You have a story in mind. Where did it come from? The character or the situation?

If the story came from developing your character first, then it might be easy to decide which character(s) will carry the viewpoint — that’s the angle from which all action in the story is seen.

If your plot came from a situation, then, it might be a little more difficult to decide which character feels the action best. Who will ultimately tell the best version of your story?

Film poster for Vantage Point - Copyright 2008...
Image via Wikipedia

Viewpoint is interesting because the entire story changes as the viewpoint or POV changes. Think about the movie Vantage Point, and if you’re confused about POV, it’s a good one to Netflix and check out. You see the story from different characters’ POV, and that makes the situation interesting.

When you’re in Dennis Quaid’s head, you’re seeing the story from the viewpoint of an older, possibly “washed up” Secret Service agent.

When you’re in Forrest Whitaker’s head, you’re seeing the story from the POV of an innocent bystander.

And when you’re in Matthew Fox’s head, you’re seeing it from the POV of a terrorist.

Right? So, NONE of the characters know what the other ones are thinking.¬† They each have a backstory, and we know what’s going on with them, but they don’t know about¬† each other. Dennis Quaid didn’t know about Forrest Whitaker’s brother, for example.

This is an interesting way to have multiple viewpoints, all coming from a single perspective, but it’s difficult and often confusing for readers. You have to really know what you’re doing to keep things clear.

When writing for kids, multiple viewpoint like that is OK, if the kids are older, but if they’re very young, you’re better off sticking to single POV. It will be easier for you, too, if you’re a new writer.

  • Your readers will only know what one character sees, thinks, and feels.
  • You readers will not know anything that happens to any other character or how they think or feel, except through dialogue, which you can use to show this.
  • You will use first person: “I, me, mine, my”

Writing a single POV feels easier because it is easier. But it may not tell your story well enough. Writing some different points of view when you’re in the planning stages of writing and see what feels best to you. Your characters will let you in on the secret, if you really think it through.

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