One of the first most important things you need to decide when choosing to sit down and write your story is which point of view/perspective you want to write it in. This is going to determine how you are going to write the story, and also how much detail you are going to be allowed to go in.
There are two most common forms of pint of view (POV), and that is either 1st or 3rd person. There are benefits and disadvantages to both, and so it is how you want to tell the story that helps you decide which one to choose. There is also another option, which is 2nd, but it is rarely done and I go into a bit more detail about that near the end of this article if you do want to know about it. But first, I am going to go into detail and 1st and 3rd.
Benefits of 1st person
1st person means you have chosen to write from your protagonists perspective as if you are telling it through their eyes. This means pronouns such as ‘I’ and ‘me’ are going to become your best friend.
Choosing to write in this perspective means it opens up more ground to cover the characters feelings as you get a real insight to their thoughts. You are following how they react and act with each event and you are learning alongside them as they go.
A huge benefit to writing in this style is it helps the reader to connect to the character as you are seeing their emotions and reactions to everything that is happening. You can see the trauma that is still with them and the way they attach themselves to others.
Because you are choosing to write about this story, it means you only have to worry about how they come across on the page. Of course, you want as many characters liked as possible, but your main focus is your protagonist, so it is their thoughts and actions you have to worry about — a.k.a. it means it is their character you need to make sure you build wholeheartedly.
Now there are some negatives — it does mean you are taking everything from their point of view, so it can become an unrealistic narrative as it is always from their opinion. For example, the villains are always going to be seen as the bad guy because they are trying to hurt the character. You do not get the opportunity to dive in others backgrounds as much and even when you do, it is still the reaction of your character you are getting and they would only take the information they want to rather than take everything into perspective — just something to think about if choosing this POV.
Benefits of 3rd person
When it comes to 3rd person, it means you are choosing to become the narrative yourself. So pronouns such as ‘him’, ‘her, ‘he’, ‘she,’ ‘they’, ect.. are would you would be using. You still need to decide who’s story it is you are telling, but the difference is that it is still you (the narrator) telling it, and not the character itself.
This opens up for a boarder spectrum to each event. When writing in 1st person, you can only say what the character is seeing. Whilst with 3rd, you can point out something across the field that they might not have supported. For example, the character might have missed the jewel in the grass, but because you are the narrator, you can point it out and explain that they did miss it. With 1st, it just never would have been noticed.
It also means you have the opportunity to jump around easier. Say you are writing a battle scene. By being the omniscient present overseeing the events, you can say that the protagonist is fighting one on one, but you can also say that a friend behind them was able to remove another solider that was about to stab the protagonist in the back. It just gives extra detail you wouldn’t have been able to do if it was only being seen through one character’s eyes.
Another factor which is a big reason why many writers decide to go with 3rd person is that the huge disadvantage of writing 1st is that facts are not always accurate. Whilst writing from 3rd, the reader can always ensure they are because they are simply being explained, rather than how the protagonist interprets it. This way, it gives a bigger inside to the world you have built.
But of course, there are disadvantages, as it means the reader is at risk feeling slightly detached. You are not giving the inner monologue and deep thoughts that come with 1st person, and some writers find this harder to write good fleshed out characters.
Multiple of singular
The next decision you need to make is whether you are going to stick to one character only, or you are going to broaden to cover multiple perspectives. Once again, there are advantages to both and I tried to map them out as best I could.
Benefits of multiple perspectives
By doing more than one, it gives more storytelling for the reader to see the world you have created. You are getting the events from across different characters and so can make the world more realistic as you are seeing larger portions of it. You are also seeing the inside to all these characters rather than only focusing on one and having them as the sole focus point of your world.
This means you can dive more into these character’s stories and backgrounds, and can boast them up from minor side characters to become fleshed out main one’s themselves. This is highly effect in epic fantasies as it means the reader is shown all around the fictional world you have created and they can see different lands and cities.
It also means you get different reactions to events. Whilst one might choose to go and fight the baddies, another might choice to join them. This means you get both sides of the story and could almost become more realistic to the reader as in the real world, no one sees themselves as the villain, and so can give a better insight to that arc.
But, yes. There are still disadvantages, and the main one is when authors try to go far and beyond. Writing from different perceptive is great, but it always risks the chance for the reader to get confused. The number one rule is to make sure you never flip one from the other. Space them out, whether it is in paragraphs or chapters. But always ensure it is clear that you have gone to a different perspective. Otherwise, your reader will be confused and may choose to put the book down altogether.
Benefits of singular perspective
This is very similar to the above paragraphs about choosing 1st or 3rd and it can be seen as a very popular version to go when trying to appeal to younger audiences — just take Harry Potter for example.
The advantages are about the same though, where you get to focus the character’s story for the reader to follow. It means it is easier for the reader and can help grow the attachment. The main thing to think when choosing to do singular perspective is whether you want to only follow one character and their journey, or whether you want to broaden out more.
Other option — 2nd person
As I said above, you can choose to be extravagant — and dare to go where only a select few have — and choose to write in 2nd person.
Now, this can be seen more as a perspective for self-help or learning books as the writer is addressing the reader directly. Therefore, if you are choosing to write something like that, then by all means go for it. But there have been some examples of fiction that have chosen to go for it.
The big thing for me is that if you are choosing to address the reader, it’s making it out that they are within the world itself. That can sound exciting and adventurous, but mainly it takes the risk of being quite jarring. They know they aren’t, they understand that they are not partaking in the world you have built, so it could be strange to try and comprehend the world they are being fed, whilst also being told they are already in it.
But it is possible, just know that if your choosing to go the extra mile and try 2nd person, then a lot more detail might need to be done and more research than if you were choosing one of the other two.
If you feel like trying it out but are nervous you may get it wrong, then a good idea is to try and incorporate it within your 1st or 3rd person narrative. A good example of this is The Broken Earth trilogy by N. K. Jemisin. In the first book, there are three stories being told, and only one is being used in second person as if the narrative is addressing you and retelling your life. It is highly effective and has brought a Hugo award to each book on her style. It’s a good book to research if you are thinking of trying something out yourself.
Choosing how you want to tell your story should be one of the first things you decide on. You need to think what is best for your story — is it good to get that insight of 1st person or better to narrate it. Is it good to focus only on one character or multiple?
A good thing to remember though that if you find yourself half way through and deciding you want to tell more story, or you want a further insight to another art of the world you’ve build that the character isn’t in — then you can go back and change it. Keep going over it until you are completely satisfied you have got it right — editing is your best friend.