Point of view: when you finally get the hang of it, you wonder how you ever missed its importance in storytelling.
There are three definitions for point of view (POV), and each one gives insight into what an author needs to know about this most important element of fiction.
1. Point of view is a position from which someone or something is observed. Sure, an author could tell his story as if he’s observing the world around him, letting his words describe what happened to someone else, but that is called telling. We want to avoid telling at all costs. Rather, we want to show the story through the eyes of the character who is in the midst of the action—the point-of-view character.
2. Point of view is also a mental viewpoint or attitude. So, an author has the first definition down. He has his character’s viewpoint clearly where the reader is observing all the action. Now, the reader must lure that reader into the mind of the character. We want the reader to believe he or she is the character. This is done by connecting emotion to the observations.
3. The mental position from which a story is observed or narrated. Don’t let the word narrated fool you. Except for a short line or two for transition, an author wants the narrative to hide behind the viewpoint character and all that he or she does, says, and observes. This facet of point of view deals with how the story is told. As the author, one must decide if the story is best unfolded in first person (I, me, my), second person (you, yours) or third person limited (he/she, his/her, and they/them/their). An author must do his homework. Some genres work well when the story is told in first person. Others don’t work so well. For example, a reader of historical romance might have to adjust to first person viewpoint.
Second person point of view is fascinating when the story calls for this type of “narration.” A good example is an old short story entitled, “Don’t Look Behind You.” In this story, the narrator is a killer. He is talking to you, the reader. As the story progresses, you realize he’s talking to you because you have the book that contains this story—the only book that contains this story, and he—the narrator—has plans for you when you read the last line. I don’t know another way this story could be told to maximize the impact. Believe me. Every reader looks behind them.
When editing your manuscript, point of view is the most important element an author has for showing his story. No matter the viewpoint an editor uses, he should edit carefully with an eye toward showing everything through the point-of-view characters actions, thoughts, and dialogue. An author needs to grab his reader’s attention by drawing them into the point-of-view character’s reaction and emotions. The deeper the author delves into viewpoint, the more powerful the story.