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Choosing a POV character

July 16, 2010

If you are writing in third person limited POV with multiple POV characters, you have to choose a POV character for every scene (or every chapter, depending on how often you switch point of view).

Since readers will witness the scene through the eyes of the POV character, it’s an important choice.

Here are a few considerations that might help.

  • Emotions: Which character experiences the most intense or the most interesting emotions in this scene?
  • Stakes: Which character has the most to gain or to lose?
  • Impact: Which character will be influenced most by the events in the scene? Who will change the most?
  • Suspense: What information do you want readers to have? What do you want to keep hidden a while longer? Remember that concealing information from the reader, when the POV character knows about that information and should normally be thinking about it, is cheating.
  • Identification: Who do I want readers to identify with? Point of view is a tool that steers how close readers feel to the characters. Sharing the character’s thoughts and feelings gives readers a chance to connect with the character.
  • Motivation: Whose motivations need to be shown to make his or her actions believable?
  • Descriptions: Which character would notice the details I want my readers to notice? If I want to describe a character or a setting, I do it from the point of view of a character who has never met that person and is unfamiliar with the setting. But the POV character would have no reason to notice or think about how a family member or her own apartment looks.
  • Subtext: Whose thoughts and feelings reveal something that contradicts her actions or dialogue and is not obvious in her body language or facial expressions?
  • Involvement: Who is the most active character in the scene? Making the POV character a passive observer who’s not involved in the main action can be a bad idea, at least if you do it too often.

Especially for the important scenes (the opening scene, the climax, the last scene, love scenes…), I consider carefully whose point of view would make the scene more powerful.

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2 comments

  1. This article was succinct and one of the best I’ve seen on the subject. Thanks for posting it.


    • Thanks for commenting. I’m glad you found the post helpful.

      If you click on “writing tips” in the menu on the right, you’ll find more articles on POV.



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