Why Point of View Matters

We’ve spent the past few weeks discussing the various points of view (POV). You may be wondering why I bothered spending so much time on one topic.

It’s simple: Point of view is a crucial (and often overlooked) aspect of storytelling. It is the foundation on which a story rests.

Consider how drastically different your favourite novel would be if you changed the point of view. Much of the humor of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy comes from the witticisms of the omniscient narrator. Imagine if instead it was told from Arthur Dent’s first person POV. Or if The Dresden Files were told from third person multiple POV instead of first person POV; the elements of suspense would be completely undermined. In any case, if you change the point of view, you no longer have the same story.

Since POV is such a powerful tool of the trade, it should be chosen carefully and conscientiously in the early stages of story development. In my experience, many authors write in whichever POV they are most comfortable with little regard for what is best for the story. I’ve done this too, and I caution you against it.

Choosing the right point of view helps determine which characters need to take centre stage in order to tell the story you have in mind. Understanding the rules of your chosen POV also helps bring those characters to life in the reader’s mind.

A well chosen POV can help dictate how much backstory and worldbuilding information need to be added. It can help determine when and how to add those details because the narrative is informed by what the POV character thinks about or sees.

Point of view can also be leveraged to build up the narrative’s tension or create dramatic irony. In order to use POV effectively you have to first understand what each type of POV can do and why.

So before you start writing, read up on each of the different types of point of view and figure out which one will best serve the story you most want to tell.

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