25 Things You Should Know About Narrative Point-Of-View

1. Know Thy Narrator

One of the first questions you have to ask is, who the fuck is telling this story? Is intrepid space reporter Annie McMeteor telling it in her own voice? Is a narrator telling Annie’s story for her? Is the story told from a panoply of characters — or from a narrator attempting to tell the story by stitching together a quilt of multiple minds and voices? Is the story told by a gruff and emotionless objective character who sits fat like a fly on the wall? You can try writing your story without knowing who the narrator is, but you’d better figure it out by the end of the first paragraph or you’re going to be writing one big, barfy, confusing mess. Your uncertainty in this regard will punish the reader, so it’s time, in Glengarry Glen Ross parlance, “to fuck or walk.”

2. Who’s On First, I Don’t Know’s On Third

You already know this but it bears repeating: first-person POV is when the story is told with the pronoun “I” (I went to the store, I like cheese, I killed a man in Reno not so much to watch him die but more because I wanted his calculator wristwatch). Third-person POV is when the story is told with the pronouns “she,” “he,” “it,” “they” (She opened the window, he peed out the window, they all got peed on by the guy peeing out the window).

3. Ha Ha Ha, Second-Person, That’s A Good One

The second-person mode uses the pronoun “you.” As in, it’s telling the story from the perspective of you the reader. In theory, this is awesome. In practice it often comes off totally fucking goofy. Sure, a gifted storyteller can pull it off — and hey, sometimes fiction is about risks. It probably works better in short fiction than long (as sustaining that narrative mode will be tricky and tiresome). To be honest, whenever I read a second-person narrative, I keep thinking in my head, “You are eaten by a grue.” Then I quit reading it because, y’know, grue.

4. Witnessing Versus Experiencing: Where To Place The Camera?

A novel has no camera because a novel is just a big brick of words, but for the sake of delicious metaphor, let’s assume that “camera” is representative of the reader’s perspective. We often think of point-of-view as being the character’s perspective (and it is), but it’s also about the reader’s perspective. A third-person narrative has the camera outside the action — maybe hovering over one character, maybe pulling back all the way to the corner. A first-person narrative gives one character the camera — or even goes so far as to cram the camera up their nether-cavern and into their brain and against their eyeball. The question then becomes: is the reader here to witness what’s going on? Or experience it? Third-person asks we witness, first-person allows us to experience (and second-person really utilizes the experiential mode but, again, probably don’t do that).

5. The Intimacy Of The Reader

Put different, it becomes a question of intimacy. How intimate is the reader with the story, the setting, the characters? Once we begin to explode out the multiple modes of POV (objective, subjective, omniscient, etc.) it relates to how intimate the reader gets to be — is she kept close but privy to the confidence of only one character? Is the reader allowed to be all up in the satiny guts of every character in the room? Is the reader locked out? How much access does the reader have to the intellectual and emotional realm? Is she granted psychic narrative powers?

6. Objective: The Reader At The Window, Peering In

The objective mode of storytelling says, “Hey, reader, go stand outside and watch the story from the window, you funky little perv-weasel.” The reader isn’t privy to any of the psychic realm: it’s like watching a closed-circuit television feed. This happened, that happened, blah blah blah. It’s almost informationally pornographic: close-ups and thrusting but no emotional tangle.

7. Subjective: The Reader As A Psychic Monkey Riding A Specific Character

The subjective narrative mode filters the story through the lens of a single character. The reader is allowed inside (as long as he pulls up his pants and wipes his hands) and gets to play the role of a psychic Yoda-monkey clinging to one character’s back. The intimacy increases: the reader is now allowed access to one character’s internal realm. That character filters everything through an intellectual, emotional, and experiential lens for the reader.

8. Omniscient: Reader Drops Acid Gets To Live In Everybody’s Heads

YOU ARE NOW A GOLDEN GOD. Or, you just quaffed a cup of ayahuasca and now you’re hallucinating. Either way, omniscient POV allows us to become not a dude at the window or a telepathic lemur but rather, a hyper-aware psychic cloud floating above and within all the character action. We are granted a backstage pass to every character’s internal world.

