Point of view is definitely one of the most important aspects of a story. Which point of view you tell the story in–and which character tells it–is the backbone, or blueprint of the entire thing. Picking which character will tell the story depends on what story you want to tell and what you want to get across. It’s just like real life–if you and a friend go on a trip together, the story of that trip is going to be different depending on which friend tells it to others. Sure, you both experienced the same events, but you each experienced them in your own way. Maybe a scenic outlook you found beautiful wasn’t that interesting to your friend, or your friend really liked some aspect of the trip you were ambivalent about.
Deciding what you want to convey to the reader means you need to pick the character who will tell it the right way.
There’s two (really three, we’ll get to that) main points of view in most conventional writing:
First person is told through the eyes of one character and uses ‘I’ and ‘me.’ It’s a very immediate form of writing that gets deep into the character’s head and perspective. For this reason it can also be narrow and you have to figure out creative ways for concepts outside the character’s view to be introduced.
Personally, I have never written in first person point of view and I don’t like reading it. I feel like I’m being forced to immediately identify with a character I haven’t gotten to know yet. This is just my personal preference. There’s plenty of readers who love first person and there’s plenty of brilliant books written in first person. Again though, it’s a limited way of telling a story and you have to get creative to introduce information that your narrator character wouldn’t know.
Third person is a lot more expansive because you can tell the whole story from one person’s point of view, or you can tell it from the perspective of multiple characters, which allows you a greater range of storytelling and introducing plot points. You can also get deep into the characters heads or just tell us what they’re doing, depending on what you want to convey.
It’s a misconception if you have multiple character viewpoints and one is trying to hide something, you can’t write from that character’s point of view. Say, one character is lying to another, but you don’t want the reader to know that yet. You don’t have to tell us the character is lying when you’re in their viewpoint. Simply tell the story, drop hints where you need to, and bring all the cards out on the table at the end.
I prefer third person because it gives more room for creating plot.
Very few books are written in second person and it’s very difficult to do in fiction (though it’s sometimes used in nonfiction and technical writing). It tends to be experimental and it can be distracting if not done masterfully. I’m not able to say much about it because I’ve never read a piece of fiction in second person.
What is your favorite point of view to write, or to read? Have you ever read any second person fiction?