Today, I’m going to talk about POV – Point of View. In writing, your POV is defined as who is telling the story. You’ll hear terms like “first person”, “third person limited”, or “third person omniscient.” They’re big, fancy terms that really do mean something. Before you start writing, it’s important to know who is voicing your story and why.
There are lots of places on the web that tell you how to POV. I’m not writing that article. I’m writing how not to POV. Here are five examples of POV forms that should never be used.
- First Person Arrogant. This story is actually about the author, even though he’ll deny it to his grave. My name is John… the character’s name is Jon… that’s not even close, man! It’s amazing how awesome he is. Look at how he knows every answer to everything. Look at how he knows everything everyone is thinking and feeling ALL THE TIME. Watch him as he parades over the plot like the proverbial pigeon on the chess board. Be amazed at how he’s exactly like every ex you’ve ever had.
- Third Person Whiplash. This story isn’t omniscient… it’s scattered. We’re in Jon’s head. Now we’re feeling Mabel’s remorse. Now we take on the personal struggle of Caden. And back to Jon. Now we’ll introduce Paul, but we’ll see him through Mabel’s tears. The cat might have some feelings on this scene, too. Someone call a lawyer… my neck and back hurt from reading this story. There’s definitely spinal injury going on here… it’s okay, we can settle out of court.
- Second Person Not-A-Blog-Post. You think second person puts the reader into the scene. You think they’ll relate. Then you tell them they’re male… except they’re not. And then you tell them they love pickle flavored ice cream and that they enjoy kicking puppies when no one’s looking. Second person usually sucks. Avoid it… or at least be very judicious in its use. Unless you’re writing a blog post. Then write in second person all you want.
- Mixed Person WTF. Sometimes I just have to wonder… did the writer start the story in 3d person and then decide to switch to 1st, but forgot to go back and edit?
- Author Person (Because my voice counts, too!) The story is clipping along with all the right pieces in all the right places. The dialogue is natural. The characters are fun. The story is established as 3rd POV limited from Mabel’s point of view. Then all of a sudden, there it is: “The sweater Caden had on was so ugly.” It’s floating. It’s not Mabel’s voice. It’s not even Jon’s observation. It’s just a line… the author’s line… the writer’s opinion, stuck in there like a floating turd. Flush it!! Flush it!!
These are, of course, meant totally tongue-in-cheek. That said, if you see these reflected in your writing, change it. DoItNow. Have pity on your editor.