It’s all in how you look at it

Point of View

How many of you here have started something in first person, only to go back and redraft it as third? Or third person redrafted to first?

Or figured out you were in the wrong person’s head, and had to restart in a different head?

And then there’s Deep POV. I was raised on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person POV, including 3rd limited and Omniscient. Deep was new one for me when I ran into it in Urban Fantasy and new adult & contemporary romance. (If it’s new to you, a good overview is here.)

In fact, when I recently wrote a chunk of story in third person and kicked it out to an alpha reader for some questions on how the science worked, she came back and said the story itself was too emotionally distant, and she couldn’t get into it (and that hydroponics was more complicated than that, but if you handwave here…). I tossed it to another alpha, who pointed out that our mutual friend was on a romance kick. I was writing in third person, and she was looking for a story written in Deep POV, including the character’s thoughts, feelings, and value judgments.

The whole story stalled for other reasons, but that certainly threw me for a loop for a while, and an attempt to rewrite in that voice promptly crashed out at 3,000 words with a hard feeling of “Do Not Want.”

But that may be individual to the story, or to the genre, or… just a skill I haven’t learned yet. So this is where I ask you, in order to learn what and how and why you do.

What Point(s) of View do you write in? How do you decide that one – and which one(s) have you noticed as being most common in which genre and subgenre?

When do you decide to rewrite or redraft in a different POV?



(photo credit: Pixabay)


  1. First – did not like, but the story demanded it. Hope I won’t do that again.
    Third – I’m most comfortable here. Generally limited third, although the Cat books were omniscient third.
    Deep Third – I seem to be shifting this direction, at least for books with a single PoV character. I can’t do deep third and head-hop, and urban-fantasy seems to work best with limited third.

  2. I usually write in third person – really! The current series is something of an aberration. But I’m enjoying first person and may continue to use it as long as readers don’t complain about my switching to third for chapters describing something the first-person character doesn’t know.

    One of the things I like about first person is that I find it easier for the POV character to poke fun at herself, or to unintentionally reveal her limitations, in ways that I have trouble managing in third person: unless I’m really careful, it can come across like the author beating up on the character.

  3. I don’t really choose. It just goes the way it’s going. This is probably a lack of skill on my part, but I’m rolling with it.

    One thing I will say, is that when the Mr. Narrator reports on the thoughts and feelings of characters, I have to remember that no one can hear the narrator talking except the reader. We know what the character X is going through, but that other character Y next to them doesn’t. X has to spill it to Y, or Y has to figure it out from cues.

    I’ve noticed in Real Life that people -never- admit stuff to each other, so keeping the suspension of disbelief healthy requires lots of cues and clues, catching people out, near-death experiences where keeping the secret isn’t worth it, etc.

    1. It can get really tiresome when a reviewer complains why don’t they just TALK? when the motives to refrain have been so clearly delineated.

  4. I generally work in third-person, with varying degrees of depth. Maybe mulitperson, maybe single, but I have published one work in the first person, and “The Sword Breaks” was so short I put it in a collection and don’t sell it on its own.

    Part of it is that habit is hard to break. Developing the skills for different POV is more work.

    Also, there’s also the kooky cousin — epistolary POV. That’s when the work is composed of a collection of fictitious document. Imposes heavy stylistic requirements on the writer, and often requires that the reader infer quite a bit of the story. But great fun when you can pull it off.

  5. As the late Brother Dave Gardner used to say, “It’s all in how you look at it and study it.”
    Not related to any of the above, but my favorite of his stories is here:

  6. I’m completely ignorant of the divisions of third person, but from that article, I’d say I write Deep Third. Lots of internal dialog, often snarky or rude. Lots of emotion.

    Occasionally a story shows up in first person, and I can’t get it to change.

    1. To the extent that I can understand what they mean by [James Earl Jones voice] Deep Third Person [/James Earl Jones voice], I’ve been seeing it in books since I was a small child. But never mind.

      When I’ve managed to write, I’ve mostly done third person, changing [JEJV]Depth[/JEJV] as it seemed appropriate.

  7. Brad Taylor does this thing in his Pike Logan novels where Pike’s scenes are all first person, every other character is third. Strange, but it seems to work, judging by how many bestsellers he has.

