Every story needs an intriguing plot and a compelling setting, but perhaps the most important ingredient is an unforgettable character.
The choice of your main character can make or break your story, and in this article, I’ll provide a few tips on how to choose your POV character.
The first choice, you must make when selecting any character or when starting any story is what point of view you will tell it from. Here are a few of the most popular viewpoints.
First person – I/We
The first person narrative is used when you want to provide an eyewitness account of what happens in the story. You can only write what the narrator saw when he/she was there, so the narrator must be a character who takes part in the story. The easiest way to pull off the first person narrative is to make the narrator the protagonist in the story, so he or she must have a reason for telling the tale.
Third person – He/She
Using the third person narrative gives your narrator the ability to go on observing even when the point of view character isn’t around. Readers are led through the story by only one character, seeing and hearing only what that character does. But they are unable to do nothing more than guess about any other character’s life. While this allows more storylines, it also allows you to change viewpoint characters throughout your story.
The omniscient narrative allows the reader to see anything and everything that happens in the story. All thoughts dreams, memories and desires from any any moment of the past or future can be shown with this point of view. This allows you to tell more story and reveal more about the characters in less time than the other point of views.
Questions to ask yourself
- Is this character strong enough to carry an entire story?
- Do you have a clear idea of how this character will react to events around him or her?
Usually your protagonist and your narrator will be the same person. But there are times when you will find that your story works better when your POV character and narrator are two different people.
If you choose a different narrator, readers will experience the story secondhand and may not become as emotionally invested in the main character as you would like. However, using a differing viewpoint can be the tool you need to employ to tell your story most effectively.
By varying your protagonists and your POV character, you can have completely different stories. In her book Dynamic Characters, Nancy Kress offers a few questions to ask yourself when considering the different combinations of POV character and protagonist.
- Does the protagonist interest you? Why?
- What might this person want?
- What might stand in the way of his or her getting it?
- What could go wrong with this situation?
- Who could end up a winner or loser here?
If you are not sure who should be your narrator and who should be the protagonist, create a table in which you fill in each square, detailing the role each person plays in the story when the POV character & narrator change.
It is a great tool for helping you choose who would be the strongest narrator for your story, and which character should be the star. Sometimes, the two are not the same.
The Bottom Line
Every story with more than one character actually has multiple stories going on within it. Strategically selecting your narrator and POV character can dramatically change the landscape, but it can also provide for a more thrilling tale.
Your opinion matters
Do you ever have trouble selecting your narrator and/or POV character? Do you tend to write your story first before mulling over who should be the star? Or do you try both out beforehand to see if the story would work better coming from another POV?
Share your tips and tricks in the comments section.
Dynamic Characters can all be found in Toronto at various Chapters, Indigo and other bookseller locations. Click the link above to find your local Chapters location or to view availability.
More Articles by your Toronto Writing Examiner:
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