Writing Corner: Choosing a Point of View + Beginning Your Story

A lot of writers have a point of view (POV) they like writing from best i.e. first person or third person. It can be challenging to move out of your comfort zone but sometimes experimenting can be a lot of fun. When choosing a POV for your novel there are several things to consider, and pros and cons to different viewpoints.

First Person

First person narrative can be really great for getting inside a characters head. You can use this type of POV to really show the emotions and feelings your character is going through. One of the limits of first person, though, is that you only get to see the story from one characters POV. It is possible to switch to another characters first person POV for some chapters but be careful when doing this! It is very hard when doing this to make sure the narratives of the characters are different. For the most part, I would say only do this if absolutely necessary or if it gives something to the story.

For example, in my novel The Water That Sings is part is written from the first person POV of a different character. But I did this for a reason: to show how mental illness impacts on not only the sufferer but also their family and friends. In this case, it was very important to me to use both first person and multiple narratives.

Third Person

When your story has multiple protagonists third person can be very useful. It isn’t as personal as first person meaning it can often be more difficult to portray the characters feelings. But it is more flexible than first person and so works well with multiple characters.

Past or Present Tense

Most books are written in past tense and I know a lot of people find it difficult to write in present tense. I think present tense works best when combined with first person, but it is hard to pull off, so only write this way if you feel comfortable with it. If present tense seems like a daunting challenge then just stick with past tense.

Which Character?

Usually, it is very obvious which character’s POV the story should be told from. But it can be interesting to go for the less obvious choice and can give a new spin on things. How about writing from the best friends POV? Think about this, and come to a decision about who the plot impacts most. But also think about whose POV would be most interesting.

The Beginning

The opening of your story is vital. You need to grab your reader, and if you are trying to get published then you need to grab that agent/publishers. The ‘beginning’ of your story is comprised of your first line, first paragraph, first page, and first chapter. One way to grab the reader is to start with action. No nonsense, just diving straight in. But not all well-known books have an action-packed first chapter, but in that case you need to make sure your style and character(s) is captivating.

First line/paragraph – you need to come up with a clever and imaginative way to open.

First page – make sure you don’t dawdle in your first page, or your reader won’t bother making the effort to turn to the next one. E.g. the main character (MC) getting up for school one morning is one that annoys me (personally) intensely. It isn’t interesting at all. Start with something more interesting!

First chapter – this needs to show your style and character to the reader. They need to get a sense of what the story is going to be like and the personality of the MC. Your main plot probably won’t be revealed until the third+ chapter. But hinting the plot or alluding to a sense of mystery can help make the reader interested.