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Point of View in Writing

As an editor, point of view problems are among the top mistakes I see inexperienced writers make, and they instantly erode credibility and reader trust.

Point of View in Writing

All stories are written from a point of view. However, when point of view goes wrong—and believe me, it goes wrong often—you threaten whatever trust you have with your reader and fracture their suspension of disbelief.

However, point of view is simple to master if you use common sense.

This post will define point of view, go over each of the major POVs, explain a few of the POV rules, and then point out the major pitfalls writers make when dealing with that point of view.

Point of View Definition

Point of view, or POV, refers to two things in writing:

  1. A point of view in a discussion, an argument, or nonfiction writing is an opinion, the way you think about a subject.
  2. In a story, the point of view is the narrator’s position in the description of events.

In this article, we’re going to focus on the second point of view definition. The first definition is helpful for nonfiction writers, and for more information, I recommend checking out Wikipedia’s neutral point of view policy.

Point of view comes from the Latin word, punctum visus, which literally means point sight, suggesting it’s where you point your sight.

I especially like the German word for it though, which is Gesichtpunkt, translated face point, or where your face is pointed. Isn’t that a good visual for what’s involved in point of view?

Note too that point of view is sometimes called “narrative mode.”

Why Point of View Is So Important

Why does point of view matter so much?

Because point of view filters everything in your story. Everything in your story must come from a point of view.

Which means if you get it wrong, your entire story is damaged.

For example, I just finished judging a writing contest for Becoming Writer. I personally read and judged over ninety stories, and I found point of view mistakes in about twenty percent of them, including a few stories that would have placed much higher if only the writers hadn’t made the mistakes we’re going to talk about later.

The worst part is these mistakes are easily avoidable if you’re aware of them. But before we get into the common point of view mistakes, let’s go over each of the four types of POV.

The 4 Types of Point of View

Here are the four primary POV types in fiction:

  • First person point of view. First person is when “I” am telling the story. The character is in the story, relating his or her experiences directly.
  • Second person point of view. The story is told to “you.” This POV is not common in fiction, but it’s still good to know (it is common in nonfiction).
  • Third person point of view, limited. The story is about “he” or “she.” This is the most common point of view in commercial fiction. The narrator is outside of the story and relating the experiences of a character.
  • Third person point of view, omniscient. The story is still about “he” or “she,” but the narrator has full access to the thoughts and experiences of all characters in the story.

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I know you’ve seen and probably even used most of these point of views.

Let’s discuss each of the four types, using examples to see how they affect your story. We’ll also go over the rules for each type, but first let me explain the big mistake you don’t want to make with point of view:

Don’t Make This Point of View Mistake

Do not begin your story in first person and then switch to third person. Do not start with third person limited and then abruptly give your narrator full omniscience.

The guideline I learned in my first creative writing class in college is a good one:

Establish the point of view within the first two paragraphs of your story.

And above all, don’t change your point of view. If you do, you’ll threaten your reader’s trust and could fracture the architecture of your story.

That being said, I recently finished a 7,000 page novel called Worm which uses two point of views—first person with interludes of third-person limited—very effectively. By the way, if you’re looking for a novel to read over the next two to six months, I highly recommend it (here’s the link to read for free online).

The first time the author switched point of views, he nearly lost my trust. However, he kept this dual-POV consistent over 7,000 pages and made it work.

Whatever point of view choices you make, be consistent.

First Person Point of View

In first person point of view, the narrator is in the story and relating the events he or she is personally experiencing.

First person point of view example:

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.
—Moby Dick by Herman Melville

First person point of view is one of the most common POVs in fiction. If you haven’t read a book in first person point of view, you haven’t been reading.

What makes this point of view interesting, and challenging, is that all of the events in the story are filtered through the narrator and explained in his or her own unique voice. This means first person narrative is both biased and incomplete.

First person narrative is unique to writing. There’s no such thing as first person in film or theater. Although, voiceovers and mockumentary interviews like the ones in The Office and Modern Family provide a level of first person narrative into third person film and television.

In fact, the very first novels were written in first person, modeled after popular journals and autobiographies.

First person point of view is limited

First person narrators cannot be everywhere at once and thus cannot get all sides of the story. They are telling their story, not necessarily the story.

