How Do You Pick A Point Of View (POV)

When any author writes fiction, he or she has to pick someone to tell the story.  First time authors may not have a good understanding of how to do this, and might enjoy some discussion by those of us who have done this several times.  Please tell us your methods and reasoning in the comments section.

First, a few definitions are in order so we're all talking about the same thing.

The reader should mentally “hear” someone telling the story, and in the hearing, become involved with the characters.  There are three ways to do this, and those ways are called “points of view” or “POV”.

The first POV is called a “first person narrative”, and is the main character telling the story to the reader.  Since only one of the characters is telling the story, he or she relates the thoughts, words, actions and feelings of all the characters, including himself or herself as he or she interprets them.  The writer must be careful to steer the other characters into words and actions that reflect how the writer wants the “first person” to interpret them.

The second POV is the “second person narrative”, and writers should usually avoid it like the plague.  Second person is characterized by the writer telling the reader how he or she acts and feels and what he or she says.  It is written with wording such as – "You feel my hands on your breasts and you tell me you want more", and doesn't work very well when writing for  more than one reader.


The third POV is the “third person narrative”.  Third person is the way many novels are written because it lets the writer appoint a third party as narrator of the story.  That third party has no actions in the story except to be privy to all the thoughts and feelings of all the characters and as such, can guide the reader so those thoughts and feelings give reason to their actions.  

It’s important to understand that the third person narrator can have no opinions about anything nor can they interpret any thought or action.  The third- person narrator only reports the facts as related and acted by the characters.  Any interpretation of those facts will be done by the characters and then related by the narrator.  The third person narrator is also gender neutral and thus has no gender bias.

So, how do you decide which POV to use?  Do you base the decision on the intended audience?  Maybe, as I do sometimes, you base the decision on the need to tell the story from the point of all the characters instead of just one.  Maybe you always write in one POV because you're comfortable with it.

Let us know in the comments so we can all learn to become better writers.