9. The Limited Lens Of Third Person Subjective

Third-person subjective is often called “third-person limited” because you are, duh, limited to the lens of just one character. This allows us some of the intimacy of first-person while still remaining a witness to the action rather than the closest thing to a participant. It’s like having your cake and being able to eat it too, which is a phrase I’ve always considered a bit silly: of course I want to eat the cake I have because then what the fuck is the point of cake? If you’re trying to make some comment on the corporeality of cake (“once you’ve eaten it you no longer have it”), it still falls apart because relocating it to my belly still counts as me having it. Further, I might have eaten a single slice of cake and retain the other seven slices for later cake consumption. (And by “later” I mean, “in two-and-a-half minutes.”) So, whatever. What was I talking about? Who are you people and how’d you get in my Secret Cake Room?

10. Episodic Third: The Monkey Hops From Shoulder To Shoulder

This has lots of names — Third-Term Episodic, Third-Term Multiple, Third-Person Limited Shifting, Menage-A-Character, Third-Person Monkey-Head-Hopper, and so on. The point is that in a given narrative unit (most commonly, a chapter) the storyteller limits the filtering of the narrative through a single character — in the next chapter, the storyteller switches that filter to a whole different character. (I tend to like this approach in my own work. If third-person limited is ‘having your cake and eating it too,’ this is like ‘having cake with ice cream on top and then also pie and maybe cookies and eating it all but still having more.’)

11. The Deeper Plunge Of First Person Subjective

First-person subjective is the most common version of the first-person POV, and it allows for a deep dive into one character’s psyche. It is the most intimate in a 1:1 sense — the strength is that we get to know one character very, very well. We are more than just the monkey on the shoulder; we are a thought-eating brain parasite. We are given a vicarious thrill as both storyteller and reader in this mode. Sometimes, this mode can be overpowering; further, there exists the danger that the storyteller’s “voice” and the protagonist’s “voice” are a little too close. In a sense, first-person subjective is a bit like acting: the writer embodies the role of a character, attempting to wear the costume completely while on the page.

12. The News Report Had Sex With A Screenplay And Birthed The Objective POV

Journalism is all about details. Screenplays are blueprints for action and dialogue. The objective point-of-view — in both first- and third-person — offers us that sense of utter detachment. It is an exercise in, as noted, detail and action and dialogue. The internal world is closed off completely; any intellectual or emotional details are left to reader interpretation only. Much of this is actually about how much interpretation we want the reader to do — how much burden do we grant to the audience? The more objective the narrative becomes, the more must sit on the reader’s shoulder. The more subjective we become, the less interpretation the reader must do.

13. First Person Omniscient Is Like Hanging In The Headspace Of A God

Here’s how this works: the narrative is first-person (“I pooped…”) and yet offers total awareness and exploration of the internal world of every other character (“I pooped and Tom wonders why I did it on the salad bar, but Betty doesn’t care because she’s thinking about how she thinks salad is for assholes, anyway”). This is not a narrative mode you can get away with easily — it has to have a hook. A reason for existing. Like, in the Lovely Bones, the character is a ghost so that pretty much makes sense. But a character shouldn’t be able to offer an omniscient viewpoint without being psychic, or a ghost, or a god, or… well, a warbling moony-loon. Could be cool. Could also be a garish gimmick. Tread wisely.

14. Multiple First Person Narrators

You can, if you want, tell the story from alternating first-person narrators. One chapter tells it from Tom, the second from Betty, the third from Bim-Bim the Saturnian Baboon Lord, whatever. Like I said: you do what you want. You can take a shit on the grocery store salad bar as long as you don’t mind Tom giving you the stink-eye afterward. (Oh, one note about alternating first-person narrators: the voice of each needs to be strong and distinct so that readers aren’t left scratching their poor little reader noggins over who the fuck is talking to them.)

15. The Cool Kids Of POV High

The two most popular points-of-view are, I believe, first-person subjective and third-person limited (often third-person episodic limited — aka the monkey-hopper POV). First-person is particularly common in young adult fiction the reasons for which are either that “it’s the trend so shut up” or “because younger readers want that level of emotional intimacy with younger characters.” Not to say you must cleave to trends, but it’s good to be aware of them.