First person point of view is biased

In first person novels, the reader almost always sympathizes with a first person narrator, even if the narrator is an anti-hero with major flaws.

Of course, this is why we love first person narrative, because it’s imbued with the character’s personality, their unique perspective on the world.

Unreliable narrators. Some novelists use the limitations of first person narrative to surprise the reader, a technique called unreliable narrator, in which the audience discovers the narrator’s version of events can’t be trusted.

For example, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl pits two unreliable narrators against each other, each relating their conflicting version of events, one through normal narration the other through journal entries.

Other Interesting Uses of First Person Narrative:

  • The classic novel, Heart of Darkness, is actually a first person narrative within a first person narrative. The narrator recounts verbatim the story Charles Marlow tells about his trip up the Congo river while they sit at port in England.
  • William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom is told from the first person point of view of Quentin Compson, however most of the story is a third person account of Thomas Sutpen, his grandfather, as told to Quentin by Rosa Coldfield. Yes, it’s just as complicated as it sounds!
  • Salman Rushdie’s award winning Midnight’s Children is told in first person, but spends most of the first several hundred pages giving a precise third person account of the narrator’s ancestors. It’s still first person, just a first person narrator telling a story about someone else.

2 Big Mistakes Writers Make with First Person Point of View

When writing in first person, there are two major mistakes writers make:

1. The narrator isn’t likable. Your protagonist doesn’t have to be a cliché hero. She doesn’t even need to be good. However, she must be interesting. The audience will not stick around for 300 pages  listening to a character they don’t enjoy. This is one reason why anti-heroes make great first person narrators. They may not be morally perfect, but they’re almost always interesting.

2. The narrator tells but doesn’t show. The danger with first person is that you could spend too much time in your character’s head, explaining what he’s thinking and how he feels about the situation. You’re allowed to mention the character’s mood, but don’t forget that your readers trust and attention relies on what your character does, not what he thinks about doing.

Second Person Point of View

While not used often in fiction—it is used regularly in nonfiction, song lyrics, and even video games—second person POV is still good helpful to understand.

In this point of view, the narrator is relating the experiences of another character called “you.” Thus, you become the protagonist, you carry the plot, and your fate determines the story.

We’ve written elsewhere about why you should try writing in second person, but in short we like second person because it:

  • Pulls the reader into the action of the story
  • Makes the story personal
  • Surprises the reader
  • Stretches your skills as a writer

Here’s an example of second person point of view:

You have friends who actually care about you and speak the language of the inner self. You have avoided them of late. Your soul is as disheveled as your apartment, and until you can clean it up a little you don’t want to invite anyone inside.
—Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney

Novels that use second person point of view. Second person point of view isn’t used frequently, however there are some notable examples of it.

Remember the Choose Your Own Adventure series? If you’ve ever read one of these novels where you get to decide the fate of the character (I always killed my character, unfortunately), you’ve read second person narrative.

Bright Lights, Big City, the breakout bestseller by Jay McInerney about the New York City nightlife and drug scene in the 1980s, is probably the most popular example of a second person novel.

However, there are many experimental novels and short stories that use second person, and writers such as William Faulkner, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Albert Camus played with the style.

Breaking the fourth wall. In the plays of William Shakespeare, a character will sometimes turn toward the audience and speak directly to them. “If we shadows have offended,” Puck says in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “think but this, and all is mended, that you have but slumbered here while these visions did appear.”

This technique of speaking directly to the audience or the reader is called breaking the fourth wall (the other three walls being the setting of the story). To think of it another way, it’s a way the writer can briefly use second person in a first or third person narrative.

It’s a lot of fun! You should try it.

Third Person Point of View

In third person, the narrator is outside of the story and relating the experiences of a character. The central character is not the narrator. In fact, the narrator is not present in the story at all.

An example of third person point of view:

A breeze ruffled the neat hedges of Privet Drive, which lay silent and tidy under the inky sky, the very last place you would expect astonishing things to happen. Harry Potter rolled over inside his blankets without waking up. One small hand closed on the letter beside him and he slept on, not knowing he was special, not knowing he was famous…. He couldn’t know that at this very moment, people meeting in secret all over the country were holding up their glasses and saying in hushed voices: “To Harry Potter—the boy who lived!”
—Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

There are two types of this point of view:

  • Third Person Omniscient. The narrator has full access to all the thoughts and experiences of all the characters in the story.
  • Third Person Limited. The narrator has only some, if any, access to the thoughts and experiences of the characters in the story, often just to one character.

