Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, the point of view, or POV, that you choose can help you present your story in a fresh and unique way. I often think about the stories in the Bible about Jesus. For the most part the Bible is written as a third-person narrative. But, how would it have been different if we could have witnessed Jesus’ acts through His first-person accounts? Instead of only seeing His actions, we then would’ve known His thoughts and feelings about the people He encountered, His time of prayer before His crucifixion, and what was going through His mind when He raised Lazarus from the dead! It definitely would have presented us with quite a different perspective.
Changing your story’s POV can change everything! But there are some things to keep in mind:
1. Keep POV consistent. In fiction, it’s OK to change your POV from chapter to chapter, or even from scene to scene, but make sure it stays the same within scenes, lest you confuse and frustrate your reader! When you do change between scenes, it’s helpful to let your reader know and make it clear you’re changing by using transitional sentences and wording that lets them know they are now in a different character’s head.
As a general rule, in nonfiction, you should not change your POV. Most nonfiction is written in third person as it can become distracting to the reader when you make yourself a part of the narrative. There are some instances where first person can work, like when you’re conducting an interview, for instance. But whichever POV you choose for nonfiction, keep it the same throughout.
2. Choose the right POV. How do you know which POV is the right one? Often it is dictated by the character himself. It’s usually best to choose the character that has the most at stake in your scene, especially if other characters are impacted by this one main character as well. It can be more difficult to follow if the reader can only see through the eyes of a more minor character.
Another approach is to choose the character that you want your reader to identify with the most. You control what your reader thinks, feels, sees, and hears through the character you choose. Choose the most appropriate character based on what you want your reader to feel.
3. Try varying POVs before deciding on one. We sometimes think we know right away which POV we should use for a scene, a nonfiction story, or even an entire book. Before settling on one for certain, try different ones just to see how it changes your story. If you’re writing a nonfiction piece on a common topic, approaching it with a fresh POV can make it seem brand new!
Be sure to check your scenes and stories for consistent POV. Then, go back and try shifting POV to different characters. See how it changes your story. You might just like the difference it makes.