1st Person, 3rd Person, Omnipotent…Which One Are You?- Part 1

Deciding on the correct Point of View (POV) for your manuscript can be tricky.
One of the best analogies I’ve heard refereed to POV as the ‘camera’ in motion that shows the reader what is going on.

Who’s camera will you use?    

Do you stick with the traditional one person  POV and use the hero or heroine’s eyes? Do you allow more than one character to tell the story and see it from multiple angles? Or do you take on the role of narrator and tell the story from a distance allowing the reader to be privy to events the characters are unaware off?

And when you decide which character(s) have the spotlight, is their voice in 1st person, 3rd person, or omnipotent?
What are the definitions of each POV?

To learn more about each POV, visit the links to read more on About.com, Fiction Writing.

This point of view is from one character which serves as the narrator. Use of the words “I” or “we” distinguish this voice. It allows the readers to “see” and “feel” what this character sees and feels because you’re in that character’s head. 
This point of view allows for more than one character to tell the story. This is the most common form used in writing. Use of the words “he” or “she” distinguish this voice.
This point of view has a god-like quality because the narrator has knowledge of the thoughts and feelings of all the characters in a story.  It can become confusing since at anytime the reader can find themselves in the  POV of any character in the scene. If used, each individual voice should have separate scenes to avoid confusion.  Use of the words “he” or “she” are still used. 
Choosing which POV you use will change the voice of your characters and determine your writing style. My personal preference is to write in 1st person. I chose that POV for the voice of my characters for two reasons. First, my series is titled, The Butterfly Memoirs, which symbolizes the evolution of the characters as the book progresses. Since it is their story, or memoir, I wanted their voice to be clearly heard during the course of the events. My original manuscript was written in 3rd, but I found it impossible to portray thoughts and emotions to the depth I wanted without using the words “I” and “me”.
As an example of the differences in the POV voices, I will demonstrate with the opening lines of A Heart Not Easily Broken:  

In 3rd person: 

“This is the last time I wear this dress.” Ebony Campbell stated, a hint of irritation in her voice.
“Oh, please,” Yasmine, her best friend and roommate, leaned over and yelled.
The music pounding out of the nightclub’s speakers made it nearly impossible to hear her.
“Stop fidgeting. You look uncomfortable,” Yasmine added, winking at the bartender who handed them their drinks.
No matter how many times Ebony adjusted the hem of her dress, it was impossible to ignore the warm air tickling the backs of her thighs as people pushed past her in the crowded bar. It would take more fabric to keep her shapely derriere from involuntary exposure.

That was a simple change of pronouns: “I” to “Ebony”, and “me” to “her”, with a few additional action tags. I am so used to writing from ‘inside’ of the characters head that I had to change my mindset to make it work!

Now, here’s the same scene in Omnipotent:

“This is the last time I wear this dress.” Ebony Campbell said. Her irritation was evident in her voice.
“Oh, please, Ebony,” Yasmine, who was her best friend and roommate, had to lean over and yell.
The music pounding out of the nightclub’s speakers made it nearly impossible for them to hear each another.
“Stop fidgeting. You look uncomfortable,” Yasmine winked at the bartender who handed them their drinks. She really wished her friend would shut up and get with the program. 
No matter how many times Ebony adjusted the hem of her dress, knowing she would never be able to ignore the warm air tickling the backs of her thighs as people pushed past her in the crowded bar. She knew it would take more fabric to keep her shapely derriere from involuntary exposure.
I’ll be the first to admit that this point of view can be confusing! What was the difference? The use of pronouns was the same, “she”, “they”, except now the ‘voice’ is not just from Ebony’s POV. Yasmine’s thoughts/action would only be mentioned as an observation by Ebony if it was written in 1st or 3rd person. The POV character of the scene (Ebony) would have no clue that Yasmine was irritated by her comments…unless this was paranormal then she could be psychic and read her mind…..see what I mean? Confusing! 

Now here is the exact same scene in 1st person:

“This is the last time I wear this dress.” (No action tag needed. Her voice automatically tells you her mood)
“Oh, please, Ebony,” Yasmine, my best friend and roommate, yelled in my ear.
The music pounding out of the nightclub’s speakers made it nearly impossible to hear her.
“Stop fidgeting. You look uncomfortable,” she added, winking at the bartender who handed us our drinks.
No matter how many times adjusted the hem of my dress, it was impossible to ignore the warm air tickling the backs of my thighs as people pushed past me in the crowded bar. It would take more fabric to keep my shapely derriere from involuntary exposure.



Can you see the difference? None of the POV’s were better than the other, it’s all in how you want to tell the story and what voice you give your characters. 

How do you know which one is best for you? How does the publishing industry view writing in those POV’s?

Be on the look out for part two of the series where I will share a few more facts about the difference in point of view!

MJ

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6 thoughts on “1st Person, 3rd Person, Omnipotent…Which One Are You?- Part 1

  1. I mostly use 3rd person. I think it depends on what you're working on. I have a short story I'm working on at the moment that I think might sound better in first person due to the lack of other characters. I'm still never sure what is really best.

  2. In omnipotent the narrator has all knowledge even that which none of the characters know. Omnipotent would have the furthest narrative distance while your favorite 1st person POV is the closest. In most cases a writer should have a singular character relating the story at one time even in 3rd person. That's why many writer's choose 1st person because 3rd person can make things more difficult depending on how many characters you give a "voice ".

  3. thanks M.J, POV can be trickly. Here's how I finally got it. In a writing course, the instructor had us read a well-known short story and then rewrite it from any other character's POV. It was facinating to see how we all wrote a somewhat different story based on that particular character's POV (sort of a life-lesson, too)thanks carol

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