What are the Different Types of POV for Novels?

Minna-san, konnichi wa! 

In this post, I want to talk to you about the varying types of POVs that you should consider when deciding on one for your novel.

You may find that you have a particular POV that you’re more drawn to or you may need to experiment with different types of POVs before you find one right for you and your book. Or you may enjoy writing in multiple POVs.

Regardless of which POV you decide to choose for yourself, I hope this post helps you to think of what to consider when selecting your POVs.

With that being said, let’s move on to today’s post. Ikou! (Let’s go!)

What are the Different Types of POV for Novels?
Image: Pixabay/Graphic: Canva

What is a POV?

First things first.

What is a POV?

A POV is the acronym for point-of-view and expresses the viewpoint of your MC or protagonist. A POV typically filters the thoughts, feelings, and perspective as well as relays the experiences and events that unfold through the eyes of the characters to the readers as a way to make the readers aware of the character’s situation.

How much or how little the readers are made aware of your MC’s circumstance will vary depending on the POV and the number of characters involved will also vary depending on the POV as the POV can also apply to other characters besides your MC, though I would argue that your MC should be the primary character to focus on when you decide on your POV.

In other words, you can include your MC’s POV without the POV of other characters but you can’t or shouldn’t include the POV of other characters without the MC’s POV.

Wow, I’ve said POV one too many times in this post already. I guess that’s something we’re going to have to get used to in this post. Moving on!

First Person POV

The First Person POV is, from what I’ve seen, the most common POV among YA fiction.

The First Person POV occurs when the MC of your book is the one narrating the events of your novel and is typically used in the “I”, “My, “Me”, or “We” context.

Example:

“Blood boiled and seethed beneath my veins and it fueled my desire — a desire I never knew I had.”

“A woman’s scream pierced my ears.”

“Staggering forward, I crawled down the open hallway–“

“The crunch on gravel sent me whirling around. The torch’s flame whipped a flash of heat across my face as I turned…”

(These are all examples taken from my personal notes and they may be very small snippets taken from my upcoming WIPs. These lines are all also not taken from the same WIP.)

Also note that these lines are taken from the narratives of my WIP, not from the dialogue.

A benefit of the First Person POV is that you get a very personal first-hand account of the MC’s frame of reference and personal experience, which is a very different experience than having these accounts filtered through the intermediary exchange between character and reader through a third-party narrator, which we’ll discuss in detail in the next section below.

Another benefit of writing in the First Person style narrative is that it can be easier to navigate the First Person POV compared to the Third Person, which can be complicated as there are several Third Person POVs to choose from and it can get confusing.

A downfall of writing in the First Person is that it can be very limiting as the readers are limited to what the characters know and anything outside the character’s frame of reference won’t receive much acknowledgment if the characters are just as much in the dark as the readers.

Another downfall is that you would have to consider the fact that you, the narrator, isn’t the one telling the story, but rather your MC, and therefore you would have to keep in mind your character’s voice — that they’re the ones telling the story, not you.

Also, if you are shifting the First Person POV between different characters, then keep in mind the distinct voices between each character. Which brings me to…

First Person Multiple

The First Person Multiple, which I honestly don’t know if this is a thing, but there’s the Third Person Multiple so why not the First Person Multiple too?

Anyways, the First Person Multiple like the Third Person Multiple is the First Person POV from multiple characters within a single story. It is also limited to what that character only knows. So if one character is keeping something in the dark from another character, then when you switch POV to the character in the dark, they shouldn’t know the thing that’s kept from them, until revealed or discovered.

This type of POV is good if you want to keep certain characters in the dark about a situation but want to shed some light on your readers, especially if you think that shifting POVs between characters will help you to carry the plot of the story.

You shouldn’t shift POVs for the hell of it as it should serve a purpose for the development of your characters and the overall plot of your story.

If you do utilize this type of POV, make sure you give each character a distinct voice to indicate which character is narrating the events at a specific time. I also recommend shifting the POVs by chapter and even title the chapter by character name or a name that best identifies who is speaking.

An example of someone who utilizes this technique and who does separate characters by chapters is Marie Lu, author of The Young Elites Trilogy. Adelina Amouteru is the protagonist and the main teller of the story; however, the author also shifts to the POVs of other supporting characters in the story.

