Topics/Discussion

Point of Views in Books

Choosing which point of view to write a story from can be hard for authors. It is the way you shape how you will show the story to the reader. Some authors have a preference to writing in a certain point of view while others like to experiment with each book.

There are three different point of views. There is the first person point of view where I is used. Then there is the second person point of view that uses you. This point of view is not commonly used. And last there is the third person point of view that uses he, she or it. Third person point of view can be limited or omniscient.

As readers we can also have a strong preference to what kind of point of views we prefer to read in books.

Personally I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with first person point of views. There was a time that when I saw that a book had a first person point of view I would refuse to read it. For me some first person point of views lack depth of character. Especially when the book is written from one character’s perspective I expect to get to know the character through and through. I am not often satisfied by this. Next to that I have to truly love  a character to be able to enjoy the first person point of view. Otherwise it will quickly fall flat for me.

Over the last few years this has gotten better. I have been reading a lot of books written in first person point of views. And though I’m not always happy with some, I have learned not to be too critical of the first person point of views. Perhaps my standards are too high.

One of my favorite first person point of views written is by a fan fiction author and a friend of mine, Zadien. Her Taken for Granted (a Beyblade Altered Universe) is one of my favorite stories even though it is not finished. I love how she wrote the first person point of view. She knows well how to delve into a character. Don’t be fooled by some of the massive paragraphs. She goes in, but always with a twinge of humor present. If you check out one of her stories,  which you can as some are altered universe so you require no information of the fandom, please consider leaving her a review.

Of course next to the single first person point of views, there are the multiple first person point of views. Multiple first person point of views swtich between two or more characters. Some switch between the characters each chapter which happens in the Legend trilogy by Marie Lu for instance. Others cluster a few chapters of one character together.

Unfortunately this is a set up that is not often well done. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish the different characters. They all end up blending in together for me. If I know this is in a book it might be a reason for me to not pick up the book unless I know the author or if I’ve heard  really good things about it.

Then there is the switch between the first person point of view and the third person point of view. The author then chooses to write one or two characters in the first person point of view, and other characters from a third person point of view. This is a bit of an unusual setting because it leaves the standard format we have gotten used to. It is also easy to jolt out the reader from the story. I am not a fan.

However I would like to point out two books in which this really worked for me. The 5th Wave is a well known example. This worked for me because the first 100 pages are all in first person point of view. of one person. Only then the other characters are introduced through first person point of view or third person point of view. Again these were clustered together. Not until the ending was there more often switches between the characters. By that point I had gotten to know the characters and it did not jolt me out. Also the third point of view was a short section.

Then there is one of my favorite series. The Bartimaeus series by Jonathan Stroud. In this series we follow three characters. Two are written in third person point of view, and one in first person point of view. Not once has this bothered me. I understand why he choose to write this character in first point of view. The character was prone to inner monologues and sarcasm. It just worked a whole lot better when written from a first point of view. The third point of view fitted well with the other two characters, and all characters were easily distinguished from the other.

I have very little experience with second person point of view. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I read one. Books that spring to mind though are those books where you as the reader gets a choice at the end of a chapter and each choice has a different chapter and continuation of the story attached to it. They always sound like fun, though being the main character myself does not appeal to me as much. Perhaps some of you know some great books written in second person point of view though?

Third person point of view is my favorite point of view. I have a strong preference for limited third person point of view. I also like reading third person multiple point of view where we follow a limited third person point of view of two or more characters if done well. The Heroes of Olympus is a good example of that. The switches between the characters don’t happen each chapter, but are clustered together. This way you follow their part of the story for a bit and get to know them, before changing to another.

Third person omniscient point of view  (all knowing) I don’t read often. If done well, the narrator voice can be a great asset to the story that is being told. Sometimes the narrator is neutral, but sometimes the narrator is subjective and voices their opinions. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice has this for instance. But it can be a bit tricky as some like to head hop in this point of view. Head hopping is hopping between multiple characters in one scene. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and most of the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett are omniscient third person point of view.


What are YOUR favorite point of views to read and why?

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10 thoughts on “Point of Views in Books

  1. I love multiple points of view. It adds so much to the story. I’m not huge on series where one book is from the girl’s POV and the next book is the same exact story but from the guy’s. I also like first person, but it has to be done really well or be an unreliable narrator thing. Great idea for a post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too!

      Yeah, those seem to be the new trend at the moment. They don’t appeal to me at all. In most cases it won’t add as much. First person is so tricky. Unreliable narrators are even trickier!

      Thanks. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have no preference, to be honest. If done well, all three (or four …) can work. It makes no difference to how much I like it. It’s a trivial thing to judge a book on, when there are so many other, vital, things that can derail a story or a book.

    The ‘You’ or second person narration you refer to can be found in the Fighting Fantasy books, but they are a game, and not a book, for me (if you ask my guy, he’d say something different). One book that springs to mind with great second person narration is “Bright Lights, Big City” (so good, I had to check if it really was written in ‘You’-style. I forgot.).

    So, it is interesting, and it can give an author tools or limitations to tell a story, but as a reader; I don’t care. Just gimme a good story, well written.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. (Found it, couldn’t find it anywhere yesterday, but here it is)

      The point of view needs to be well written to work. In that I feel it is vital to me as a reader. But there are many other factors that play a role in that as well. But everyone is different in how they look at books and their reading experience. 🙂

      I’ve never heard of Bright Lights, Big City before. Sounds good though if you had to check if it really was you style. 🙂

      Like

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