Point-of-view is so important to the success of your story that it might be called a matter of life or death.
So, it is important that you understand what each one will enable you to do.
Imagine You’re Telling The Story Of A Super Sleuth
Imagine a man who has such super human powers of perception and deduction that he seems to be superhuman.
- He can tell you where you were walking this morning by the specific type of mud on your shoe.
- He can smell the smoke of a man’s pipe and, recognizing the scent of a tobacco from the Orient, deduce that the smoker is a sea faring man.
- He can…oh, you get the idea.
Sounds A Little Far Fetched
Now, if the super sleuth narrates his own story in the first person point-of-view it would probably be a bit unbelievable.
This is why the unbelievable talents of a super sleuth like Sherlock Holmes must be filtered through the view point of Dr. Watson.
By doing this, the author is able to make the main character more believable because the narrator expresses the doubts of the reader before the reader can.
“What an amazing deduction Holmes. However did you come to that?”
“Elementary my dear Watson, elementary.”
A Little Difference Can Go A Long Way
So the choice between first person point-of-view and a subset of that called first person reported is the difference between Sherlock Holmes being a flop and becoming a legend.
You see, there are two major points of view: First Person and Third Person.
Depending on the story you have to tell one point-of-view will be more suited than another.
Once you decide on which point of view is best to tell your story you may have other decisions within that decision.
Let’s Take Another Example
Holden Caufield is the first person narrator of The Catcher in the Rye.
Through this point-of-view we are able to experience all the ups and downs of life as a privileged adolescent in America. We can really feel what it’s like to be in this kid’s skin.
“Anyway, I’m sort of glad they’ve got the atomic bomb invented. If there’s ever another war, I’m going to sit right the hell on top of it. I’ll volunteer for it, I swear to God I will.”
Now, What If We change To Third Person?
He was glad, he thought, that they had invented the atomic bomb. If there was ever another war he was going to sit right on top of it. He’d volunteer for it. He swore to God he would.
Now, the changes are slight but it creates a different emotional distance between the reader and the characters.
We are being told about Holden’s thoughts as opposed to feeling them first hand.
Because the narrator is speaking from the narrator’s voice as opposed to the character’s he doesn’t use the specific words that Holden uses and it is a whole different experience. It is a whole different book.
It’s the difference between…
Success Or Failure
So these are some of the subtle differences that can make a dramatic impact in a novel.
It can be the difference between an all time classic like The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes or The Catcher in the Rye and a story where the reader doesn’t make it past the first chapter.
It’s up to you to decide.
These are the things you must consider very carefully as you begin to write your novel.