Point of view in literature is probably the biggest single area of novel writing that aspiring writers have problems with.
More specifically, they often can't decide whether to use first person or third person point of view.
Actually, though, there is a bigger problem that most newcomers are not even aware of, and that is failing to handle viewpoint like a published writer.
That is why this section on point of view is such a large one...
It begins by explaining the theory of viewpoint. A full understanding of this will not only help you to choose which point of view to use in your novel, it will also help you to then use that viewpoint like a master.
After all the theory, you will find articles on choosing a point of view. These look at the major viewpoints (first and third person), some less common viewpoints, as well as some other choices you will need to make.
You might already have a good idea on what viewpoint you will use, but I urge you to keep an open mind until you have read everything below.
To start with, an article looking at just how important point of view is in fiction, and why it is essential that you don't cut corners.
This article introduces you to four crucial people in a third person narrative: the Author, the Narrator, the Viewpoint Character, and the Protagonist.
And this one makes everything crystal clear with a detailed worked example.
Guess what? The four people I mentioned above - author, narrator, viewpoint character, and protagonist - are also vital ingredients in a first person point of view novel. Only their roles are a little different.
And here is another detailed worked example of first person prose, with plenty of explanation.
In most cases, novels are seen through the eyes of the leading man or woman - the protagonist, in other words. But this isn't always the case.
In novel writing, you are not restricted to presenting the events through just one pair of eyes. Having two or three viewpoint characters is common, and there is nothing to stop you having as many as you like.
In this article, I also deal with the tricky question of when and how to switch viewpoints.
If it seems that you will have to work your way through an awful lot of theory before getting to the heart of the matter, trust me - without all this theory under your belt you can never hope to handle point of view in literature like the professional you intend to be.
Once you have read and (more or less) understood everything so far, you will be in a strong position to choose a point of view for your novel. And for most of you, that will come down to a straight toss-up between first and third person.
Trying to decide which viewpoint to use is often one of the biggest problems newcomers to novel writing face.
They set off on their journey, full of confidence and excitement, but they are barely a mile down the road when they come across a fork: first person to the left, third person to the right...
The fact is that neither point of view is inherently "better" than the other. It all depends on the particular novel you have in mind - and since only you know that, only you will be able to make the right decision.
All I can do is run the respective arguments past you, and they are contained in these two articles...
Just bear in mind, as you read these two articles, that a supposed advantage of one particular point of view might not, on closer inspection, be quite as advantageous as it seems - and vice versa.
(You'll see what I mean when you read the articles!)
If, after reading them, you still can't make up your mind, there is a final article...
...which is a summary of all the key points and will hopefully steer you in the right direction once and for all.
"Use any other form of narration but straight first- or third-person and you'll be wasting your time. You may even risk a worse fate than rejection, which is not to finish the novel."
- John Braine
"What is the best way of telling a story? Since the standard must be the interest of the audience, there must be several or many good ways rather than one best...Why should a story not be told in the most irregular fashion that an author's idiosyncrasy may prompt, provided that he gives us what we enjoy?"
- George Eliot
The omniscient viewpoint was the predominant voice in nineteenth century literature, but it has since fallen out of favor. Does that mean you shouldn't give it a try? Of course it doesn't.
Should you give 2nd person point of view a try? No, probably not - unless you are feeling very brave and more than a little foolish.
Even if you intend to write a "standard" 3rd person novel, this article is a must-read.
What is a 1st person "observer" in fiction? I'll give you a famous example of one: Doctor Watson from the Sherlock Holmes novels.
This really is a matter of personal choice. The tense you go with should be the one that feels right for the story you want to tell. But if you want to see me get down off the fence and make a recommendation, read this article.