A Quick Thought on Writing From Different POVs

This week with my writing group (now officially renamed the UN, for the Unreliable Narrators) we talked about narrative Point-of-View (POV). If you don’t already know what POV is, it’s the perspective by which a narrative story is conveyed. There’s first-person, second person, third-person limited, and third-person omniscient. If you’re not sure the difference between these perspectives, Reedsy has a great blog on the topic. As I had this discussion with my group, I made a fun discovery with my series.

Over the last several years I’ve taken a liking to stories written from unique POVs. In the Book Thief by Markus Zusak, the narrator’s POV becomes increasingly obvious throughout the book, with interesting uses of font and page design on occasion. In one of my fiction workshops, a student wrote from the second person POV and it had everyone emotional for a week. I’ve even read poems from the POV of an object, which can be both hysterical and heart-wrenching.

But how do people decide to write from these unique POVS? And why does it matter what POV you write from?

Like how each character in a story serves a purpose, the POV should also serve a purpose. If it doesn’t matter what POV you’re writing from, then you may need to do some investigating into the story and individual characters. Each character holds a particular opinion about the events of the story, and each has a unique relationship to the other characters, the action, and the resolution. The POV of your story should, at the very minimum, gather the majority of the events that you (the writer) desire to place in the story.

Truly though, the power of the POV can alter the way a reader views a character or how they feel about a specific scene. Moreover, POV can influence the message a reader takes away from a story and can create biases for or against different morals, values, and actions.

Consider for a moment a scene where a character visits a new place…

The main character/protagonist has never been to a big city. In fact, they’ve lived on a farm most of their life and they’ve never needed to leave the farm for any reason. But the side character has been to the city several times and even lived there for a few months last year.

Writing the scene from the main character’s POV would be able to elaborate on more worldbuilding details. On the other hand, the side character has in-depth experience fortified with memories and historical background. Which perspective do you choose? Here, you must consider the purpose of the scene, or even the story itself. Are you trying to provide more context and worldbuilding for your reader? Or do you want the reader to better understand the side character and understand the nuances of this city? Your answer may depend on if the city will be a major location for scenes or if you want to highlight the moral inconsistencies in the city’s government.

Additionally, when dealing with morals and values, POV can have a huge influence on worldbuilding and the message you provide for your reader. For example, the antagonist’s reasoning for their desire to eliminate a certain race or destroy a certain government may make more sense when another character relays their backstory versus how the main character perceives this complete stranger.

POV should also be considered for biases. If the main character is morally corrupt, the reader may not know this immediately unless there’s a section where another character explains the main character’s actions, and vice versa. There can also be the bias of culture. If the main character is of culture A and the side character is of culture B, then the perception of historical events may be perceived differently between culture A and B, therefore causing conflict or division between characters.

Essentially, writers decide their POV based on what they find necessary for the reader to know, but also what they find important to the rendering of the desire story. A POV can change everything from the perspective of and exposure to events to the perspective of an entire society and the resolution of the story.

So, what’s my quick thought? Different POVs are necessary in writing because they encourage readers and writers to consider new perspectives and practice empathy. Moreover, they force you out of your comfort zone and encourage you to handle topics without the pressure of current social and/or personal standards and expectations.

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