Posted in Misc Topic

POV Trends

If you read much fiction you may notice that stories are written predominantly with first person narrative and third person narrative. Occasionally authors use other narrative forms, however these are usually novels of literary fiction rather than in genre fiction. Genre fiction tends to be more formulaic in the sense that readers have certain expectations of how stories of specific genres are supposed to unfold. This expectation dictates which genres sell well, and consequently what publishers are looking for at any given time. For example, occasionally Western novel sales trend upward and publishers look for Westerns, but when Westerns are not trending upward it is almost impossible to sell a Western to a traditional publisher or small press. Publishers purchase novels based upon what is trending and selling currently or based upon the expectation of what they think will sell in the coming year or two.

First person narrative, also called First Person Point of View (1st POV), generally equates to the point of view of the main character of a novel, though the 1st POV character can be someone who closely observes the mail character. 1st POV uses “I” and/or “we” and allows the reader to see only what the main character or narrator sees, including opinions, feelings, and sometimes inner thoughts. The main character or narrator doesn’t know about all events in the story, they can’t know what other characters are thinking, and they can’t omnisciently know where Uncle Joe’s body is buried unless they were the one to bury it. The reader learns about all the story events at the time the main character does. Some Mysteries and Thrillers are good examples of novels that generally use 1st POV.  Also, many Young Adult (YA) novels are written in 1st POV.

Third person narrative, also called Third Person Point of View (3rd POV) generally relates the points of views of multiple characters throughout the novel to the reader. 3rd POV uses “he,” “she,” “they,” etc. Romance novels are a good example of 3rd POV since both the hero and the heroine have their own stories to tell. 3rd POV shows the reader several opinions and also may show actions that occur away from the main character. Because 3rd POV gives the author much more flexibility to relay information to the reader, it is the most commonly used narrative mode.

Sometimes POV and narrative voice can seem to trend with certain genres so writers adapt their stories to fit the current trends. YA seems to be trending 1st POV lately. Readers want that internal angst that is so captured in YA novels, but not all YA novels should be 1st POV. Romance is usually 3rd POV because readers want to know what the hero is thinking and they want to know the exact moment the heroine discovers she is in love. Sometimes, though, the best way to tell a romance is 1st POV for the heroine and 3rd POV for the hero. It just depends up on the story and the author.

If you are writing genre fiction, choose the POV that works best for you and your story regardless of the sales trends. A well written story trumps sales trends every time.

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2 thoughts on “POV Trends

  1. Well said. My current historical fiction has three main heroines, so I rotate between them using a close 3rd POV. Playing with the narrative structure can be so much fun. For me, the challenge is making sure I don’t accidentally “head hop” and narrate from the wrong person’s POV. Will be on the top of my list of things to watch for when I edit, for nothing says shoddy fiction like poor narrative form.

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