Choose the best POV for Your Story. A woman looks through a teleschope across a city. Her back is turned to the camera.

Understanding point of view (POV) and perspective can help your characters and your story come to life. Though the terms are typically used interchangeably, I’d like to argue that they aren’t the same. 

Let’s first define POV

According to, it is “the mode of narration that an author employs.” It is the way of telling the story so readers can take meaning from and enjoy the book.

There are three major POVs: first person, second person, and third person.

  • First person is a popular POV. It’s the use of “I,” and readers’ information is limited to only one character’s perspective. Readers will get a deeper understanding of how that character thinks and feels but can never know what the other characters are thinking or feeling.
  • Second person is usually reserved for nonfiction (such as blogs) and choose-your-own-adventure works. It’s the use of “you.” It helps readers connect to the narrator or perspective character.
  •  Third person is also a popular option, where the story is being told from the outside in the form of “he,” “she,” or “they.” It lets readers feel as if they’re experiencing things with the characters. Contemporary fiction can combine third person with an omniscient perspective, creating deep third, to present the thoughts and feelings of the characters, similar to first person.

What is perspective?

It’s which character’s POV readers are experiencing; it’s whose eyes we’re seeing through.  You can use Mary, Bill, or Jeff as the perspective character, then decide what the best POV is to tell your story.

This doesn’t confine you to using the protagonist as the perspective character. Many stories use multiple perspectives to convey (or hide!) what they need to.

POV and perspective issues are common among newer writers. When I get a manuscript with a mixed-up POV or perspective, the first thing I look at is the perspective. Who should be telling this portion of the story? Whose eyes should we be seeing through?

The second thing I check is POV. If George is telling the story, will it be best limited to his knowledge, thoughts, and opinions (first person), or will it be best on the outside looking in (third person)?

Why DOES this matter?

It can be hard to know who is telling the story if the POV is mixed up. When we read a scene, we want to know it’s from Mary’s view. If the perspective switches back and forth within a single scene, it can prevent the reader from connecting to those characters on a deeper level. Both have the potential to confuse a reader, and a confused reader puts the book down.

If your readers are having a hard time knowing who is telling the story, try looking at the perspective and put yourself in that character’s shoes. All those character profiles that are fun to fill out…this is where you put them into practice. If the character’s favorite color is blue, then pretend that you’re that character when she needs to decide what to wear to the prom. Then decide if you’re a bird on her shoulder (third person) or seeing through her eyes (first person).

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