16. First And Third Living Together And Making Sweet Love

You can, if you’re really bad-ass, alternate from first to third. It’s tricky and can become just a stunt if you’re not careful. “BECAUSE I WANT TO SO SHUT YOUR GODDAMN MOUTH” is not always the best reason to try something inside your fiction: it helps to have some logic behind it. Is there some reason to perform the switch? Is there an epistolary component sandwiched like taco meat inside the narrative? Seek reason for the choices within your writing.

17. Be Consistent, Be Clear

Seek consistency and clarity in point-of-view, lest you confound and bewilder, lest you seem like the king of amateur-hour karaoke. Hell, seek consistency and clarity in all of your writing. Also, in your take-out orders. Because you think you ordered a “ham and cheese sandwich” but then you open the bag and suddenly your face is on fire from a thousand stingers and you’re like OMG THEY MUST’VE THOUGHT I SAID HAM AND BEES.

18. The Reader Is Your Puppet And POV Is One Of The Strings

The storyteller’s job isn’t to be the reader’s buddy. The storyteller is an untrustworthy fucker, a manipulator on par with the love child of Verbal Kint and Hannibal Lecter. Point-of-view is one of the most critical weapons in the storyteller’s arsenal: you can use to reveal information or to restrict it. You can use it to regulate the distance between reader and character, or between one character and another. You can use it to display false testimony or misleading detail. You can use it to open stuck jars or drown noisome chipmunks. Okay, maybe not that last part.

19. Perspective Creates Tension

Perspective — both its revelation and restriction — creates tension. The third-person POV allows different characters to notice individual details and experience separate events and we as the reader are privy to all their conflicting plots and schemes. Third-person omniscient is a blown-open diaper of perspective: the characters on the page don’t know what one another are thinking but we often do, and so we know that Tom is planning on killing Betty and that Bim-Bim the Space Baboon is really Tom and Betty’s long lost son. First-person pulls all that back and restricts the experiences to a single character, so instead the sense of external mystery is heightened even as internal mystery is reduced — the reverse can be true when you go back to third-person, where internal mystery is increased at the expense of external intrigue.

20. Wuzza Wooza Who Now?

Beware confusion with any exercise of point-of-view. Omniscience can overwhelm and bewilder. Subjectivity can leave out critical external details. Mystery is not useful when it seeds utter befuddlement. Or, put differently, “mystery” is not a synonym for “I don’t know what the hell is going on anymore in this goddamn story I’m so lost I think I need a nap.”

21. The Danger Of Illuminating Assholes

That sounds like someone’s shining a flashlight on an anus, but that’s not what I mean — what I mean is, the first-person perspective lends intimacy and sometimes that intimacy is exactly what fiction needs. However, characters who are in some sense “unlikable” often gain extra unwanted dimension with the first-person perspective. One danger is that the character’s moral complexities are watered-down because now we’re forced to march through the justifications for the character’s rampant assholery. The follow-up danger is that the deep psychic dive only magnifies the assholery to the point where the character is now a prolapsed anus the size of a Christmas stocking heavy with driveway gravel. An unlikable-but-interesting character can fast become a hated motherfucker when we live too long inside their heads. I want to watch Don Draper and Tony Soprano. I don’t want to lurk inside their heads.

22. What Objectivity Misses

Objective narrative view can offer a strong, clinical approach to storytelling. Though, one could also suggest that the power of the novel above other storytelling forms is how it allows us to plunge — however deep or shallow — into the internal world of the characters rather than just exploring the physical realm. The novel is a complicated beast and as much happens inside the action as around it, within it, and through it. If I wanted to watch Bim-Bim the Space Baboon run around and shoot laser pistols, I’d write a cartoon script. If I’m writing a novel, it’s because I want to behold the pathos of Bim-Bim. Which is also the name of my next novel: “THE PATHOS OF BIM-BIM,” with the follow-up, “DESOLATION OF THE MOON GIBBON.”

23. Is The Narrator A Poo-Poo-Faced Lying Liar Who Lies?

The more intimate the readers are allowed to be with the narrator, the more able the storyteller is to create conditions for an unreliable narrator, which is to say, a narrator whose experience and/or telling of the story is questionable. An unreliable narrator creates a sub rosa layer of the story where we the readers are left to wonder what is true and what is false. The more layers a story has, the more we have to discuss over all that cake and pie when we’re done reading it, and the more we have to discuss, the more cake and pie we eat, so, y’know, FUCK YEAH CAKEPIE.

