May 18, 2012

Book 101 - POV

The good old POV. The kind of narrator an author chooses for telling the story can make or break the fun and thrill of reading a book. Sometimes the plot works best in first person view then there's acall for an omniscient being who does not actually take part in the story but tells it to the audience.

I don't think I've encountered as many first person narrators in YA literature than in adult novels. Let us not dwell on the why, but take a closer look at this kind of narration instead.

Copyright by Ron Tanner

In a first person narrative the story is told by a character in the book, referring to him- or herself as "I". This kind of narrative directly conveys the deeply internal, otherwise unspoken thoughts of the narrator. First person narrations may also be told like third person ones, with a character experiencing the story without being aware that they are actually conveying it to an audience.

In the third person narration, each and every character is referred to by the narrator as "he", "she", or "they". Here, the narrator is an unspecified entity or uninvolved person that tells the story, but not a character within the story being told. Third person singular (he/she) provides the greatest flexibility to the author and thus is the most commonly used narrative mode in literature.

The third person narration is categorized along two axes. The first is between "subjective" narration, describing one or more character's feelings and thoughts, and "objective" narration, which does not describe the feelings or thoughts of any characters. The second axis is between "omniscient" and "limited", a distinction that refers to the knowledge available to the narrator.

While, like mentioned above, YA novels seem to have a monopoly on first person narration, historically, the third-person omniscient perspective has been the most commonly used. Personally I must confess, it took some getting used to the first person narrative in YA books for me, maybe I've simply been too used to third person narration, but depending on the story I have to say both narratives have something going for them.

How about you? Do you prefer first person narration? Or maybe the omniscient third person narrator? Or aren't you all that picky when it comes to from what perspective a story is being told? Let me know!


  1. For once, this is a subject I'm NOT picky about. As long as the POV fits the story, either works for me. If it doesn't work then it's like a car crash!

  2. The answer to your question about preferences regarding the perspective from which a story is being told is: yes, experienced readers do care.

    I am a retiree with a degree in communications from back in the day when the major was heavy on all the language arts. The degree served me well.

    I am now retired and writing a historical fiction novel based on an unresolved murder that occurred in 1926.

    I belong to several critique groups and the individuals constantly criticize the fact that I have no narrator who tells the facts. I just sprinkle pertinent facts in between dialgoue and actions.

    The question keeps coming up, "Who knows these facts?"

    I need a third-person omnicient unspecified entity who is not a character.

    Do you have any examples of successful books using this style narrator?

    Fiction writing--I have no narrator! I have inserted facts and background here and there, but they stand alone, not attributable to an entity. The question keeps coming up, "Who knows these facts?"j
    omniscient non-character