Thoughtful Thursday • What is your favorite POV style?

Thoughtful Thursday

Thoughtful Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Reading Is Fun Again. This week:

What is your favorite POV style?

First person? Second person? Third person?

Never. Ever. Second. Person.

(9:41:58 PM) Isa: oh i wanted to ask you
(9:42:02 PM) Isa: if you had any opinions
(9:42:07 PM) Isa: on tomorrow’s thursday post
(9:42:39 PM) Ren: I HATE 2ND PERSON POV
(9:42:40 PM) Ren: the end
(9:42:58 PM) Isa: good excellent
(9:43:01 PM) Isa: i will incorporate this

In other words: Second person was spawned by the devil and should be eradicated from the literary world. I haven’t actually read any books in second person, but I’ve read plenty of fanfic because I am a curious and masochistic young humanoid being. Maybe somebody can pull it off perfectly, but it’s not for me or Ren at all. I know that when I read stuff written in second person, I just spend the entire time contradicting the author, my brain going “yeah but I’m not tied to a chair and I’m not wearing a skirt, you got it all wrong, loser.”

Moving on.

Out of the remaining two, I definitely prefer third person because it often gives me some much needed distance to the characters. First person can make it or break it. Like, I (and Ren as well) enjoyed Keeping the Castle and that one was written in first person, but then I dread to imagine what Harry Potter would be like if it were written in first person. (I’d probably want to shoot myself.) And I couldn’t get through Hunger Games, for instance, because Katniss’ POV just ticked me off. (Now everyone else probably wants to shoot me.)

Sure, first person can provide a lot of insight into a character’s thoughts, but with the ongoing trends in fiction, there’s only so many times I can read about a girl who thinks she’s not pretty, a girl who pines hopelessly over a dude (with success at the end, probably), a girl who manages to be more emo than the kids with the razorblades standing in front of the Central Station in Hamburg. And besides, first person often entices authors to switch POVs, like in… Breaking Dawn, Allegiant, or Mind Games… Shoot me now. Please. Take pity on me.

Third person can have its problems and faults as well, for sure, and it invites people to use alternating POVs as well, like in Lirael or Boneshaker, but it also allows me, as a reader, to find out more about the universe. Third person’s not quite as limited as first person is. Of course I still only get to see Hogwarts from Harry’s POV (you have disappointed me, JKR), but there’s a lot of stuff that I wouldn’t get if it were in first person. First person relies heavily on thoughts and feelings and inner monologue (to the point of ignoring the plot… looking at you, Mind Games…). Third person on the other hand? We get to actually see the world that the character is in because the narrator often mentions things that I am sure little Harry James Potter would never consciously notice, considering that he’s blind as a bat and has the brain capacity of a goldfish and the academic speed of a slug. If it weren’t for Hermione the boy would’ve flunked his OWLs, lbr.


7 thoughts on “Thoughtful Thursday • What is your favorite POV style?

  1. I like to ring the changes but my current favourite to write is deep third person – sticking to one POV in the whole book and doing everything from his/her perspective, no narrative distance. It allows the author to give the reader more information than you can in first, eg by noting things that the character is carefully not thinking about, but also lets you keep things from the reader by limiting the viewpoint to the one character.

    I mainly feel that whatever you do is fine as long as it’s controlled and sane and makes sense for the kind of book it is, and *isn’t headhopping*. I just abandoned a Kindle sample of a m/m romance that started with four POVs in the first five pages, none of them the heroes’.

    • I think a big issue for me is that I’m a very judgemental reader (not necessarily of the text itself but of the characters) to the point where I just react really irrationally. And first person just constantly pokes at my patience when it comes to that. I have a limit of what I can take in terms of self-absorbed thoughts and first person kind of comes across as very self-absorbed, even when that’s not actually the case. It’s just how my brain and impatience interpret it and it makes me want to stab things. Think about somebody other than yourself, silly character! Which is weird because I enjoyed a lot of first person books, but I think some genres in particular suffer from a lot of overdramatic angst and whining and that’s when I just snap.

      A lot of the times this stance probably stems from the fact that often characters are simply not fleshed out enough for me. It doesn’t happen all the time but bad experience stick. If I’m three pages into, say, chapter 7 and have go back to the beginning of the chapter to see in the chapter title who is narrating it, I’m kind of over it. It’s so frustrating when the narrating characters sound so much alike that I can’t tell them apart without their name at the top of the chapter (which I often don’t see because hello impatience). That’s why I prefer to read books that stick to one character only in terms of POV. There’s less potential for fuck-ups.

      It’s interesting that you mention something with multiple POVs because popular or not, I have such a hard time getting through GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Of course that’s not as extreme as what you describe with four POVs in five pages. But I’ve been stuck on the second book for two years now? There are just so many characters and the POV changes every chapter and I can’t keep track of what’s going on and I ended up hating half the narrating characters and it’s not even the ones that are about to die soon. That’s just meh. I want to like it but I also think that since there is no clear main protagonist, no clear hero, I’m just not getting into it at all. I don’t even know who to root for because they’re just going to die anyway. Probably.

  2. Almost all of the books I read are first person, and I actually find it harder to get into a third person novel most of the time because there isn’t that connection with the main character right away.

    The only time I’ve read second person was for the Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid, and it worked perfectly there. They are, of course, an exception to the rule because you dictated how the story went by choosing from different choices at the end of every page. I really don’t see how it could work in a straight novel.

    • Hah, I think actually that maybe my preference might also be to do with me wanting to be part of the story. Like, in a third person narrative it’s like I’m with the characters, walking alongside them. In a first person narrative I’m just stuck hearing about the narrator’s experiences and adventures. Nope. I wanna have adventures too! (Also probably because I’m rather self-absorbed myself and that clashes a lot with the main character(s) going I/me/myself/mine/my life.)

      Second person POV is the worst, to be honest. Like, if you want people to not read your story, second person is the way to go. It just evokes a storm of “stop talking as if you know me!! you don’t know me!” rage inside me.

    • Yeah, okay, 2nd person POV works for Choose Your Own Adventure books — I’m reading To Be Or Not To Be by Ryan North and it’s awesome, by the way — but otherwise I just don’t see how it can work either. Doesn’t stop a couple of authors from being ~edgy~ and trying 2nd person POV anyway…

  3. Pingback: What’s Up Buttercup • June Edition | Words in a Teacup

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