24. This Is All Wrapped Up With Narrative Tense

It’s common for narrative tense to be wrapped up with narrative point-of-view, lumped together in something called “narrative mode.” (Which is also the mode that Teddy Ruxpin exists in at all times, I believe. Since Teddy Ruxpin is a bear, does he tell you a story as he’s eating you?) It’s too much to talk about here, just realize that adding tense to point-of-view adds further variable to your storytelling offerings — first-person present tense feels very internal and in-the-moment, whereas third-person present carries the urgent-yet-distant action of a screenplay. Third-person past tense feels very traditional, whereas second-person omniscient future tense feels like you’re just fucking with everybody, you crazy avant garde sonofabitch.

25. When In Doubt, Rewrite To A New POV

If you’re hip-deep in the book and you’re just not feeling it, try switching to a new point-of-view before giving up. You may find that a different way into the story — a different lens, camera, and filter — will enliven your investment and reveal the story you really want to tell. Think of it like an Instagram filter: you’re like, “Man, this foodie photo of foie gras Buffalo wings just doesn’t do anything for me,” but then you start clicking Instagram retro filters and suddenly you’re all HOLY FUCKSHOES NOW IT’S ART. Try new things until the story clicks. Which is a good tip, I think, for all aspects of writing and storytelling, so tattoo it somewhere on your body. Maybe your forehead, backwards, so you can read it in a mirror!

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68 responses to “25 Things You Should Know About Narrative Point-Of-View”

  1. #16. I did this, kind of…well, not ‘by accident,’ but I inexplicably did this in my first novel and it has screwed my head up something awful. So much so that I froze and haven’t worked on it in a couple of months, because I can’t wrap my head around it nor figure out how to move forward. Part one is first person, part two is third (omniscient) and the main reason was to create immediacy and emotion in the first part, but I found it limiting when dealing with other characters. Then I thought, should I switch back to first when my prot is alone? Should I stick with third for the second part then hop back to first for the third? Ugh. Terrible brain swirling/billions of questions with no answers. Annoying the hell out of myself.

    As you may imagine, I’m very grateful for this post. It’s a feast for thought and just might get me back into the saddle of that book. I like that book. I want to finish it. Some smart guy whose stuff I read always says “finish your shit.” So, you know, I wanna do that. Finish my shit.

    Thanks so much!

  2. Cheesy Jeesy, you just cleared a fog in my head. I’m going to book mark this page for further calorieless cake eating. Thanks for this enlightenment and the clarity, not like that POV book on the shelf in the toilet.

  3. I am a pedant and therefore an awful person.

    But I am still going to point out that the ‘have your cake and eat it’ thing is supposed to be ‘have your cake and eat it too’, meaning you can’t both eat all your cake and still have it when you’re done. You can either eat all your cake or keep all your cake but you can’t do both.

    pendantry OFF.

    Great advice as always, chuck. I sometimes get confused between the different POV’s.

    Do you have any advice for keeping yourself in a POV once you’ve chosen it, as I find I often slip between close third and omniscient or first and it’s a nightmare spotting them in the edits.

    (I’m sorry for the frequent name changes here – I run several peoples web presence and I sometimes forget to log out of one before I comment)

    • But I am still going to point out that the ‘have your cake and eat it’ thing is supposed to be ‘have your cake and eat it too’, meaning you can’t both eat all your cake and still have it when you’re done. You can either eat all your cake or keep all your cake but you can’t do both.

      First and foremost: it was a joke.

      Second, I did cover that, by saying, “once you’ve eaten it you no longer have it.”

      Third, pedantry does not make you an awful person. Though, it’s not the most admirable trait, either.

      To answer your other question —

      There’s no real trick to pinning yourself to a POV other than to just… do it. When in doubt, fix it in post (meaning, edits). Mostly, consistency comes with practice, I think.

      — c.

