POV: A Tough Nut To Crack

Photo by Marcel Kessler via Pixabay

I’ve found point of view, or POV, a tough nut to crack and if podcasts and blogs are any indication, a lot of writers do. We learn the basics in school so early that as adults we can barely remember: first person = “I” for singular, “we” for plural, etc. As a beginning writer, I started with third person for everything except the occasional personal essay. I’ll hold comments on third person limited and omniscient for another post. For now, I’ll just note that I read a lot of literary fiction in my school-age years, both assigned and by personal choice.

If you are undecided as to which is the right POV for your writing, some solid advice is to review comparable books in your genre to see what the predominant choice of other authors is. It’s a helpful reference, but may also limit your creativity. In one example, a writing teacher at a conference I attended recommended Liar: A Memoir by Rob Roberge, who in a lightning strike of randomness happens to be an old schoolmate of mine. The entire memoir is written in second person and I found it unexpectedly both creative and intimate. Here is an example, in the spirit of Rob’s book: “You wake up with the worst hangover of your life and try to remember who you were with at the bar last night.”

Googling “books written in second person”, I found a surprising number of novels utilizing the “you” POV, for example, these.

Here are some exercises you may wish to try if you’re unsettled on your POV choice:

  1. If you’re writing a memoir, revise a passage in second person and get a feel for it. If you’re writing a novel, perhaps try the same. It could be even more fun to try second person if you’re writing from the POV of a mouse (as in one of my favorite books Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife) or a bird or an octopus. This bird-related post by Pens around the World member John Nixon may give you some inspiration.
  2. If you’re writing a novel in any POV, rewrite a scene from the POV of a secondary character. Or rewrite a scene from the POV of the antagonist.
Image by Bernhard Jaeck from Pixabay


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