However, this distinction is messy and somewhat artificial. Full omniscience in novels is rare—it’s almost always limited in some way—if only because the human mind isn’t comfortable handling all the thoughts and emotions of multiple people at once.

The most important consideration in third person point of view is this:

How omniscient are you going to be? How deep are you going to go into your character’s minds? Will you read their thoughts frequently and deeply at any chance? Or will you rarely, if ever, delve into their emotions?

To see this question in action, imagine a couple having an argument. Tina wants Fred to go to the store to pickup the cilantro she forgot she needed for the meal she’s cooking. Fred is frustrated that she didn’t ask him to pick up the cilantro on the way home from the office, before he had changed into his “homey” clothes (AKA boxer shorts).

If the narrator is fully omniscient, do you parse both Fred and Tina’s emotions during each back and forth?

“Do you want to eat? If you do, then you need to get cilantro instead of acting like a lazy pig,” Tina said, thinking, I can’t believe I married this jerk. At least back then he had a six pack, not this hairy potbelly.

“Figure it out, Tina. I’m sick of rushing to the store every time you forget something,” said Fred. He felt the anger pulsing through his large belly.

Going back and forth between multiple characters’ emotions like this can give a reader whiplash, especially if this pattern continued over several pages and with more than two characters. This is an example of an omniscient narrator who perhaps is a little too comfortable explaining the characters’ inner workings.

Show, don’t tell,” we’re told. Sharing all the emotions of all your characters can become distraction. It can even destroy any tension you’ve built.

Drama requires mystery. If the reader knows each character’s emotions all the time, there will be no space for drama.

How do you handle third person omniscient well?

The way many editors, and many famous authors, handle this is to only show the thoughts emotions of one character per scene or per chapter.

George R.R. Martin, for example, uses “point of view characters,” characters who he always has full access to. He will write a full chapter from their perspective before switching to the next point of view character. For the rest of the cast, he stays out of their heads.

This is an effective guideline, if not a strict rule, and it’s one I would suggest to any first time author experimenting with third person narrative. Overall, though, the principle to show, don’t tell should be your guide.

The Biggest Third Person Point of View Mistake

The biggest mistake I see writers make constantly in third person is head hopping. When you switch point of view characters too quickly, or dive into the heads of too many characters at once, you could be in danger of what editors call “head hopping.”

When the narrator switches from one character’s thoughts to another’s  too quickly, it can jar the reader and break the intimacy with the scene’s main character.

We’ve written about how you can get away with head hopping elsewhere, but it’s a good idea to try to avoid going into more than one character’s thoughts per scene or per chapter.

Which Point of View Will You Use?

Distance in Point of View

Please note that these distances should be thought of as ranges, not precise calculations. A third person narrator could conceivably draw closer to the reader than a first person narrator.

There is no best point of view. If you’re just getting started, I would encourage you to use either first person or third person limited point of view because they’re easy to understand.

However, that shouldn’t stop you from experimenting.

Whatever you choose, be consistent. Avoid the mistakes I mentioned under each point of view.

And above all, have fun.

How about you? Which the four point of views have you used in your writing? Share in the comments.

PRACTICE

Using a point of view you’ve never used before, write a brief story about a teenager who has just discovered he or she has superpowers. Make sure to avoid the POV mistakes listed in the article above.

Write for fifteen minutes. When your time is up, post your practice in the comments section. And if you post, please be sure to give feedback to your fellow writers.

Happy writing!

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

  • David Mike

    My book is a memoir so first person is what I chose.

    • Elizabeth Malm Clemens

      That was my choice for memoir, but am exploring other avenues for better character development.

  • Ted

    I hate to be such a nag but isn’t the plural “points of view” and not “point of views”? As in brothers in law and not brother in laws

  • Joe, excellent post on POV. Probably the best I’ve read. Thanks!