    • The trick is to know the difference between various POVs well. The better you know them, the easier will be to spot them. For instance, if you’re writing in Close Third (Subjective, thought-eating brain parasite, whatever you want to call it) you don’t write the shower scene like “The water sloped down the curves of her body.” because nobody thinks about themselves like that. That’s someone else looking at your character. You stepped out of your POV. You step back in by writing what the character feels: “The water was hot. It felt good.” If you’re in Third Limited, it will help you to stay in it by asking yourself “Does my POV character really know what the other character is thinking/feeling?” Don’t make it sound like a fact (Tom was angry.), make it clear that it’s your POV character’s view of the other character (Tom looked angry. Tom frowned. Tom glared at him.) “Is this really how my POV’s character sees and thinks about himself?”

      This post is awesome (just like it’s author 😛 ), but it’s merely an introduction. You’ll have to go a lot deeper into the subject to really learn the difference between, for example, Third Limited and Close Third Limited. Read a lot of good novels, good books on the subject (there are a lot of bad ones out there), and yes, practice.

      Sorry for barging in on the conversation.

  4. How do you feel about sliding scale subjective third, that may start out pulled back almost to objective, then pans inward until the reader is almost looking out through the character’s nose hairs, then ..

    Well, just kidding about the nose hairs.

    At any rate, you see so much stressing of “limited third, limited third, limited third” that I wonder if that’s nearly all that is acceptable anymore (or first).

    As an example, if there is a visual nearby, one that either relates to the story or adds atmosphere, I’d like to be able to describe that, without getting all sock puppety and turning the character’s head to look at it. Heck, he know it’s there, he’s seen it a hundred times .. but must he look at it and have an internal dialogue about it for it to appear on the page?

    As a follow up, what would one call what I initially described, and how is it viewed as a whole in the industry … still okay … gone the way of omni … etc.?

  5. Great article! As a thank you, 25 thoughts on a schizophrenic POVs.

    1. Being schizophrenic means we’re a bunch of people living inside this one guy and that’s eco-friendly. We use less resources than an actual bunch of people would, we take up less space and produce considerably lower amount of farts.

    2. We all know farts have a real impact in global warming. So by stopping that we’re really saving everybody’s lives.

    3. That makes us superheroes, probably.

    4. I am number four.

    5. A schizophrenic POV can be tricky, sure, but when the voices assemble together, the choir-like effect can blow your mind.

    6. I know nobody’s gonna listen to me, again, but I gotta say it. This can come across like we’re making fun of schizophrenia or something and it’s, y’know, a serious thing.

    7. You’re right. When the different voices assemble together, nothing can stop them. Like the Avengers when they learned how to fight as a team. See? We’re superheroes, I told you.

    8. Great movie, dude.

    9. I am number four.

    10. Nobody’s gonna ever pay attention to me, right? Nobody cares what I have to say. It’s like I’m this big joke to you, y’know. No, not even that. Nothing. I’m nothing. Nothing at all.

    11. I am number four and I am mad.

    12. Dude. Got “The Avengers” on Blu-ray. We can make some popcorn and– Shush– There– There– Look– He’s– He’s holding a knife.

    13. Help! Someone call the police!

    14. I’m the police– Argh! Shit…

    15. I am number four.

    16. Help! Please, don’t. Please, I have children. Please–

    17. Wait. Wait, wait, wait– Argh–!

    18. Stop him! Stop him! Someone stop him!

    19. …tell… tell Lisa… tell Lisa I… I tried…

    20. …I’m so c-cold…

    21. …

    22. …

    23. I am number four.

    24. I am number four.

    25. I am number four.

    Sebastian Defeo

  6. Awesome and timely, we are swapping manuscripts right now in my critique group.

    I know the people in the outer office now think I am a few sandwiches short of a picnic with the way I was LOLing at several of these, especially the second-person omniscient future tense line.

    Wendigisms 3 is well underway, my hat is tipped, sir.

  7. I did not realize I had this much power. Yesterday I requested more blog posts with “25” in the title, and ‘Bamn!’, here we go.

    Today I will be requesting you shave your beard and donate it to guinea pigs undergoing chemo.

    I’m sure this ‘trick’ isn’t unique, but at times I write some pages in first person just to feel the character more intimately, then go back and switch to third person to go along with the rest of the novel.

  8. I’ve seen MG fic alter between 3rd omniscient and 2nd person – like the Lemony Snicket Books and the Pseudonymous Bosch books, and I think the kiddos REALLY love that the narrator is talking to them. But the narrator absolutely has to have his/her own personality and story to pull it off.

