Are You Writing in the POV You Think You’re Writing In?

Point of ViewBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Point of view problems are the most common problems I see as a freelance editor. And I’m not surprised. Point of view is a difficult concept to master, yet it’s also the most essential. (Check out Janice Hardy’s post on 4 Tips to Solve 99% of Your Writing Problems. It’s all about POV.)

So I’m kicking off a new series that I hope will help you understand your point of view options better, choose the right POV for your story, and get it right when you do.

What Is POV?

When we talk about POV, we basically mean the point of view from which the story is told. Who are you listening to? Whose head are you in? In a practical sense, POV lays the foundation for everything you’ll write in your story, and it comes in four types.

Second Person

Second person POV tells the story using you.

You dig through your purse, but can’t find your keys. They were there yesterday. You’re sure of it. You tip your purse’s contents out onto the table, and receipts, old gum wrappers, and pennies spill everywhere.

The “Choose Your Own Adventure” books that were popular when I was a kid used second person POV.

You’d be able to self-publish a book written in second person, but you probably wouldn’t be able to sell it to a traditional publisher. For an example of one of the few successful second person books, try to find a copy of Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City.

Omniscient POV

Omniscient POV is when the story is told by an all-knowing narrator. That all-knowing narrator is the author, and the story is told in his or her voice rather than in any particular character’s voice.

This is easily confused with head-hopping. Head-hopping and omniscient POV are not the same thing. I’ll cover both in more detail in an upcoming post.

For an excellent example of how to write omniscient POV well, check out Rachel Aaron’s The Spirit Thief.

Third Person POV

In third person, a scene, chapter, or sometimes, even the whole book is told from the perspective of a single character, but it uses he/she.

Melanie dug through her purse. No keys. They were here yesterday. She’d dropped them in when she came home from work. Hadn’t she? She tipped her purse’s contents out onto the table, and receipts, old gum wrappers, and pennies spilled everywhere.

Everything is filtered through the eyes of the viewpoint character, and we hear their voice. You can have multiple third person POV characters per book as long as you don’t hop between them in a single scene. If you give the flavor of a particular character’s voice, and switch POVs mid-scene without a proper transition, you’re head-hopping.

Even though you can have multiple POV characters, try to write your book with the smallest possible number. (Few of us are writing something like George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones.)

First Person POV

Just like it sounds, in first person, the character is telling us the story directly.

I dug through my purse. No keys. They were here yesterday. I’d dropped them in when I came home from work, didn’t I? I tipped my purse’s contents out onto the table, and receipts, old gum wrappers, and pennies spilled everywhere.

Most of the time, when you use first person POV, you’ll only use that single POV throughout the book (like in The Hunger Games). However, that’s not a rule. Authors have successfully used more than one first person POV in the same book. I just wouldn’t recommend it for new writers because it’s difficult to do well.

For examples of how to write first person POV well, read Kathryn Stockett’s The Help (multiple first person POVs) or Janice Hardy’s The Shifter (a single first person POV).

I’ll dig into each type of POV (except for second person) in future posts, but after this overview, hopefully we’re all working from the same foundation.

What POV are you writing in? What you’re biggest struggle with POV? I’m happy to take requests for future posts!

I hope you’ll check out the newly released mini-books in my Busy Writer’s Guides series–Strong Female Characters and How to Write Faster–both currently available for 99 cents.

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

Enter your email address to follow this blog:

And don’t forget that you can receive a free copy of my guide Everything You Always Wanting to Know about Hiring a Freelance Editor by signing up for my newsletter. <–Click right there. You know you want to 🙂

Image Credit: Gabriella Fabbri (

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the page above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. It doesn’t cost you anything extra.