Authors Answer 23 – Point of View

I’m eating bacon.

You’re eating bacon.

He’s eating bacon.

I ate bacon.

You ate bacon.

He ate bacon.

Point of view is a choice every author must make before writing a story.  Which is best for the story? Which is best for the author?  Some authors feel more comfortable using one point of view over the others.  First, second, and third person point of view exist in books, though second person is not common.  Present and past tense are both common, though past is more traditional.  And then there’s the level of omniscience.  We have objective, with no knowledge of a character’s thoughts. We have subjective, with knowledge of one person’s thoughts in each scene, and can switch characters.  This is also like limited omniscient.  And then there’s omniscient where you know everyone’s thoughts at all times.

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 23: What is your favourite point of view and tense to write in? Why?

Linda G. Hill

It depends on the story. I’ll sometimes write a short story in first person and less often write in present tense, but if the tale calls for it, I do it with flavour. I love writing voices completely different from mine and first person present tense is the best way. Most of my novels have been written in third person omniscient, jumping from one character’s head to the next but only when there’s a change of scenes. Again, I love to get into my character’s heads and I don’t want to be tied to only one perspective. As for tense, I’d never attempt to write in present tense throughout an entire novel. I get exhausted being in my own head in the present…

Caren Rich

I like third person, present tense. I know original. It allows a little distance and more freedom than first person.  I’ve tried writing in first person, but I feel like I’m spilling secrets.

D. T. Nova

Third person, limited but not always sticking with same character, past tense. The fact that the vast majority of what I read before I started writing was that way is certainly one major reason.

I’ve read enough present tense stories that it doesn’t feel quite as weird anymore, but it still doesn’t really make sense to me; in print, at least, you have a tangible reminder that events after the part you’re currently reading have already been written.

Amy Morris-Jones

I don’t play favorites—at least I haven’t thus far. I would say I’m not much of a fan of second-person narratives, so I avoid those. I also tend to stay away from the future tense—too beyond my comfort zone. Otherwise, though, I’ve written in first person and third, past and present quite regularly.

Jean Davis

I like first person most. Getting lost in the character makes much easier for me to block out distractions that would otherwise compete with my writing time. Present tense is often distracting to read and I’m not fond of writing it so I tend to stick with past tense.

Elizabeth Rhodes

I like writing in third person limited, past tense.  It’s common in fiction, meaning it’s approachable.  It also gives me the opportunity to present the story from multiple points of view from scene to scene, and communicating that clearly to the reader.  The climax of Jasper is told from two specific points of view from people on opposing sides, at roughly the same time.  It’s one of my favorite scenes.

H. Anthe Davis

I generally do third person past tense.  More specifically, I have what I call an over-the-shoulder-camera style, where we’re in one character’s head consistently but that character does not narrate.  I switch POVs, but only between scenes — one of my major pet-peeves is head-hopping within a scene.  Ughhh.  I also try to stick by a rule of POV-contagion — a character can’t become a POV character until they’ve already been in a scene, so no new perspectives out of nowhere.  I have enough characters running around in this series without throwing someone in cold.

All that being said, I am considering a first-person-past-tense story for a certain character — but that remains to be seen.

Paul B. Spence

I prefer to write third person, past tense. I feel that it gives me the most control over the narrative. I do also like first person, past tense, for the intimate feel.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

Personally, I prefer third-person omniscient and past-tense.

When dealing with point of view I like third-person omniscient the best because it allows you to easily hop from character to character when necessary. I don’t mind reading other points of view, but when dealing with something like first person, for instance, it bothers me immensely when the story begins to follow other characters apart from the main one. How does he/she know what’s happening when he/she isn’t around? It just makes me grind my teeth.

As for the past-tense part, I just feel like it makes for better storytelling. I’ve read lots of stories that were written in present-tense, and some of them were pretty damn good, but I just always have this nagging image of the main character talking out loud to him/herself, describing everything that’s happening as it’s happening, and that image is annoying to me. I prefer the idea of someone sitting by a campfire, relaying the details of a tale that’s already occurred.

S. R. Carrillo

I have this unflagging desire to always write in limited third person past tense. It comes naturally to me. I’m not saying this is true of authors who do this, but I feel like first person (past or present) comes across as very amateurish.

Jay Dee Archer

I prefer third person limited, past tense.  It’s what I’m used to, and I feel more comfortable writing that way.  I’m not a fan of present tense at all.  I don’t feel it’s natural to read.  I don’t particularly like first person unless it’s done very well when I’m reading, and I really don’t like telling a story from the point of view of only one character.  I like exploring more than one character in a story.  Omniscient point of view is too intrusive and too god-like.  I’d prefer to be in the thoughts of only one person at a time.  So, I like limited omniscience.  I write what I like to read.

How about you?

What do you like to read or write? Which point of view and tense? Leave your responses in the comments below.


The Irrigation Engineer

Moving on to the letter I in the A to Z Challenge, I introduce an intelligent character to counter a naive one.  Enjoy.

The Irrigation Engineer


New Athens

Thirteenth day, fifth month, first year after colonisation, Ariadne Era (5/13/01 AE)

Sanjay Thakur heard him before he saw him. The footsteps swished through the grass behind him. He turned to see a familiar face.

“Hi Luc. What brings you out here?” said Sanjay.

“I have a proposal for you,” said Luc.

“What is it?”

Luc hefted a block of wood. “This. You know that tree they found a couple months ago? This is a piece of it.”

“Right, I’ve seen a block before.” Sanjay understood what Luc’s intentions were. He’d seen the wood before. He held it in his hands and tried to work out how it could be used in irrigation.

“Well, I think it could benefit your business,”

“Luc, I’ve already gone through how I could use this wood, and it’s just too difficult to cut, shape, or build with. It’s not particularly useful for irrigation. We don’t use stone aqueducts anymore, we use metal pipes. I don’t need that. I don’t run a business, I design irrigation systems for the colony.”

“Together, we could start a very lucrative business. Irrigation systems are needed, and with this wood, we’d have the best building material.”

Is he as thick as that wood? Sanjay thought. “Not sure how you expect to use that wood, but it’s not even allowed. Haven’t you heard? Harvesting that tree is banned. It’s one-of-a-kind.”

“I’m sure I can convince a few people to change the law,” said Luc.

Confidence. He has a lot of it. Too bad it’s misguided. Sanjay turned around and waved. “Goodbye, Luc. Good luck. You have no clue.”