  • mmjaye

    I go for third person deep. In the PoV character’s head, using her unique voice, no author intrusion, no filter words. Am I doing it right? Far from it, but I’ve attended deep writing classes, an it’s easier to pinpoint slips.

    Greetings from Greece!

    • B. Gladstone

      Thanks for sharing this tit bit. I will be looking out for a deep writing class!

  • When deciding your POV, I strongly believe genre and tense should be considered as well.

  • Barbara

    Here is my first time ever uploading a “practice.” I chose to try second person, please be kind!

    I couldn’t believe it when you called me, waking me from an intense fantasy dream, to tell me that you had been somehow magically transformed overnight into some type of superhero. You cannot blame me if my reaction appeared to be less than awe and more of disbelief and worry for your current state of mind. You will not want me to ask this, but have you started doing drugs? Remember, Freshman Health class, one of the signs to look for was if your friend suddenly changes or acts crazy. Well dude, you are acting more than just a little bit crazy.

    Can you really fly? I have been waiting for 15 minutes for you to appear at my bedroom window, and so far nothing. I can envision you, at this very moment, running down the alley and between the houses. You will get to my back gate, jump over, and scurry behind the bushes; all bent over and believing that I can’t see you. When you are sure of your timing and that I have no idea at your mastery, you will jump out and try to convince me that you flew to your location. Please try to remember that I have known you since Kindergarten. Very little about you surprises me anymore, yet you are entertaining.

    Although, you did sound different on the phone this morning, you voice had a quality I had never heard before. I would call it confidence. You weren’t trying to convince me that you had a special new talent. You were telling me, informing me.

    You need new boots, I know this because I noticed the hole in the bottom of the left one as you slowly descended from the top of my window. Your smile was radiant, your arms crossed confidently across your puffed out chest. You are transformed.

  • nianro

    You don’t look peaceful, but you look at peace. Morphine will do that to you. Your flaky, red eyes flutter in your sleep—do you dream, there? “The eyes are the windows to the soul,” so they say; with the curtains drawn, does your gaze turn inward? Do you dream of me amidst the pain, or are you cradled in the gentle embrace of the abyss?

    This was your fault, you know; waving that gun in my face, pushing me around; what did you expect?

    Certainly not this; no one could have expected this. Dazzling cords of fire springing from the fingertips of your would-be, should-be victim—perhaps it would’ve been wiser to hand over the money—but then, who next? Woudl you have let me go in the first place?

    It wasn’t for anything venial, was it? Not for clothes or jewelry—not from what I can tell; you don’t seem the type. But it’s hard to tell. There’s not much left of your clothes, you know.

    There’s not much left of you.

    They’ll pour maggots over your chest and into your eyes, and flake off the blackness with gentle sponges, and alcohol over everything. That will hurt.

    Your hair was so pretty. The doctor says most of it will grow back.

    The cops are taking your side, you know. Figures. At least guns don’t burn. I wouldn’t be sticking around if they hadn’t cuffed me to the bed, and set it beside yours—someone in blue has a sick sense of irony.

    There are birds fluttering by the windowpane, and whispers of white amidst pastels of blue. Your burns will heal. Mine have only just begun.

    * * *

    Yeah, having superpowers would actually be terrifying. Especially fire. Fire is bad.

    I’ve used second-person before, but very rarely, so I went with it, since I’ve used all the points of view you mentioned.

    Changing point of view is not only acceptable, it’s quite common. You just italicize it. I don’t know how to do that in a comment, but the general form would be something akin to: He felt around for the plot device. *Damn; I can’t find this thing. Woe is me, I am woe, woe unto me, woe betides me, etc.* He found it. *Huzzah!*

    Further, your example for third-person POV includes a sputter of second-person: “the very last place *you* would expect astonishing things to happen.” This is the rhetorical “you,” not an actual pronoun—that is, “you” isn’t referring to anyone—but it still counts.

    I think the argument shouldn’t be “never switch POV,” but, rather, “use the turn signal;” that is to say, give the reader an indication that the POV is changing, and why. Italics for brief periods, chapters for changing the individual narrator (you can have lots in one book), etc. Much like turning in traffic, problems generally arise not from the turn, but from the surprise. “Head hopping” is easy to avoid with, for instance, section separators—a vertical space, or a line of three little stars if the space breaks across a page, so that the reader knows a shift is happening. After familiarizing the reader with the mechanism, you can abuse it as much as you want.