    In “The Book Thief” (Zuzak), Death is the narrator and he talks to the audience. It’s well done.

    Also – #25 … so true.
    I worked on something for 6 mos and so frustrated with it. Wrote a few scenes from two supporting character POVs and suddenly have a story worth writing. My former MC is still there, she’s just not the boss of the scene play anymore. And my new MC is a boy, which is new for me and I love it.

    Great post, Chuck. Thanks. Did I tell you to take a VACA?
    *smacking myself*
    Please continue your bloggerificness however you see fit.

  9. Further caveat regarding narrative voice: whether it’s 1st persons or 3rd, it’s still a character. It isn’t you.

    I write a lot of 1st person because I can’t keep that objective narrator thing going–my narrator always ends up a bit snarky and sardonic. How the heck do you bundle your own personality out the door and keep it in the kitchen where it belongs?

  10. Fourth-person: Your story about a romance between two uptight, upwardly-mobile NYC professionals is told from the perspective of a Maori tribesman who has never seen a television. Such stories are often very short.

  11. I tend to favor third-person omniscient. Probably because I have a god complex, but whatever. I found the “where to place the camera” point interesting if only because you used the word ‘camera.’ I have always read–and wrote–books as if operating a film camera. I don’t know why, that’s just how it works for me. I have mental cut-aways, close ups, montages, over-the-shoudlder shots, etc.

    I take the reader through the story (or myself through someone else’s book) as though they were an audience watching a movie. Does anyone else do that? Maybe I missed my calling as a filmmaker.

  12. Yeah, what Jackie Hames says. Like watching a movie.

    First person is hard to pull off, in my experience…

    hence third person, switching between the story lines of two central characters who start off apart, meet in the middle, and go their separate ways. This probably makes me some kind of criminal. Maybe it won’t work. Present tense, another supposed no-no, because I like the sense of immediacy, of being there as events unfold.

    Presumably the choice of POV serves the story in some way.

  13. Here’s a random question (anybody):

    Do you think the events in a story (plot) are supposed to be constructed to bring about character change (arc)?

    If not, why choose some events and not others? Because you feel like it, or what?

  14. #25 can work wonders. I was about half-way through a longer piece, written in third-person limited, it wasn’t clicking…starting re-writing the beginning in first-person, and BLAMMO. There it was.

    That said, most of my writing tends to be third-person limited. I like the…well, “limitedness” of it. I LIKE that the reader can’t know everything, and has to figure some stuff out for herself. I think it generally makes for better tension in a story, and also makes me writer sharper.

  15. Thanks for the post, timely and covers alot of ground. Might need a bit of editing before forwarding to my granny, but that’s par for the curse.

    Though you touched on it in only 1 point, I find the tense to be extremely important for how I digest a story.

    1st person present tense – Works great as long as the experiences of the protag are experiences I wouldn’t mind having myself. I think maybe it’s popular in YA because the reader gets to fantasize about being someone they want to be. If the experiences of the protag are things I wouldn’t want for myself (or hit a little too close to my own real world issues) then it gives me a yuck attack and I stop reading (really, call me a coward, but I do stop; if I want to get slimed I’ll watch the news). For this reason, I’m also a little more hesitant to read something 1st present – I never know if I’m going to like being in these shoes, or turn the corner and step in a steaming pile of vicarious experience.

    1st person past tense – Makes it sound more like a memoir. Enables me to digest stuff I otherwise wouldn’t want to read about (see “yuck attack,” above). Gives it the feeling of being non-fiction (even if it’s blatantly unreal). Tends to stick in my grey matter more after the read is over (probably due to conditioning that this style of narration is a true story, not fiction).

    3rd person present tense – As mentioned, makes it seem more like watching a movie. I watch lots of movies, so this works for me. Enables me to pull out or dive in depending on how much I want to let myself get emotionally involved (just like I do when watching a movie).

    3rd person past tense – A safer read (see “slimed,” above). Generally less emotionally engaging though. Given a choice, I prefer 3rd present over 3rd past (but heck, I’m a screen monkey, so what do you expect).

    Generally, although I know it’s just a trick of my feeble mind, present tense makes things seem more suspenseful and surprising to me. Past tense is more likely to put me to sleep.

