Point of view: should you stick or jump around


Point of view but more specifically changing it during a story.

At the moment, I’ve picked up my first James Patterson book ever. I’ve see the movies with Alex cross (all of which are excellent except the most recent one) but I’ve never read one of his books. What’s struck me about ‘1st Degree’ the first in the ‘Women’s murder club’ series is the change in point of view. I haven’t seen this in a book I’ve read in a while nor is it something I’ve ever done in the stories I’ve written. I won’t go ruining it for the people out there who haven’t read it and plan to, but essentially the main protagonist is written first person point of view. Whereas the main antagonist is written as a third person point of view but only limited to what they can see and experience. I’m loving the change. I’m enjoying the movement from the deep insights of the main protagonists life, how she makes sense of her world, how her inner demons influence her outer persona. Then Patterson slips to the main antagonist and we see a more superficial side to him. Not too deep but we learn about the outer conflicts with the world around him.

I can see the drawbacks to each point of view though. I’d love to learn a little more about the ‘bad guys’ inner turmoil. The same level of detail as the main protagonist would be nice so we can see both characters from a level playing field. Books like ‘I am Legend’ by Richard Matheson are seen from the first person viewpoint of the protagonist for the entirety of the book. By the last page you feel like you know the characters deeply, almost on a personal level. First person perspective needs strong characters with many layers to uncover. Single dimensional characters will take up too few words to make a novel length story possible. Put them in a third person perspective, add a few more characters and some crazy shenanigans and you could carve a book out of it. Not sure how good it would be but you’d have one.

My current novel is written in a third person point of view. I’ve limited to one person at a time though. Reading a story that bounces from one person’s thoughts to another, I find difficult to follow. I like to ‘Keep It Simple Stupid’ when I read and write. I’ve written other stories using the first person. I read that this was easier to do. For me I found the opposite. The first person it much much harder, the level of detail you need to have on your character is immense. Maybe I haven’t quite graduated to that level of creation yet but for me third person is by far, a more manageable way to write.

Anyway, here a web page I use to remind myself if I’ve moved point of view or that I am, actually writing from the point of view I say I am… http://www.ohio.edu/people/hartleyg/ref/fiction/pov.html

So let me know. What point of view do you write in and do you like to change it up during the story?



  1. I will stick to first person, present tense throughout the story, with some flashbacks and memories written in past tense. I’ve been considering adding other POVs, but I’ve decided to only analyze and understand the other characters in the story based on how they look, act and what they choose to reveal through dialog. From the beginning, I wanted the reader to see through the eyes of my protagonist and to feel close to her, so first person was the obvious choice. I’m not so sure it’s completely natural for me though. I think I’ve preferred third person up to now and that it’s easy to fall back on a bird’s view perspective rather than always be inside a person. It can also be tempting to play God and be all-knowing, of course, but it was more difficult to resist that temptation in the beginning of the story than it is now.


  2. I wrote a post on this very subject. If you haven’t already, check it out at: http://wp.me/p4nA7d-6P entitled, “Verb tenses in fiction writing, POV of narration.” (Sorry, I haven’t figured out how to create a link using the post title yet) I often refer to James Patterson because my new thriller, Timber Point, is similar to his books. I use first person, and then show the antagonist in third limited. I agree, all the Alex Cross movies were excellent, except the new one. Replacing Morgan Freeman was a big mistake. Although the producers probably figured he was too old now. I still think he could’ve pulled it off. It’s great you want to try a new POV. I’m toying with the idea myself, after I finish my current WIP.
    Good luck!


  3. I have experimented a lot with different POVs and come to the conclusion that I generally prefer either a personal third or a first person POV over an omniscient third, as a reader as well as a writer. Perhaps because omniscient is so often done so horribly and results in frantic head-hopping between a plethora of characters. Also stories in omniscient 3rd often rely much more on plot and action than on character development. But I like to delve into the mind of a specific character and see him/her develop over the course of a story.
    When I write in limited 3rd person, I restrict myself to maximum of two characters to focus on, and changes of perspective are usually something that happens per chapter, not per paragraph. If something happens neither of them witnesses – well, my loss. Gotta convey it in a different way than by direct observation. The restrictions are of course even more severe in 1st person. To describe stuff the protagonist doesn’t witness himself is not easy, and it’s even harder to get into motivations/thoughts/feelings of other characters. But in a way, it also makes it easier – if you know your protagonist, it’s easy to put him/her through shenanigans of all kind and know exactly how she/he will react in a given situation.
    I also use 1st person POV as a kind of litmus-test when I’m not sure if a scene works the way I want. If I rewrite it 1st person from the perspective of a witness and it works, I’m fine.
    Relating to the link you provided – for me, the hardest of these POVs would be 3rd objective. I love my inner monologues just too much ^^


  4. I stick with a third person narrative voice, and tell the story from one character’s point of view (who generally is not even the main character in the story).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s