Choosing your Point of View

My plot for world domination has begun.
Point of view is one of the more overlooked components of young adult books. That's right, petty humans, that term your English teacher mentioned in high school that you haven't paid much attention to since then. It matters.

But I have a confession: I, too, did not much consider POV when I began my YA novel (and thus began my plan for usurping every major government in the world and crowning myself your leader). So, future minions, listen to me: I've read many manuscripts that, based on both the author's writing style and the story itself, might improve with a switch of POV.

What are the different types of POV? Do not fear. I've created a long list below of possible (and even the unlikely) POVs for your novel. Already written your manuscript? That's okay, it isn't too late to change POV if needed. Already picked the right POV? Excellent job. Perhaps when I am King of Earth I will appoint you to some minor position in my future staff. Maybe.

(Human-Friendly) POV List


I don't know why I picked the eye-clock picture.
I thought it was cool. Do I need to have a reason, human? 


I told the story.

Singular First Person POV

This is by far the most common of YA POV types. It is narration through the eyes of one character who will always speak of themselves in terms of 'I.' 

Advantages: The reader is inside the character's head, experiencing everything as they experience it. It offers an easy connection with the main character and to the story.

Disadvantages: It is very limited. The reader will only ever know things that the main character knows. For a writer, voice is very key in this POV type. The reader is inside the MC's head--they need to be well-acquainted with not just her thoughts but the way he/she thinks. 

This Might Work for you If: You need your readers to find a deeper connection with your main character. If you excel at strong voice. If you are all right with your readers being bound by the musings/maybe mistaken perspective of one character.

YA Books that use Singular First Person POV: THE HUNGER GAMES, DIVERGENT, MATCHED (Book #1), THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, OBSIDIAN, THRONE OF GLASS, SERAPHINA, THE GODDESS TEST, THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS, BEFORE I FALL, (Okay, so generally most YA books. You get the point.)

Somehow I mean for this picture to
represent 3rd POV. Just go with it. 

He/She told the story.

Singular Third Person POV

This type is also pretty common in YA books. It is narration following the experiences of one character, who will be described as 'he' or 'she.'

Advantages: The reader, like in singular first person POV, experiences the events of the story as the character experiences them, but in this case, the reader sees them removed from the character's head, as if they're standing beside them. Note: This does not mean, however, that the reader does not experience the character's thoughts or voice. The writer can go as deep into the character's head as they desire, but the reader will still be a separate entity from that character.

Disadvantages: Also like singular first person POV, the reader is only in the mind or observing the experiences of one character. Generally, it is a little more removed, so if may, if not executed properly, not connect the reader well enough with the character (though the same is true in 1st POV). It is generally limited. 

This Might Work for you If: You want to tell the story OF your main character, rather than have the main character tell it. If, in any way, you have a separate 'narrator' sort of character (think of a voice over in the movie that's not the main character), this would also work. If you want your readers to be less bound to the limited perspective of your main character.

YA Books that use Singular Third Person POV: HARRY POTTER (Except the few occasions when we  have chapters with a different main character, like in the beginning of books 4-7),  UGLIES.



Looks like ACROSS THE UNIVERSE cover! *Loki fan-girling*

We told the story.

Plural First Person POV

This type is more rare, but definitely not unheard of in YA books. It is the first person POV of two (You can do more, but it is not recommended because it is too many characters' minds to keep track of.) characters who tell the story back and forth. For instance, one chapter might be told through the first character, and the next might be told through the second, alternating and using 'I' for each character.

Advantages: It offers the deep insight into the minds of two separate characters. It gives more perspective into the overall story, since there are two minds experiencing it rather than one. 

Disadvantages: It can be difficult to pull off because the voice of the characters need to be very distinguished. Since the writer is calling them BOTH I, the reader may not realize that they are switching POV right away. It can lead to a fish out of water feeling in the beginning. 

This Might Work Well For You If: You have two plots in your story that converge at one point, especially if there is a romantic subplot involved between the two characters (not necessary, though). If you want both of those plotlines to still be limited by that one character's perspective.

