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POV – Point of view, whose viewpoint to use to tell the story


If you think of POV as a continuum, at one end the Omniscient POV is God and knows everything. At the other end is the single POV with limited knowledge. Deciding which POV to use depends on how much knowledge you want your character to have and how much information you want to provide the reader. Some genres dictate the POV as I show later.

I have questioned my choice of POV several times in my current novel.

It started last July when I pledged to write at least one thousand words a day. Without any thought, I wrote from 3rd person POV limited; telling the story through the eyes and emotions of the protagonist. It felt the most natural. As did using the past tense.

Twelve months later, I read the thirty-thousand words and recognised it needed developing. Scenes were written in isolation with no transitions or lead-ins. The order of the scenes needed to be addressed. As this is a mystery novel all suspects had to be interrogated. Duh! So, scenes needed to  be added, and clues.

I considered first person but that did not feel right. Perhaps, I needed a second character’s POV. I’d used this technique before. As I wrote in an earlier blog post, (  I introduced a new character, Imogen, with the intention of using her point of view alongside the main protagonist, Matt . After writing several scenes from the new character’s POV, I decided it wasn’t working because it was no longer the protagonist’s story. And that was the story I wanted to write.

My actions were instinctual but the trial and error nature of the changes made me question what I hoped to achieve in the story, what I wanted for the character, and what I wanted the reader to feel.

  1. Matt was the character who would experience the most intense emotions in the story, and have the most to lose. It was his story I wanted to tell.
  2. I want readers to experience the story through Matt’s eyes.The choice was between first person singular, or third person limited with no other POV in any scene. The end result is that my instinct was right and I went with third person limited POV

So, I retained Matt’s 3rd person limited POV and Imogen became a ‘sidekick’, his sounding board, and a challenge to the protagonist’s perception of the situation. They still clash because she has a different point of view of the suspects, and is not afraid to say so. There’s that POV thing again.


‘…third-person limited has some of the closeness of first singular, letting us know a particular character’s thoughts, feelings, and attitudes on the events being narrated, while also having the ability to pull back from the character to offer a wider perspective or view not bound by the protagonist’s opinions or biases, thus being capable of calling out and revealing those biases (in often subtle ways) and showing the reader a clearer way of reading the character than the character himself would allow. Third-person limited is also useful in a novel where the protagonist is in a state of not-knowing regarding some aspect of plot, such as we see in mystery and suspense novels, and the tension that comes from the protagonist’s trying to piece things together, from his limited view, becomes the reader’s.’ Jane Friedman

The genre often dictates the POV to use. As Jane Friedman writes,

If we were writing a whodunit, we wouldn’t choose an omniscient narrator who jumps into the butler’s head in chapter one and has him think I dunnit.

Starting with the butler’s thoughts puts it in a different genre. Perhaps a psychological thriller.

If you are considering using more than one POV, check out this useful guide on multiple viewpoints.

Now to continue writing the novel and finish it before Christmas. No, no, no. By the end of September. A much more challenging goal, but achievable.

Published inWriting

One Comment

  1. Some useful tips, thanks for sharing them, and the links, Lynda. Interesting to see how you’ve worked things out, and how you had to step away from the story to do that. It’s lovely to be given such insights into writing techniques.

    Your timetable is impressive. Good luck, and look forward to hearing how you progress.

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