Understanding and choosing the right point of view

When we talk about point of view, what we’re really discussing is the narrative point of view, or how and by whom the story is being told. Let’s review the basics before diving deeper.


First Person POV has two variations:

First person protagonist where the character narrates his or her own story.

First person observer where a secondary character tells the main character’s story (i.e. Watson narrating Sherlock’s Holmes cases.)

Third Person POV is not told by a character but by an invisible author and has four variations:

Third person omniscient is where an all-knowing narrator tells the story.

Third person dramatic/objective is where the narrator only tells the reader things which could be recorded by a camera or microphone (i.e. no thoughts).

Third person limited is where a narrator tells the story from the perspective of a single character at a time.

Third person deep is where the story is told in the hero’s voice, rather than the author’s voice.

Second person POV is written in present tense and addresses the reader directly:

Second person POV makes the reader the protagonist. The narrator often uses detailed description, shares psychological insights, and tries to anticipate reader reactions.

This in uncommon in teen or adult fiction and is mainly used for young children’s literature.

It’s important to understand why some POVs work better for certain genres or storylines and make changes when something isn’t working. Let’s review points to consider when choosing POV.


First Person

There are several advantages of writing in first person. It feels natural to many writers, because it’s how we speak about our world and experiences. Dealing with only one narrator’s mind can be easier than writing multiple narrators. It’s an opportunity to create a unique and distinctive internal voice. Because you’re only in one character’s mind at a time, it’s easier to “stay in character.” Readers also get to experience the story vicariously through the character more easily. There is also an opportunity to create an unreliable narrator. First person is also much more intimate than other POVs and can fully immerse a reader in a story.

There are disadvantages as well. You are limited to writing only about what the character can see, know, or hear. The narrator must be in every scene, observing and participating in the story. Minds of other characters are off limits, as is their knowledge about the story unless directly shared with the narrator in some way.

 Second Person

Advantages of this POV are limited. You can create a different feel to a story, and can speak to the reader directly.

The disadvantages are more prevalent, partly because this “uniqueness” often doesn’t sit well with readers and feels too personal. It often gives a juvenile feel to a story.

 Third Person Omniscient

Advantages of this POV include being able write the story as an onlooker watching the full story unfold. You can also add contrasting viewpoints with other characters (NO head hopping, though!). This can give a reprieve to the reader and allow them to see another side of the story. You can expand the scope of the story by moving between settings and viewpoints. You aren’t limited to characters in the story when choosing a narrator, which can provide a unique perspective. This POV also allows the narrator to share his or her own views, but should NEVER slip into second person to do so.

Disadvantages center around the confusion this POV can create when not done with attention to detail. If narrators don’t have a distinct voice, readers may be confused on who is narrating. Switching to other characters can diffuse the tension or excitement when not planned well. It’s also easy to write as the author instead of the narrator. This POV can be more difficult to forge a connection with readers if it comes off as too distant or impersonal.

Third Person Limited

This POV attempts to combine the best of first and third person omniscient. The limited POV allows you to more deeply explore the narrator and forge a stronger connection with the reader without asking them to live out a story with the narrator.

For disadvantages, this POV does limit you to choosing a character as a narrator and limits you to the narrator’s thoughts and experiences.

The distance third person creates between the story and the reader can be an advantage or disadvantage, depending on the story. Some stories may be too raw or personal and distance is needed to allow the reader to remain at a certain comfort level. However, if in order to fully understand or experience a story, the reader needs to be enveloped in it, the distance of third person may prevent that.

 Third Person Deep

The biggest advantage of the deep perspective is that is attempts to remove distance between narrator and reader. The reader can experience more fully what the narrator is thinking and feeling. It feels more like third person to a reader, but uses third person pronouns, which can be important in following genre conventions.

The main disadvantage is that this is a challenging POV to write and is still gaining traction in some genres.

Consider the last book you read and how it would have changed if written from a different POV.


New Adult: The Unsellable Genre?

