Fiction writers--From which p.o.v. do you tend to write? (Maybe too long and overly introspective)

For several years of my adult life, I was beating at a fictionalized account of my younger days. Since the novel had an autobiographical basis, using first person came naturally. When I finally realized that work needed to be rested for awhile, I decided to see if I could write erotica. Now, I never seem to spend time thinking out which point of view to use. As soon as I know the plot, or a pivotal character, or even a few interesting lines, the point of view is there as well. In my current writing, I occasionally use first person but more often third person limited. While I sometimes use alternating third person narrators, I never use third person omniscient. In fact, I don’t ever remember using an omniscient narrator in any fiction I’ve written, ever, in my entire life.

So, I would like to ask those of you who write fiction, fit for publication or not:

Do you find yourself sticking to a particular narrative point of view? Which one?

Does the point of view come to you immediately? If you hit a block, do you ever try changing the point of view in some way?

Should I worry about not being able to write in the third person omniscient, or does it simply mean I will never write a sweeping epic-type mini-series?

I wouldn’t worry about it. I’ll bet most readers, after the reading is over, don’t remember the viewpoint of a particular story they read.

I use both, and generally the choice is obvious from the git-go. I find that first-person is better at keeping plot points close to the vest. A reader doesn’t expect a character to know everything, so you only need to reveal what the MC would know. Third person, though, is obviously told by a narrator, omniscient or not, and it is more obvious to a reader when you are holding back critical points.

I suppose none of that matters in some types of fiction, but in plot-driven stories, I find it does.

One habit I picked up from Nabokov is that there’s always a point of view. Third person points of view are unrealistic because you don’t know anything about the narrator. The two serious attempts I’ve made in my adult life are either 1st person, or seemingly third person but where the narrator’s biases eventually become clear.

You write from the pov that suits the story and the characters. There is no other rule than that.

How you figure out what the proper pov is emerges from practice and expertise. It’s not always the first one you pick. Some people never understand pov. But a skilled author can make any pov work, even the ones that are seldom used. If you can’t that may mean you are not a skilled author. If so, you are not alone. More than 99% of the people who try to write are not skilled authors, and that certainly includes many people who sell their work anyway.

Probably 55% third person; 45% first person. Once I did write a story in first person plural, though.

Usually. I just start writing and see which comes out. But I sometimes change when I realize it isn’t working.

There’s really no such thing as third person omniscient. There’s third person single POV and third person multiple POV (only one POV per scene, of course). There’s also the “First person storyteller” mode, where you have a narrator telling a tale (often in the third person).

Third person omniscient is something high school English teachers talk about, but it is exceedingly rare and takes high skill to bring off (about the only case I can think of was in sections of Kate Wilhelm’s Margaret and I).

But you shouldn’t worry about not writing in a particular point of view. Either you’ll develop the skill or you won’t. However, the real pitfall of first person narration is how to highlight a voice that is not merely you telling the tale.

It matters.

My pet peeve is second person personal. I enjoy written erotica, and there has been a plague of writers who try to re-purpose something they wrote for a lover as a story. So the POV is “…and then you…” Mind-bogglingly irritating to at least half the potential audience who lack the sexual equipment for the story to apply to them.

I tend to use third person limited. I find it allows me to work with some of the advantages of first person(getting into the characters head) without actually having to write in first person. One of the reasons is also that as the story goes on(at least for my current project) I can set things up where his subjective perspective and objective reality of the world will be different(and readers who pay attention will notice that).

I tend to write in first person when writing about my own experiences, but will sometimes switch to third person within that framework when writing about experiences relayed to me that are 1- not my own 2- lengthy 3- in all likelihood were relayed to me over several conversations rather than at one time and in linear form.

Example (with no insult intended):

I write almost exclusively in first-person male perspective. I rarely write females correctly (though I am one, go figure) and I prefer to inhabit someone’s skin rather than just observe them.

I tend to use what I call a close third person. The effect on the reader is to think it was really first person.

But I have also used first person. I’ve used second person (in a short story; I couldn’t sustain it for the length of a novel, but there are people who can. Jay McInerny for one). Just depends on what the story needs.

Well, at least there’s one pitfall I know I’ve avoided.

I generally choose close 3rd POV. However, I’ve had a few projects that I absolutely could not start. It just wasn’t working. When that happens, I know I’ve either started the story in the wrong place, or in the wrong POV. If it’s the latter, I switch over to 1st, and everything gets rolling.

No offense taken, Sampiro! I have a Hungarian lawyer fetish anyway.

Thank you for that clarification, RealityChuck. I have written in third person multiple p.o.v., which I thought of as alternating third person. I now feel a bit less concerned about not writing in omniscient.

I really do appreciate all your comments, and I wish I could answer each of them, but it has so far taken me three tries just to multiquote the above posts. My education related to writing has been limited. I went to a small high school and jr. college, and although there were English teachers willing to give classes in creative writing, there wasn’t enough interest for the classes to actually be held. Later when I went to university I was under time constrictions and had to focus on classes related to my major. I’ve always tried to talk with others who write, but, you know, we’re kind of an anti-social bunch.

I’m going to disagree with this. Think of the camera perspective used in movies or television, which I’d argue is really the same as third person omniscient. You view the story as if it were a movie or tv program, with the camera pointed at all the characters on screen equally. Or think of it as the prose equivalent of a play. A play normally doesn’t have a pov in the same sense as the normal story. We see into all the characters, yet they can display great depths.

This is hardly an unusual technique and can work either in a short story or in a multiple-charactered novel. Books in the bestseller genre are often written this way. I’ve written short pieces in this observer mode because that was the only way to approach the story at all. Telling it from one character’s pov would have resulted in no point at all.

Generally, I use what the wikipedia article calls third person subjective, which is pretty common in fiction. It just fits for me—my writing tends to be pretty “dry,” anyway.

Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever written in first person, as it happens.

Anyway—the only times I’ve changed “perspective” that I can think of is when it would be too difficult to write a section from a point of view I’ve been using so far. Like if everyone in a scene is dead, or in one case, where there was a big multi-hour battle—in that case, it would have been tedious, taken a lot of jumping around to different characters and points of view to get all the story in, and needed a lot of technical detail that I really didn’t have. Plus, I’ve personally always had trouble reading fights and battles—it usually loses a lot of the visceral “oomf” that you’d see on the screen, but more importantly, it’s trying to keep track of where everyone is and what they’re doing, especially on complex terrain (that’s probably my inner nerd talking).

So, in that case, my solution was…write the battle as an encyclopedia article, complete with sidebars and a map or two. Much more succinct, easy to understand, and, best of all, allowed me to casually and matter of factly note the really gruesome, horrifying shit going down. More chilling, and it lets the reader supply the gory details from their own imaginations, which will almost by definition be more atuned to what will scare THEM than what I would come up with. 'Same principle as Room 101. :smiley:

Well, I’d characterize that as “camera eye” technique*. You don’t get into the characters heads, but show their actions. You don’t know what a character is thinking other than by their actions or words.

“Omniscient” means the reader sees everyone’s thoughts. It’s extremely difficult to do without it becoming “third person with no clue about how POV works.”

My current novel is third-person, multiple points of view, something I’m discovering is very convenient and makes sure each scene has the right person describing it. Previous to that, it was third-person, single POV; I’ve also written novels in the first person. I currently have a story out in Space & Time that’s first person. So it all depends, and I usually decide when I write the first paragraph.

*I’m following the guidelines laid out in Barry B. Longyear’s Science Fiction Writers Workshop I: A Guide to Fiction Mechanics.