Writing Tip #42

What’s your point of view? I’m currently reading The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory, and the thing that struck me right away, on page one, was the author’s choice of narrative point of view: first person.

In writing, there are four narrative points of view:

    • First person or “I”: This tells the story from one character’s point of view. In the case of The Red Queen, that character is Margaret Beaufort.
    • Third person omniscient: Here, the author chooses to show the inner thoughts and motives of all characters in the story — at the same time.
    • Third person limited:The writer chooses one character’s point of view for the novel, chapter or section and writes in third person (he, she, etc.). Baby Grand is, for the most part, third person limited point of view.
    • Second person or “you”: This point of view is rarely used in fiction because the “you” would refer to the reader who, if she’s reading fiction, probably doesn’t really want to be involved in the story anyway.

Now, I’d be lying if I said I set out to write Baby Grand in any point of view at all. I just sat down at my laptop and started writing Chapter 1, and it came out as third person limited. I would assume that Philippa Gregory might say the same about The Red Queen, but I could be wrong. Perhaps there is a reason the story is being told not just from Margaret Beaufort, but from Margaret Beaufort in the first person (remember, Gregory could have also told the story from Margaret Beaufort’s viewpoint, but as a third person limited point of view).

Point of view is just a choice authors make. Think about what suits the purpose of your book. Baby Grand is a thriller. Third person omniscient doesn’t really work, because I need the characters and the readers not to know some things along the way, and first person didn’t interest me here because I knew I wanted to tell this story from the point of view of multiple characters.

Perhaps, after all, there was a part of me who knew exactly what I was doing when I chose third person limited as a way to tell the story of Baby Grand. It was, after all, the logical choice. But I truly feel as if I had nothing to do with it. I know that writers say that kind of thing all the time, about how they were “only the vessel” by which their stories are being told, and I’m not sure I always believe that, although there were times while writing my novel that I did feel as though things were happening without my input. But when it comes to “choosing” a point of view, there really was no choice. Believe it or not, and I’m not sure I do, Baby Grand chose for me.

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