Another example is The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, which is told from the POV of the protagonist Rachel as well as from the other main characters in the story, Anna and Megan.

Third Person POV

The Third Person POV is when an outside, third-party narrator is relaying the experiences and events of what is going on in the characters’ lives as well as the plot of the novel, rather than the characters themselves.

From what I understand, the Third Person POV is perhaps the most common type of POV across many genres and among the adult fiction category. Words like “He”, “She”, “Him”, “His”, “Hers”, and “They” are used in this context as well as the characters’ actual names across all Third Person POVs.

Example:

“Alysander swept the entire shore with his eyes. He stared at an object that appeared to have washed ashore — a mound buried beneath the sand. He tapped the object with the toe of his boot before sweeping the sand off the sharp edges of what appeared to be…a journal? He knelt down to pick up the small, leather-bound pages.”

(This example was also taken from my personal notes, and is a slight excerpt from The Serenia Chronicles.)

There are also five main types of Third Person POVs to consider before diving right in:

1. Third Person Limited

2. Third Person Multiple

3. Third Person Omniscient

4. Third Person Objective

5. Third Person Limited Omniscient

Third Person Limited

The Third Person Limited POV is, as it says in the name, a Third Person POV that is limited to a specific character — most notably, your protagonist. It is basically a Third Person version of the First Person POV where the outside narrator limits the readers to know only what the character sees, knows, and experiences from a Third Person perspective.

The benefits and downfalls of the Third Person Limited POV are pretty much the same as with the First Person POV as your readers are limited to what the outside narrator and to what the character the narrator shadows know, feel, and experience. But it can be easier to navigate for the readers and easier to write for the writers.

Third Person Multiple

The Third Person Multiple POV is when the outside narrator is relaying the thoughts, experiences, and events of more than one character.

A major downfall of writing in the Third Person Multiple is the demands of keeping up with differing POVs from multiple characters, which can be difficult from both a writer and reader standpoint as the writer needs to determine which POV from which character is right for a specific time or event during the novel and the reader can be easily confused if the POV of a specific character is not made clear.

A way to remedy the confusion is to separate multiple POVs by chapters rather than scenes as it becomes less confusing. Also, find a way to make the POV of each character distinct enough so that the readers know exactly what characters they’re reading when they start the next chapter.

As mentioned above, I’ve read a book where the author titles each chapter that focuses on a specific character with the character’s name. Though this technique is utilized within the First Person Multiple POV, I’m sure the same could be applied with the Third Person Multiple as well. Just something to consider.

Of course, using character names to title the chapter is a simple and easy way to go about it. It may be a technique that I utilize as well, but I still have time to think about how I want to go about it. If you can figure out a way to make each chapter distinct enough to let the readers know whose POV they’re experiencing, then, by all means, go for it.

Third Person Omniscient

The Third Person Omniscient is when an omnipotent narrator details the life, events, and experiences of not only the MC or of just one initial character, but this “all-knowing” narrator is capable of going beyond the perspective of one character and can even relay such information to the reader to give the full scope of the story.

A major benefit to this type of POV is the fact that, unlike previous POVs, the range of knowledge from the characters that the narrator relays to the readers is unlimited.

A major downfall is that this type of POV can be overwhelming to the amount of information that the writer needs to relay and that the reader needs to take in which can confuse both the writers and readers.

Third Person Objective

The Third Person Objective POV is perhaps the least intimate among the POVs as the third-party narrator relays the character’s actions and the events unfolding, but omits the character’s thoughts and feelings, keeping the reader in the dark.

An obvious downfall of the Third Person Objective is that it lacks intimacy between the characters and readers as the readers are unaware of the character’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions and it forces readers to determine the characters’ sentiment through actions, physical reactions, and events that either causes those reactions or is caused by the actions of the characters.

An obvious benefit is it keeps the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of the character private, and the writer is less likely to give too much away to the reader. Though I’d argue that I don’t like to keep my readers completely in the dark and would at least offer them a flashlight to help guide them, which is why I prefer all other Third Person and First Person POVs. But that’s just my opinion.

Third Person Limited Omniscient

I have also seen the Third Person Limited Omniscient POV thrown around in the novel-writing world. From what I’ve heard, the best way I can describe it is that it is a hybrid of the Third Person Limited and the Third Person Multiple POV, or it is a cocktail of the Third Person Limited, the Third Person Multiple, and the Third Person Omniscient POV.

