Writing Ramble: Unusual Points of View

First, sorry for the lack of content lately. I’ve still been sick, and there’s been a fair amount of personal stress going on as well. I’ll do my best to keep up with posts, but there might be less reviews than normal, even though I am reading some truly fantastic books at the moment that I plan to review here as soon as possible. That being said, this post is about points of view that I think don’t occur enough, and my thoughts on the varying effect these points of view can have. Apologies if it’s a bit rougher around the edges than normal, I’m mostly recovered but still not 100%.

Deep POV

Deep points of view are typically written from extreme first person. Where regular first person might read like this:

I felt a searing pain as my parry missed, I see a glint of red light as my rival’s sword withdraws from my stomach.
If this fight doesn’t end soon, I think, I will.

Deep point of view is more like this:

I miss the parry and searing pain tears through my stomach, almost blinding me as my rival withdraws his sword on a gush of warm blood. The light glints redly off the blade and I know I don’t have long to finish things, one way or another.

Lindsay Buroker and Ilona Andrews are both authors that write deep POV very well. I love deep POV for action, character moments, or just in general, but I know some people prefer a more distanced narration. It draws you into the character’s world, but if there’s a lot of worldbuilding that needs to happen, it can seem clunky.

A purple humanoid approaches with the distinctive red garb of a trader, obviously a Ph’largor merchant.

Another potential downside is that deep POV requires a main character to be relatable and to an extent likeable, because readers might not otherwise stick around for the character to grow and evolve.

Omniscient third person

I’ve read some great books from this point of view, but it can seem a little fairytale-ish, or kill tension and timing if the narrator too frequently warns of future events. For example:

Mary closed the door, but little did she know she had forgotten to lock it…

It can be done effectively, a lot of sci-fi or high fantasy are told this way, parts of the Harry Potter series are told like this, but it can create too much distance between the reader and the characters, making the plot lack urgency.

Second Person

Very little fiction is written in second person, which is why it can be effective. I’ve mostly read this in short bursts, as in characters breaking the fourth wall:

This is a long story, but listen to it anyway, you have the time.

Or to prove a point:

You won’t believe what I say next, but trust me, it really happened, and it was really dangerous.

I also think it can work for micro-fiction or a short story, because the format isn’t long enough for the novelty to wear off.

You were standing on the street when I first saw you, and I knew right then that you’d come to screw my life up again.

I don’t mind second person, it can seem conversational and bypass the usual need for heavy dialogue that a short work of fiction usually demands, which the character’s internal monologue with a reader takes the place of—but even I would probably to pick up a full novel written in second person.

Overall, each perspective has it’s own benefits and downsides, and genres or themes do tend to be told in similar POVs, the same way they might feature similar tropes or character arcs. Changing the perspective (especially in a shorter work) can be a great way of adding interest or adding or revealing information (I’m a big fan of unreliable narrators for adding realism and mystery to a plot), and even though I tend to favour first person in my writing, limited third person is starting to grow on me. If you have thoughts, opinions, or a b-side POV feel free to share in the comments or the contact page, I’d love to hear from you.

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