    Hemingway’s way works too, although I was never a big fan of Hemingway.

    P.S. Give away an antique typewriter; brilliant—plenty of nostalgia; tangled ribbons, torn sheets, jammed keys; I can see why you want to inflict it on somebody else!

    • Wow, that was amazing descriptions. I loved your opening and closing lines as well. You did a great job of setting the dark mood of the story. Very well done.

  • Great post! It is quite thorough and engaging, and you offered plenty of terrific examples and practical tips.

  • Star Travis

    I tend to write my stories more in the third person POV, I tend to focus on one main character but sometimes try to give some insight on another character’s perspective. The only reason I shy away from first person is because it can be emotionally exhausting to write. The funny thing is my most dramatic story was written in first person (though I did switch between two people) but I felt it would come off stonger in first person rather than third.

  • Pingback: Are You Writing From the Right Point of View?()

  • I’m not sure I qualify for this practice, because I’ve written in pretty much every POV: My novel is 3rd person deep, my short stories are first person, my articles are second, and my songs cover all of the above plus the others. 🙂
    In my book I have several POVs, but I make sure to change the scene completely before changing the person. (Like Jerry Jenkins’/Tim Lahaye’s Left Behind.) I’m not breaking any rules like that, am I?
    This is a great and informative article that I’ll definitely reference in the future. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

    “Whatsoever ye do, do unto the Glory of God”
    Reagan

  • Nice post! Very helpful of keeping them strait. I tend to lean toward first person or third person limited, so I decided to try out second person for the prompt. I also used a dialogue prompt, which is the first line of the story. Here goes nothing!

    “The last time I said yes to you, a lot of people died.” You say it low, under your breath, perhaps because you don’t really want him to hear you or perhaps because you don’t want to hear yourself, don’t want to remember that it happened.

    “You know,” He reaches out to you, and you pull away, not wanting to touch his hands, hands that could have prevented the deaths of so many, but that have always been so gentle with you. He turns his face to the ground and, you realize, he is just as pained by the memory as you. “You know that I couldn’t have done it.”

    “No.” The word comes out all wrong, because of your still upper lip, “You couldn’t have. I knew that then and I know that now.” You lock eyes with him, “Don’t you understand that’s what I’m saying? Don’t you understand that the answer is no?”

    “But I can’t…” He grimaces, as though someone has twisted a knife in his gut, “I can’t just let you kill yourself.”

    And now it’s your turn to grimace, to feel the pain twisting your stomach into knots. You don’t really know why you do it though. Are you afraid to die? No. That’s not it. You’re afraid for him. For the pain your death will cause him.

    “You have to be strong.” You say, “For me.” This time it’s you that reaches out, to lay a hand gently on his shoulder, “You know if I don’t do this, a lot of people will die. Because I know, if I go berserk again, you won’t be able to pull the trigger. And it wouldn’t be fair to ask you to do that anyway. So the answer is no, I won’t let you be my safety net anymore.” His only response is a nod. You slide the hand gently off of his shoulder. That will be your only goodbye. It will be easier that way.

    The cup that holds the poison looks normal. Just a regular coffee cup, containing your favorite blend of Colombian roast, and, of course, the substance that will kill you, quickly and painlessly, which is more then you deserve. You are not afraid. You are ready. You pick the cup up off the table and bring it close to your lips but then hesitate, because you see that shining in his eyes, the shining that means he’ll start crying. There is that twisting feeling in your stomach again. Seeing him in pain has always hurt the worst. But you can’t risk it anymore. You can’t let yourself live at the cost of more deaths.

    Before you can hesitate, you take a gulp, the coffee burning your throat as it goes down. The room wobbles and you fall, but he catches you, like you knew he would, so that your head doesn’t crack open on the concrete floor.

    You are paralyzed, but still conscious, and you know you only have a few seconds before the world grows dark.

    He sinks to his knees, cradling you in his arms, like a child. He is no longer holding back his tears. Perhaps because he already thinks you dead.

    “I wish,” He says, through sobs and tears and unbecoming bubbles of snot, “I wish you would have said yes.”

