What's the "best" POV for fiction -- and why?

Okay this is not meant to be serious… but in your opinion – just your opinion – what is the “Best” point of view / distance to tell a story in? You can be as vague or as specific as you like. But try to pick just one option and say why.

First person?
First person retrospective (a future self telling the story that happened to them)?
Third person close?
Third person multi-POV?

(I know there is no “best.” But – just for fun – to your mind – what is the best?

5 Likes

I have a personal preference for 1st Person because that’s what I grew up with. You get interesting observations and sometimes unreliable narrators and some clever turns of phrase. For example, this from the late, great Roger Zelazny:

I like libraries. It makes me feel comfortable and secure to have walls of words, beautiful and wise, all around me. I always feel better when I can see that there is something to hold back the shadows.

4 Likes

I’ve written in the first person and really enjoyed it. I could portray internal thoughts and feelings with a surer hand than third person. That was early on. However, when I tried telling my tales in the third person (for the freedom it gave me and because a book seller told me readers prefer third person stories), the results came out as too plot focused. I had feedback from a mentor that I needed to let the characters ‘smell the roses’. I wrote my next draft of the ms with that in mind, and the resultant book has had steady sales ever since publication on Amazon. I now have the third person firmly as my favourite mostly because it gives me the multiple POV advantage.

However, whenever I’m starting a new book (or I’m writing a tricky bit of prose at any time that requires it) I mentally write the scene in the first person (ie tell the story inside my head to the reader as if it were happening to me) to regain the intimacy I need to convey what I need to convey. When I put fingers to keyboard afterwards, the scene comes to life.

Answer to your question, Daniel: third person with multiple (although usually only 2, maybe 3) PoVs is my preferred choice. But I use first person within my mind to make the character’s reactions and thoughts as vibrant as I can.

7 Likes

This is the one-million-dollar question :smile:

As a storyteller, I have the most fun with first person because I get to fully be my main character. I put on their voice. I play pretend.

But from a reader’s point of view, I best enjoy third person close. If done correctly, it makes me feel I’m in safe and skilled hands, and it’s less difficult to suspend my disbelief while I read all the exposition. And I can still get easily immersed in the character’s world.

5 Likes

I think out a story in omniscient view. That teaches me from whose point of view the it should be told, and how many points of view are needed. In omniscient view, the story world can be seen as a map; a floor plan; or a single space - depending on the length of the narrative.

3 Likes

Probably the best idea would be to consciously and carefully consider which POV you should choose for any piece of writing before you get too deeply into it.
Personally I like close third person best:

  • I can choose to go right inside and share thoughts if I wish, or back out a little to just show their feelings.
  • I can switch POV to a different character to show the reader what’s happening somewhere else, or to someone else, or at some other time.
  • It even allows me to shift out to omniscient POV if there’s no suitable character to make an observation, to get some hidden information into the reader’s hands.

But even with all that said, some stories will be better suited to a first person POV.
Second person can be fun, but it’s pretty weird, and I think used mostly in ‘game-style’ narratives.
Mostly though I strongly prefer close 3rd person.

3 Likes

As a relative newcomer to this writing world. I struggle with the concepts of POV and narrator. Are they the same thing or is there a subtle difference? first person narrator is easy to understand but I think this stance would be quite difficult to maintain throughout a novel, easier maybe in the past tense.
If the protagonist is the narrator would this be first person?
Is it a good idea to have more than one POV when writing in the limited third person.
I have tried to read around the subject but mostly it is vague and much is contradictory.

3 Likes

I have always written in 3rd person multi-POV

1 Like

I find it hard to read 1st person if it’s not written well; still, some of my favorite books are 1st person POV. For writing, I prefer 3rd person close or 3rd person multi-POV. The least I enjoy is the 2nd person POV (“you are…”).

5 Likes

Third Person Close. I’ve always considered First Person to be egotistical, and I only use it for character development outside of the main story. I’m learning that there are good reasons for using First Person, and maybe I’ll try it someday. I’d like to understand the difference between Third Person omniscient and head-hopping.

3 Likes

Good morning, Daniel. As you well know by now, I write nonfiction books for the electric and electronics industries, but I have dabbled in short stories over the years. My favorite POV when I wrote short stories was First Person, because it was the easiest POV for me to write. For reading for entertainment, I have no one best POV, although I haven’t read many stories written in the Second Person.

2 Likes

Hi, this is Liz. I usually write in 3rd person because I want to share more than one POV. However, I keep it to just two maybe three POV’s within a story. I use first person to explore a particular character’s feelings on a subject. They’re more willing to talk to me when I let them write in first person!

5 Likes

For humor, First person is best. It is easier to exaggerate or stretch and have a strong, strange POV.
It is easier to reveal character.

4 Likes

Close third all the way for me.

I’ve written, first, third, omniscient, and combinations of those. I’ve read first, second, third, omniscient, and a mix, but third is where my heart is.

3 Likes

I like third person multi-POV. It gives flexibility to me in letting my readers become acquainted with my villains and “what makes them tick”, and allows me to fully flesh out my secondary characters.

4 Likes

I struggle with the concept of POV also and unreliable narrators. I’ve read lots of multi-POV books but don’t have a real preference yet. Where does space opera fit into this?

1 Like

For me, a lot depends on the genre and what as a storyteller I wish to achieve. And while I might be convinced one POV over another might be better for this book, or that one, I don’t think it behooves to limit my chisels and mallets by any degree, but to learn to tap better as a writer.

3 Likes

I think narrator and POV can be different, if the narrator is evident in the text.
Let me try. If I write:

Sienna, crawling through the underbrush as slowly and quietly as she could, felt a weird pressure building between her ears, as if some gathering storm was drawing closer…

then we’re in Sienna’s POV, close third person. If we make the narrator more evident:

Sienna crawled through the underbrush, her slow and stealthy movements a beacon drawing the attention of more and more of the under-dwellers, who misted up through the soil. Sienna felt this as a pressure building in her skull…

Hmm, that’s a fail - we’re not really in Sienna’s POV now, it’s more omniscient. Let me try again.

Sienna crawled through the underbrush with uncharacteristic caution, feeling a growing pressure inside her skull, threatening enough and somehow personal enough to puncture even her bubble of stubborn ignorance.

Maybe that’s separated the narrator’s voice - detached, a little superior - from Sienna, while still staying in her POV?
The POV I think gives us the viewpoint from which the character is experiencing the events. If in 1st person, then they’re the narrator too I think and so the two are the same. But in other POVs they are separate and could be written to be quite distinct, even contrasting.
I don’t think the narrator must be the author, either: the narrator can be some off-stage character within the story world, or some persona created for the purpose of telling the tale.
I think!

4 Likes

i love this, “They are more willing to talk to me when I let them write in first person” Yes! haha, so true!

2 Likes

I really like this “depends on the genre”, because I was thinking how much I love 1st person for any detective, murder mystery, suspense, and Sci-fi. It draws me deeper into my investment of the puzzle to be solved to see through their eyes in real-time as they do.

However, when it comes to romance, drama, and certain types of thrillers (like the Davinci code), I prefer 3rd person multi pov. I feel it provides more of a distance that I can sit back and watch all things unfold between the players and see equally how everyone is feeling.

I do feel my stories sound better to my own ears in the first person so that’s my go-to approach.
stashed away I do have a dark gothic tale with an omniscient narrator brewing…so yes it’s all about the genre for certain.

3 Likes