  8. I was halfway through writing a horror novel in 3rd limited when I first encountered Deep Third and it was impressed upon me that it was the “only” modern way to write fiction. I’ve since finished and published a romantic suspense in DT (two POV characters), and according to those who’ve read it, it works really well there.

    When the romantic suspense was off at the beta readers, I started in again on the horror novel, trying to rework it into Deep Third, too. And I don’t know. In a way, DT fits (sorry), because it helps you feel how the creeping terror is affecting the main character. On the other hand, having a narrator gave the story just that sense of exteriority (is that a word? Ought to be) a horror novel can use. You know, calling attention to that shadow in the rose bushes that the main character doesn’t see.

    If the next thing I write is the sequel to the romantic suspense, I won’t have to make a final decision on the POV for the horror story for awhile. But I’ll have to settle on it sometime.

  9. I prefer to write in the first person because it gives me a, I’m not sure how to phrase it – let’s say a sense of clarity because it’s like watching the story unfold in the spotlight of the narrator’s attention and understanding. I also like the challenge of working things outside the narrator’s spotlight into the narration. I’ll always use a first person POV if the initial inspiration for a story is a character concept like, say, “captain of a mercenary unit hired to serve as the city guard who solves crimes with the help of a spirit who latched onto him while he was crossing the desert” – that turned into a short story that really only could have been done in the first person.

    Sometimes a story just needs more than one POV character, to be told properly and in those cases I do more of a Deep Third. By “need” I mean there might be no way one character would know everything necessary for the story to make sense, or the story branches into two or more locations or subplots. I will also go with a Deep Third if the initial inspiration for a story is a scene or setting like “colony world cut off from civilization due to a civil war, they need help and the only way to get it is to restore an old cargo ship that has been converted into a museum vessel.”

    As for rewriting/redrafting in a different POV, I’m currently doing this with one story I originally wrote (as part of a writing game) in the first person but with six narrators. It was fun to do for the game, but it makes the story choppy. It won’t work with only a single first person narrator and it flows much better with only a few POV characters in the Deep Third.

    1. Deep Third seems to be narrative shorthand. I’d never heard of it before, but I could probably find a few examples in my work. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that I’ve slipped from one to another without pause. (I also wonder if Bujold’s done that a few times, since it would fit right in with some of her characters.) It’s a case of “use it when it works”, I think.

  10. “only modern” sounds like the “only modern” injunction to write in present tense, namely, it is not a good idea. It would be like writing in second person. A recent Hugo winner provides an example of this. Perhaps I am misinterpreting deep third, but

    a) I’m falling, I thought.
    b) I’m falling, Dorothy thought.
    c) Dorothy was falling.

    The next sentence is “Then I/she realized that I/she was on the surface of the moon, in the minimal Lunar gravity.

    If the character is wrong, choice (c) makes no sense.

  11. Someone once used chewing peas as an example of writing explicit sex but it probably also applies to “deep” third. (I think I’d always used the phrase “close third”.)

    Most people have eaten peas. They know what eating peas is like, how they taste, how they pop as you bite them, their texture and all that. So one might write “Susan took a bite of peas” and expect a reader to supply the peas. One might write “Susan ate her peas first, saving the potatoes on her plate to banish the memory of them.” So we’re closer. The reader might know peas but these are Susan’s peas. Or one might write about how Susan slipped the spoon full of peas into her mouth with a moan of pleasure and how she bit down and how they popped between her teeth and how she savored every bit of the wonderfulness of the first spring peas.

    Which, of course, brings us to the question… if we’re closer to the POV character, are we farther from the reader?

    Growing up reading Louis L’Amour (for example) he never really *said* anything a great deal about what his characters were feeling or about their inner life. You were expected to take the reactions *shown* and figure it out.

  12. I think that Laura Montgomery did a really good job of contrasting what someone thought and what they did instead in Mercenary Calling and yes, it was the romance portions. 🙂 But I found it fascinating as each character worked so very hard to send the wrong messages to the other character, and also found it very real and very believable.

  13. I’ve written portions of the current book in first and others in third person because I could not originally make portions of it work in the “other” voice. I even wondered if I should switch half way through — from third to first person — because that seemed to be what the character in my head was doing. I even dreamed up a reason for the switch. The character is looking back and says that X moment made her a different person…. But … Not really sure that’s the way to go.

Comments are closed.