, where the main character is "talking" to the reader. With limited 3rd person, the reader feels they are in the main character's head.

What you have to do is narrate what the main character perceives - and NOT include anything which the main character does not perceive. Nothing wrecks this style of narration faster than throwing in details the character couldn't possibly perceive, such as what other characters are thinking or what's around the corner. Such details are only allowable in omniscient narration.

With limited 3rd person, the reader is only ever privy to the main character's thoughts and feelings. What other characters are thinking and feeling can only be inferred by what the main character sees them do or hears them say. This can be fun because sometimes your main character can make false judgments about other characters, which the reader may pick up on.

(This is also true for first person, but writers are less likely to make the mistake of breaking the POV in first person.)

You can have more than one POV character within a novel (which may be necessary if you want to show the reader events the main character is not present at). But you must be very clear when you switch POVs, so the reader always knows whose head they are in. Don't switch in the middle of a scene, for instance. It is often best to only switch at chapter breaks. Try to limit the number of POV characters to as few as possible. And when you switch, give the readers enough clues right away so they can orient themselves.

While not a rule, it is often more effective, especially in YA, to have one main POV character that the reader will most want to identify with. That's simply a matter of developing that person's story more fully than that of other POV characters.

Comments for POV

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Jan 28, 2013
POV
by: Tracee

Ah, I think I understand. So then my dilemma would be that for at least 4 chapters I have to have to parallel stories going simply because my main character doesn't meet the antagonist & other characters until later. It's important for me to establish the antagonist universe for a bit. It's kinda part of the set-up. So is it permissible to have the POV of the MC and antagonist until they actually meet and then totally stick with the MC? Or is that confusing? And I'm still talking about the limited 3rd person POV

I'm exhausted! lol!

Jan 29, 2013
Response
by: Glen

It's perfectly acceptable to introduce the antagonist separately and merge the stories later. It's done all the time.

Even though some frown on the practice, you also find many books where the overall plot is introduced in a prologue while the reader meets the main character for the first time in chapter one.

The Bartimaeus trilogy is an example of a story with three POV characters whose plotlines don't merge until the last part of the third book - which shows how long you can put it off (provided you keep each POV plotline interesting).

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