YA Books that use Plural First Person POV: CROSSED (Matched Book #2), CODE NAME VERITY, LEGEND, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, and mine (not a real book yet, but hehe.)

Why are they wearing rain boots? Why is she holding
an umbrella. The sun is out.
Stupid human children. 

They told the story.

Plural Third Person POV

This type is probably the most rare. It is the alternating third person POVs between more than one character, anywhere from two to many. Every character is described as he or she.

Advantages: It can tell multiple story lines through many different characters, allowing the reader to see into the heads/motivations of many people in the story. 

Disadvantages: It is difficult for the reader to keep track of that many characters. Like plural first person POV, the voices of all the characters need to be distinct, but not as much so as that kind. 

This Might Work Well For You If: You have a story told through more than one perspective and you want your reader to observe their stories rather than experience them together. 

YA Books that use Plural Third Person POV: THE DIVINERS, BZRK, THE INFERNAL DEVICES series, THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS series, THE SEVEN REALMS series, SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELLING PANTS series, PRETTY LITTLE LIARS series, WICKED LOVELY, CINDER


Pretend the girl and the shadow aren't
the same person. Thank you. 

Other

There are some other POVs that deserve to be mentioned, though some are very rare.

Plural POV, alternating between first person for one character and third for another: This combines the last two main POVs that I mentioned. It might work for you if you have two plot lines but want a very distinguished 'main character.'

Omniscient: This can be done in either of the third person POV types, though I have never read a YA book that uses this. The reader follows a main character, yet is also aware of the thoughts of other characters in the scene. This may be through head jumping in the narration without chapter breaks or through the voice of a narrator who informs the reader about what each character is thinking. 

Second Person POV: This can be done in two ways. 1) The speaker addresses another character throughout the book, like in WHEN WE BROKE UP and STOLEN. 2) The reader and the character are the exact same person and referred to as 'you.' I have never seen this done in any book, let alone YA. I've only ever seen it in short stories, but I thought I'd include that all the same.

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There, humans! All the POV types! Let me know if I messed up any of the books I've mentioned (though Loki never messes up, of course, you may blame Amanda Foody for any mistakes), or if you think some deserve to be added to the list. 

Which ones are you using/have you used? Why did you choose that/those? 

With less than kind regards,
Loki


7 comments:

  1. Charles Benoit's YOU is in second person. And then, of course, there are the books that use another character as a second person (WHEN WE BROKE UP, or Lucy Christopher's STOLEN). I have a few 2nd person scenes in my WIP, so I'm super sensitive to it right now :)

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    1. Ooh, okay! I'll make sure to add those. I didn't consider the other character as the second person. I haven't read a book like that, and that makes me SUPER curious.

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  2. My favourites are singular and plural first person. (To read AND write in!) I'm a big fan of The Scorpio Races, told in plural first, but I agree, I did feel a little confused at first while I settled into the narrators' views. I like reading in 1st because I feel like I'm totally "in" the story. I get to go on some wild adventures, to be sure.

    Thanks for taking time away from world domination to talk to we pathetic human beans, Loki! ;)

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  3. I'm really curious about the plural POV alternating between first and third. Does anyone know of any examples (YA or otherwise)?

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    1. The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. Nathaniel is third person, Bartimaeus is first. I think Kitty is third as well. :)

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  4. When I started, no one told me about the whole "don't write more than two first person POVs because it's confusing", so my trilogy (which is the main thing I've written that's finished and actually edited) has five narrators for each book.

    Some of them I kept from book to book (Aifa, Cormac); some were only in book one or even only half of book one (Jennie, Alex); some turned up in book two (Alys, Lenna, Bronwyn); and one didn't appear until book three (Sean). It was a fun experiment, though, making them all sound unique.

    I really liked it. Might carry on with that in other books. I'm currently writing something in singular first person, though.

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  5. I think Maggie Stiefvater is a master at pov! THE SCORPIO RACES is a lyrical and harrowing example of plural first person.THE RAVEN BOYS moves quickly and suspensefully as a plural close third person. Her pov choices skyrocket her already amazing prose into the ether world of awesomeness!! :)

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