What’s the Best Point of View?

I was five chapters into my book when I realized I was making a mistake. After writing my last book in third person single character limited, I forgot that most commercial fiction books are not limited to a single character. So I had to go back and switch two of the chapters to be from the POV (point of view) of different characters.

There are really only four functional POV choices for fiction.

  • 1. First Person
  • 2. Third Person Omniscient
  • 3. Third Person Limited, Single Character
  • 4. Third Person Limited, Multiple Characters
  • Here is a quick run down.
    1. First person is when the character talks as the narrator. The character says “I” and “my” a lot. It is used in young children’s chapter books. A few classics were done in it. But most people agree that after Great Expectations it has never been done well. Detective Noir novels are done in it with a lot of character voice. Short stories often use this because they aren’t long enough for the voice to bug people. (I just finished Riordan’s Kane Chronicles where he switches between two characters in first person. Very cool that he found a way to stretch the norms… And a great book.)
    2. Third Omniscient is when the narrator knows everything in everybody’s mind and tells what they are thinking when the narrator feels like it. It’s hard to do well because people don’t like to jump from one mind to another or analyze emotions comparatively. It can be distracting.
    3. Third limited single is common in YA (like Harry Potter). The narrator speaks about the main character, but we never get to go anywhere except where the main character is. It’s a good compromise for getting into the head and heart of a single character without the annoying voice of first person.
    4. The multiple character version of third limited is the most common choice of commercial adult fiction. The narrator tells the story, but each scene is kept to the actions and feelings of one of the characters, while changing between scenes. It lets the author explore many characters in deeper depth. It has the drawback of feeling like cheating if the author uses this POV but keeps back info from the readers.

    So the book I’m writing now is the first of an epic series. It has tons of characters and complex plot. I already know future sequels will have different protagonists. So the single character limited third person POV was completely wrong. But it wasn’t until five chapters in that I realized what I was doing wrong. That and I had several characters I hadn’t named yet.

    So two questions. First, does anybody else go that far before deciding on names? Second, have any of you had to deal with POV problems like this?


    8 thoughts on “What’s the Best Point of View?

    1. I struggled with both of these. I went with third person multiple POVs. (Now that I think about it, it is almost in 2 parts. Thanks for that!) and naming? Boy, that took time, because half the characters are Vietnamese. The names are limited in that country and they had to be easy to pronounce in English. Are you having trouble naming them because you want meaning behind it or nothing fits them?

      • My naming trouble does revolve around meaning versus how it sounds. I mean, they all have to start with different letters. And I don’t want them to be silly (like Otto Octavius who ends up with eight arms). Sometimes I stall for ten minutes on a name.

        • I like traditional names, but some genres can get away with using last names. Like Benson and Stabler in Law and Order: SVU. Are you looking for an obscure name? Not trying to bug you with questions, just trying to help!

            • I’ve got no room for criticism as it took me a long long time to name mine. The process included conference calls with my family, name generators online, looking up baby books, you name it! Hope you get it soon!

    2. I have the hardest time naming characters in stories. I feel like the name of a character will label the character permanently. Plus a character’s name (especially the protagonist) can totally change the feel of the story.

      And about the which pov to use I am personally all about the first person from multiple characters. I like using multiple pov’s to pa int the picture rather than explaining it to my audience.

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