While researching agents I want to query Life & Being out to, I’ve found that New Adult isn’t listed on many agents’ websites. Not as something they take or don’t take. It’s like it doesn’t exist. There are a handful I found it listed specifically, one way or the other, but most don’t mention it at all.

Life and Being PreAgentThat left me wondering, are they classifying NA as adult? Bumping it down to YA? Ignoring it completely?

So, when I have questions like this, I post them on Facebook to see what other writer friends know or have experienced. I was surprised by the responses.

Most every comment I got said agents and publishers consider NA unsellable and don’t want to bother with it. This was from writers who tried to query NA and a few agents or people who worked for literary agencies.

Honestly, I was a little stumped by this. Why? Because readers are certainly buying NA. Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Disaster and Walking Disaster were both NA, and both HUGE successes. NYT Bestselling successes. Let’s also consider Jennifer L. Armentrout (Wait for You), Cora Carmack (Losing It), and Colleen Hoover (Slammed), all of which have been wonderfully successful writing NA.

So, if readers are buying, why aren’t agents and publishers?

I’m sure if NA is looked at as a fad that will pass sooner rather than later, or if the high number of successful self-published authors in the genre make agents and publishers want to pass on competing, or what the exact reason is. If anyone has thoughts, please feel free to share them in the comments! I’d love to hear them.

I’m still going to query a few agents I think would be a good fit and see what happens, but it’s looking more and more likely I’ll keep Life & Being indie, which is a great option as well. I guess I’ll just have to see what happens!


Making Pizza and Pleasing Readers

9e9dd-largestackofbooksUsually, I don’t read reviews of my own books. It’s better for my sanity, even though I usually have pretty good reviews. It’s hard not to read a review when a reviewer sends you a direct email to tell you they didn’t like the second book nearly as much as the first and includes a link to their two star review that contains their opinions on the quality of your characters and story. I told her I was sorry she didn’t enjoy the book, but thanked her for taking the time to review and left it at that.

Compared to the 70 5-star reviews on this particular book, this one shouldn’t bug me, but it was kind of bumming me out. Not necessarily because it was a bad review, but because I felt like I had let this reader down. Honestly, it was really getting me down until I started making homemade mini pizzas one night for dinner.

Sounds totally random, right? 

Let me explain. 

Not only were we making mini pizzas because I thought it sounded like fun, but because it’s the only way everyone can actually get what they want on their pizza. I love Hawaiian pizza. My kids think pineapple on pizza is the weirdest thing ever. The kids and my hubby like sausage. I don’t. My daughter has something against pepperoni. My son refuses to eat olives. Solution: Mini Pizzas topped by whoever’s going to eat it.

What does this have to do with writing? 

I know you can’t please every reader. I’ve heard it a million times. I’ve said it to other people at least half as many times. I know this is true.

But I didn’t really know it, know it until I was making pizzas that night and trying to get my kids to put all their toppings on without making a huge mess (failed on the mess part). I looked at our lovely pizzas…

2015-03-09 17.32.04

…and that’s kind of when it hit me. You can’t please everyone and that really is okay. Heck, I can even get four people to agree on pizza toppings! What chance do I have of getting every reader who picks up one of my books to think it’s awesome? Clearly, not going to happen because everyone has different tastes and interests when it comes to books.

This particular reader wanted something different than what I provided. I wrote the best book I could, and a lot of people have really enjoyed it. She didn’t. All I can do is shrug and move on. If I tried to write every book so every person who read it would be perfectly pleased with it, I would lose my mind. I feel like my head might explode just trying to contemplate such an impossible feat.

I’m proud of how this book turned out. I wrote it in a way that I felt was true to the story and characters. Had I written it any other way, I would have disappointed myself, and that would have hurt more than a few not-so-great reviews. Yes, it’s disappointing that this reader didn’t enjoy the story. I hope she finds another series she falls in loves with. We didn’t click on this one. I can’t do anything about that. What I can do is keep writing the kind of books that I feel proud of when I put them out in the world for readers to eat up. That’s really all I can do, and I’m okay with that.

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