49. Point of View Part 1: Whose Perspective is it Anyway?

Author: Nola Published: about 2 months ago.
Tags: Point of View, POV, first-person, second-person, third-person Category: Writing tips

Each scene in a novel is shaped by a particular point of view. It could be written from the perspective of one of the characters or from an all-seeing narrator who knows what everyone is thinking, feeling and doing. It could be an intimate focus (e.g. ‘I love …’) or a more removed angle (‘Miranda loves …’). Consider the following examples of the same scene written in different ways.

Example A

My lungs burned, but I couldn’t stop for breath. A bullet ricocheted off the lamppost in front of me, sending a roost of pigeons squawking into the night sky. I dodged to my left and scrambled down an alleyway, praying that the back door of Mama Rosa’s Pizzeria would be unlocked. I was nearly there. Just another few steps. Kaboom! A bullet shattered an empty bottle near my feet. Adrenalin surged through my body like lightning. Kyle was half a block away and closing. I had to take cover, but I couldn’t put Mama Rosa in danger after all she’d done for me. I skidded past the pizzeria and turned onto Main Street. I had to warn Nicki before it was too late.

Example B

You hear the bullet ricochet off the lamppost in front of you. Your lungs gasp for breath, but you have to keep moving. You dodge to your left and scramble down an alleyway that backs onto Mama Rosa’s Pizzeria. You pray the door will be unlocked, but you don't get the chance to find out. The wine bottle near your feet explodes in gunfire. Kyle’s only half a block away and you know you can’t put Mama Rosa in danger. Not after the trouble you caused her last time. You have to keep running, even though your heart’s about to burst from the rush of adrenalin. You skid around the corner into Main Street and make like Usain Bolt. You have to get to Nicki before Kyle does.

Example C

Chelsea’s heart hammered in her chest. She had to get away from Kyle, but where could she go? A bullet ricocheted off the lamppost in front of her, sending a roost of pigeons spiralling into the grey sky. She dodged to her left and sprinted down an alleyway. If the back door to Mama Rosa’s Pizzeria was unlocked, she could slip in unnoticed. A discarded bottle near her feet exploded in gunfire. She chanced a look behind her and saw Kyle gaining ground. She couldn’t put Mama Rosa at risk. Not after everything the woman had done for her. She ramped her legs into first gear and spun around the corner into Main Street. She had to keep running. She had to warn Nicki before it was too late.

These examples illustrate first-person, second-person and third-person points of view respectively. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be looking at the pros and cons of using different viewpoints. In the meantime, which of the above examples resonates with you the most and why? I’d love to hear your comments.

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