The Third Person Limited Omniscient POV does have the all-knowing component of the outside third party narrator, and it does shift between multiple characters from the Third Person standpoint, but the narrator limits it to relaying information about one specific character at a time, rather than bouncing back and forth between different characters and events at any given time, which is more commonly known as “head-hopping”.

This type of POV is not as overwhelming as the Third Person Omniscient, but it does force the readers to keep up with multiple characters within a story since it isn’t as limiting as to the Third Person Limited.

Second Person POV

I’ve decided to include the Second Person POV last as this is the least common and perhaps the rarest type of POV that readers will see in most genres. From what I’ve read, the Second Person POV is most likely used in experimental literature and interactive fiction and is not the recommended POV to use when deciding on a POV for your novel.

I’ll link to some articles that discuss a little more about it below as I am not well-versed enough to discuss it.

A Word on Tenses

Now, what about tenses?

It is also a good idea to think about the kind of tenses that you want to use for your novel.

When I first started writing, I never gave much thought to the type of tenses I wanted to use for my writing. I just knew the POV, and as a result, I shifted back and forth between tenses while writing out of sheer habit and lack of paying attention as deciding on my tenses wasn’t the main focus.

So there are two main types of tenses used in fiction from what I’ve seen, and that’s past and present tense. Of course, there’s the obvious future tense, but in terms of fiction-writing, that’s not something that I see at all. That’s not to say that it doesn’t exist, I just haven’t seen any with future tenses.

Now with that being said, the tenses that you choose to write in should depend solely on the type of writing you wish to convey. Past tense does seem to be more common than present tense, but slightly lacks the intimacy of present tense. Yet, the present tense feels more awkward, unnatural, and jarring to the reader compared past tense.

However, I naturally write in past tense despite me wanting to have a more personal connection between my story and my readers, which is why I am using First Person in my first novel. Part of me thought about switching over to present tense, but I just stick with writing past tense since it’s what I write naturally and I don’t think the lack of intimacy is significant enough to switch over. But we’ll see.

This brings me to my next point…

What Will Be the POV and Tense for My WIPs?

So what POV and Tense will I be using for my WIPs?

The POV that I will be using for book one in the Foreshadowed Series is the First Person POV; however, I will be switching over to the First Person Multiple POVs for books two and three in the Foreshadowed Series as there are perspectives from other characters in the series that I want the readers to see.

The POV for The Evergloom Series will also be in the First Person POV and as it is an anthology series will most likely be told from the sole perspective of one character in each book in the series.

The Serenia Chronicles will be told in a dual perspective most likely and it will either be told in the Third Person Multiple POV, or Third Person Limited Omniscient.

And The Confessions of a Murderess Series will most likely be in the First Person POV, but I am not a hundred percent sure of the direction I want to take it and this is subject to change.

As I mentioned above, I will most likely be using past tense for most, if not all of my novels because it seems the most natural to me. Otherwise, if I use present tense, then I would have to constantly force myself to remember that I am writing present, not past tense. And it just wouldn’t feel natural.

Additional Resources

Here are some additional resources that dive deeper into both the types of POVs and Tenses. Some of these articles will give examples of what books or series utilize certain POV types. Hope these help.

Types of POV (The Writersaurus)

How to Choose Your Novel’s Point-Of-View & Tense (Well-Storied)

Third Person Limited Point Of View | Definitions & Examples (Tutors)

How to Choose the Right Tense for Your Novel (The Write Practice)

Writing First Person and Third Person POV (The Writings of Jenna Moreci)

Past VS Present Tense (The Writings of Jenna Moreci)

So there you have it, the types of POVs that are out there for novels.

I hope that this post helps you to think about what to consider when deciding on your POVs and tenses, and that you base your decision solely on what works best for you and your novel.

If you want to stay up-to-date on new posts, including when I update on my WIPs, then be sure to follow me or any of my social media links below.

I will be back with another post next Friday at 10:30 AM PST. So stay tuned!!!

What is your favorite type of POV to read? What is you favorite type of POV to write? Do you like to experiment with different POVs? What about tenses? Let me know in the comments below!

(❁´◡`❁)

Until next time, ja mata ne,

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What are the Different Types of POV for Novels?

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