Point of View (PoV) in fiction writing is essentially the perspective of the narrator of the story.
- The narrator can be the protagonist himself (I–First person PoV)
Eg- I said yes when he asked me to marry him
- The narrator can be the protagonist addressing himself, or another character or the reader directly, in a story (You–Second person PoV)
Eg–You said yes when he asked you to marry him.
- The narrator can tell the story of the protagonist to the reader ( He/she – Third person PoV)
Eg – She said yes when he asked her to marry him
In the third person, the narrator can be limited or omniscient, i.e. if the narrator can get inside the heads of all the characters and know what each character thinks and feels, it is third-person omniscient. Eg–Beartown–Fredrik Backman, The Old Man and the Sea, Hills like White Elephants (short story)by Ernest Hemingway. If the narrator can get inside only one character in the story, then it is third-person limited. Eg the Harry Potter series in which the readers are in the head of Harry.
But PoV is not just about changing pronouns. The PoVs can be
- Close or Distant (Psychic distance)
Eg – I can imagine saying yes when he asks me to marry him (First-person – distant)
Eg – My heart raced when he got down to his knees and asked me to marry him (First-person -close)
- Judgmental or neutral,
Narrator need not be neutral, even in omniscient narration. They can be judgmental. The narrator can look down upon the characters in the story (In The Great Gatsby, Nick (Third-person limited), the narrator does not think highly of Daisy Buchanan or her ilk.)
- Reliable or unreliable. (How much of information the narrator is ready to divulge to the reader)
This cannot be explained with a single line. Imagine the narrator of the story lying to the characters in the story or the reader senses the narrator is not divulging all the truth, then the narrator becomes unreliable.
P.S. – the credibility of the author should not be confused with the reliability of the narrator. Reader’s trust in the author is credibility; readers’ trust in the narrator is reliability. The former cannot be broken, the latter can be played with on purpose to create an effect, ie. unreliable narrator ( the teller of the story who could not be trusted).
Examples of stories with unreliable narrator are Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, The Tell-tale Heart by Edgar Alan Poe.
Other unique PoVs are
First-person plural – The protag is a group and uses the pronoun we.Eg- St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves Karen Russell,
Second person PoV breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to the reader. (If on a winter’s night a traveller by Italo Calvino)
Point of View is a complex element. The more we read about it the more we discover how fascinating it can get.