Understanding point of view (POV) and perspective can help your characters and your story come to life. The terms are used interchangeably, but I’m here to tell you they aren’t the same thing.  

Let’s first define POV. According to https://literarydevices.net/point-of-view/ it is “the mode of narration that an author employs.” It is the way of telling the story so that 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.” With the first person, 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 connect readers to the narrator or perspective character, the character whose eyes the story is being shown through.
  •  Third person also a popular option. This is 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 omniscient perspective, creating deep third, to present the thoughts and feeling of the characters, similar to first person.

So what’s 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 that has 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 to be limited to his knowledge, thoughts, and opinions (first person), or will it be best to be on the outside looking in (third person)?

So why DOES this matter? If the POV is mixed up, it can be hard to know who is telling the story. When we read a scene, we want to know it’s from Mary’s view. If the perspective switches back and forth, 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).

Do you still need help telling the difference between POV and Perspective? I’m your person! Click HERE to book a free introduction to coaching session.

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