Choosing Your POV

Mark Paxson

I finished writing something and have pondered what to move on to next. This month started with me committed to writing a sequel to the novel I published almost a year ago. That particular story is told in first person from the perspective of several different characters.

The story I just completed is told in first person from one character’s perspective. About half way through, I decided to change it to third person and get some other character’s in the mix, to broaden the story a bit. But then I decided to keep in in first person because I wanted the story to be that character’s story and only hers. As a result, it makes for a much more minimalist of a story. We’ll see what people think.

Now I’m moving on to what’s next. I’ve decided to shelve the sequel above for another project. This morning I spent some time at a local books and music festival. I talked with a woman who has spent her life gathering historical tidbits of her ancestors and has spent the last five years putting those bits into stories. Kathy Lynne Marshall has written a handful of books in those five years. She includes information and resources about how to gather historical information about people from the past. So … I’m reading The Mystery of Margaret Booker now. About her great-great-great-great-great grandmother. Born a slave who walked to freedom 30 years later.

And an interesting thing happened when I got to the first page of the story. She tells it in first person. She is allowing Margaret to tell her own story in her voice.

That conversation and seeing the first person approach caused me to shift gears away from the sequel. I’m moving on to something that has been an objective for the last 4-5 years. A story about my grandmother, which I may have mentioned here a post or two ago. When I tried to launch the story back then, it was in third person. Which just seemed natural to me. How can I tell a story in first person from Grandma’s perspective? I can. Or at least I’m going to try.

More and more, it seems my stories are told in first person. My first novel wasn’t. Many of my short stories aren’t either. Most are told in third person, I believe. But lately, it seems like first person is the way to go. There is something about first person that I like. It’s easier to adopt a particular type of voice in first person. It’s easier to get inside a character’s head and see what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling.

But I wonder if that’s a good thing. Choosing a point of view or perspective because it makes the writing easier doesn’t necessarily make for a better story. Go back to that piece I just finishedd. I have no doubt that if I switched to third person and told the story from the perspective from multiple characters, the story would be more complex, with more layers. It’s what happened with my first novel — originally written in first person, but completely re-written in third person to allow for more details and more characters to have a place in the story. It definitely was a better story because of that change.

Occasionally, people ask how I decide POV for a story. I believe we’ve discussed it on video chats. My answer will always be … it depends. I still believe that, but I wonder what other writers think. How do you decide on the POV, or POVs, in which you’re going to tell a story? How do you decide between first person and third person? Is it a decision you can even describe? Because for me … it not only depends, it just kind of happens.


  1. chucklitka says:

    For me it’s a no brainer; First person singular. It is my preferred style in both reading and writing. It’s the most natural way to tell a story since it’s the way most of us live our lives .In a story it lends an air of authenticity and intimacy to the telling of the type of story, I prefer. But there are many different types of stories, and many different ways to tell them. And just as many types of readers as well, so one size will not fit all. As Mark suggest, in the end, it comes down to the writer’s vision of what they want to achieve and how they can best achieve that vision..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First person is my preferred pov as well. Which suggests it might be a good idea to experiment with third person. I have done that in a few short stories, but for all of my novels, first person felt right. I never even considered changing that.


      1. kingmidget says:

        Experimentation. It’s kind of interesting. I’ve written enough in third person so I should view it as experimentation, but at this point, it probably would since so much of what I’ve written recently has been first person.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. chucklitka says:

    Maybe it all comes down to attitude. This is my story vs this is a story. This is a story I’ve lived in my head vs this is a story I constructed for a purpose, be it to sell, or say something to readers, or what have you. First person is a more personal way of telling a more personal story.


    1. kingmidget says:

      Yes. First person is more personal, more intimate. Which is one of the reasons I wanted to tell my last story in first person and skip the expansion third person could allow. At this point, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m ever returning to third person.


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