When you pick up a book and begin to read, you are being drawn into a story that is happening around you, in your imaginations. But just what eyes are you looking through? When is the story happening?
The answers to these questions are wrapped up in a part of writing known as Point of View, or the PoV and tenses. Deciding what PoV your work will be written in will be one of the most important choices you make, deciding through which narrator the readers will be drawn into the story. Depending on your PoV, your narrator could bring the readers a biased outlook on a world or they could have more room to make their own emotional connections to people and places. Determining the type of PoV you want is key, but it is good to remember that some points of view will work much better for certain genres than others.
Tenses are rather simple. We are taught tenses in elementary school and they don’t change much here. Present, Past, and Future tense. The most common of the tenses across all writing is past, but present tense is also used. Future tense is almost never seen as it is a predictive form reserved for prophecies and plans of attack.
There are three PoV’s: first person, second person, and third person. Most common for romance and Young Adult fantasy is first person. Third person is known for fantasy, science fiction, and horror. It comes in several variations that can limit your narrator’s knowledge and voice. Second person is least common and is more often seen role-play and tabletop games, pick-your-own-adventures, and prompts. It is often paired with present tense.
What’s the easiest way to remember these different points of view?
First Person (I, Me, My, Our); Past tense:
I looked up from my computer screen, the change in light blinding. I blinked several times until her face became clear in my vision. My body shook, nails clattering on the keyboard. I couldn’t keep still and my neck began to sweat.
Second Person (You); Present Tense:
You look up from the computer screen, the change in light blinding. You blink several times until her face becomes clear in your vision. Your body shakes, nails clattering on the keyboard. You can’t keep still and your neck begins to sweat.
Third Person (She, He, It, They, Them); Past Tense:
He looked up from the computer screen, the change in light blinding. He blinked several times until her face became clear in his vision. His body shook, nails clattering on the keyboard. He couldn’t keep still and his neck began to sweat.
When sitting down to make a choice on what tenses you will use, we recommend asking yourself several questions:
- How do you want your reader to relate to your characters?
- Do you want your readers to view your world with a bias or from an open mind?
- How much plot occurs where the main character(s) are not present?
- Do you want your readers to know your villains?
- Can this story be told from only one perspective?
Want to know more? Next week we will continue our posts with a more in-depth post, continuing to dive into the types of PoV’s and tenses, their applications, and reccommendations for their appliaction in story writing.
See you next Friday when we discuss Third Person and all of its colors.