    SUMMARY (Personal Reactions only – your mileage may vary)
    1st present – Most engaging. Most risk of slime.
    1st past – 2nd most engaging. Safe from slime. Sticks in my nogging longer after reading.
    3rd present – 3rd most engaging. Safe.
    3rd past – Most likely to put me to sleep.
    2nd present/past – HA HA HA, THAT’S A GOOD ONE. Never read one of these I liked (though I’ll try Charles Stross).

    Future tense – Theoretically possible, though likely a crash and burn scenario from anyone but a very gifted writer with just the right story. Anyone know of any examples of this?

  16. Among a long list of other things – THANK YOU for the cake thing! (The have and eat one). The very same thing has been bugging me for years… now I have an authority to point to! Ha!
    Um, thanks anyway.

  17. I know today’s post about just doing it is getting all the internet love but THIS is one of the greatest sum ups of POV I have ever read.

    This is craft and I thank you for it.

  18. Hey, you can totally use POV to open a jar. “I can’t open this jar of fluff. I beg my husband to open the jar. He looked at his wife like she was a wimp, then put his muscles to work opening the jar of fluff. He was amazed and flabbergasted when the jar did not yield to his will. He threw the jar at the brick wall, narrowly missing the girl’s head, and grinned when it exploded with a satisfying ‘pop’. Husband and wife stared at the wall, he confused and angry, she frustrated but trying not to laugh at the broken jar of marshmallow fluff. The jar was open–undeniably–but the contents were not only useless but now remade as modern art. We looked at each other and laughed until we couldn’t breathe. You were glad the jar was open, at least…”

    😀 (erm, yes, being silly here…)

  19. I have a character (actually two but the other is speaking indirectly) talking to the reader in the prologue, inviting them to see the true story of a character. After they “open the door” the story unfolds in third person until the end when my prologue narrator closes the “door” of the story which ends in tragedy.
    Is there any examples of such published that I could learn how to utilize this technique?
    is it second person narrative and not first if I do it this way?

    Thank you 🙂

  20. I had to re-read this today because I’m writing a book from 1st person POV with an unreliable (read: crazy) protagonist/antagonist (he’s his own worst enemy). All for NaNoWriMo. Yes, I am also insane. But thanks for having this here to ping my brain on what I can and can’t do…and well will do but at least I know the rules to break them.

  21. I love this post! I did laugh out loud several times, but to be serious, it’s written in a way that everybody understands. You’ve done a great job with this!

  22. You’re so right, it does take a very gifted storyteller to pull off second person; Ablutions by Patrick deWitt, is second person fuckery done to the highest degree. The fact that you have to take part in the story makes it even more depressing and relevant. But like, I could never write like that, it takes a special sort of skill. And; The Crimson Petal and The White in which there is a first person narrator who takes “you” on a story told in the third person omniscient. *gasp* – But it is Ah-mazing.

  23. Okay then first subjective is what I’m writing. Good to know. I have had feedback that my book is a bit like watching my protagonists life through a shaky video-camera. Not sure if that is a good thing or not but I’m doing it. Dances in a circle while grinning.

  24. After reading what I found to be common knowledge which ANYONE that is writing on a professional level should already be privy to, the only thing I learned from this was to not read any more of your writing.

  25. Yes. That’s plotting 101. Otherwise, it’s bullshit fluff, aka- disposible garbage no one will give two fox about.

  26. Perhaps it’s just me…but I feel that if you need to be made aware of any of these elements, you probably shouldn’t be writing on a professional level, and most certainly should not have anyone reading your work.

  27. Hey you irreverant son of a bitch. Thanks for being the first son of a bitch to get to the nitty gritty without being a boring son of a bitch. Now I finally know how to write something that doesn’t suck. Keep it up or I’ll come kick your ass. Love ya, Dude.

    -Captain Gritmore

  28. Somewhere else in this blog Max talks about writing for https://www.choiceofgames.com/. Their books are like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book but deeper and longer, and designed to be read/”played” on modern devices such as iphones. Those stories use second person, which works beautifully in that form but is a shock at first.
    “Do you. . .
    -Hit the badger?
    -Eat the badger?
    -Feed your younger sibling to the badger?

    It’s a fascinating reader experience.

    Felicity Banks

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