    He puts his forehead to yours and you feel warm drops of moisture fall on your cheeks. In that moment you, too, wish you had said yes. That things could have been different. That you could have been alive and happy.

    But you do not doubt your decision, not in the last seconds that you have breath. Because the last time you said yes to him, a lot of people died and this time, the death tole would be a single, solitary, one.

    • Wolf271

      That was amazing and beautiful and very very emotional. You’ve used second person very effectively! I love it. Did this just come from the top of your head or is there a longer story behind it?

      • Thanks! It was a sort of top of my head thing. I used this writing prompt and also a dialogue prompt. Also, I’ve been thinking of werwolfs a lot lately for some odd reason (which is what the main character is). The rest of it kinda flowed from there. I’m glad you liked it!

    • Venis Nytes

      Wonderful story

  • Richard Huckle

    Not knowing much about POV, I believe I’ve been hedge hopping between them, but appear to prefer Third Person Omniscient, but will have to first discover what that last big word means? Then a re-write may well be called for!

  • Bangalorekar Ranganath

    The post is excellent, extending a warm hug of inspiration to the budding writers. I prefer ‘third person omniscient’ POV, with no room for any boredom in my narration.

  • Gary G Little

    Peter had his normal “I’m paying attention” look plastered on his face, but his mind was chasing super villains, decimating evil minions with mighty punches that laid ten low at one swipe.

    One ear caught, “Good morning, we have a guest speaker this morning, the Rev. Charles Birch, from the 2nd Baptist Church. Rev. Birch will present the creationist side to what we have been studying in the physical sciences. Rev. Birch.”

    “Blah … blah … blah,” Peter heard in his public ear but his private ear heard Dr. Daemon spewing his maleficent threats, “Capt. Magnificent, you have no hope of defeating my eco-destroying minions!” On and on it went, Birch preaching “let there be light … the dominion of man over all things … everything in it’s proper order … on the first day God created the second day … and on the third day blah blah blah,” and of course during all of this Dr. Daemon and Capt. Magnificent continued their mighty struggle on the farside of the moon, until Peters public ear heard, “of course the universe can only be 10,000 years old …”

    What? What was that his public ear just heard? The Universe is a maximum of 10,000 years old? Peter was now attentive to what the pompous windbag in front of the class was saying.

    A single hand raised itself amongst the sea of blank faces.

    “Yes, young man?”

    “Uh, Rev. Birch, how can the universe be 10,000 years old?”

    “Easy uh huh,” Ms. Murphy whispered into the Reverends ear, “yes, Peter, we know the age of the universe from the generations that are recorded in the Bible.”

    “But … I was at a dig in Colorado last summer and the rock strata around the fossils …”

    “Humph, all conjecture. I believe God made the fossil and the rocks surrounding it ten thousand years ago.”

    “All fossils are like that then?”

    “Well of course. Given He made the fossils He made the surrounding rock. We only think that it took millions of years.”

    Peter’s hand shot up again.

    Rev. Birch tried to avoid him, but Peter was a persistent little son of… “Yes?”

    “So God’s just a practical joker, creating false evidence to fool the sciences?”

    The class was coming out it’s “guest speaker” lethargy, as Peter again had his hand up and spoke before acknowledged, “Does the Bible say what the speed of light is?”

    “Well, now I think that has no bearing …”

    Susan piped up, adding onto Peter’s question “How can Andromeda be millions of light-years away if the universe is only 10,000 years old?”

    “Uh well … Andromeda?”

    “No wonder He didn’t have time to save my baby sister if He wasted all that time making fossils look millions of years old,” came a loud, whispered, comment from the back of the room.

    Ms. Murphy quickly ushered Rev. Birch from the classroom, and shook his hand in the hall, “Thank you so much for coming. We do appreciate all view points.”

    “Who are those kids?” the Reverend asked.

    “Oh, the Anderson District Scholars Program. Basically our high school geniuses in sciences and math. It’s required we allow all view points to be presented.”

    • B. Gladstone

      Interesting. Uh, Gary, how could you have written the story in 15 minutes? Or did you dig up a fossil story you wrote millions of years ago…?

      • Gary G Little

        Does it matter?

        It took a day and a half to percolate through my gray matter. I then took approximately 15 to 20 minutes to rough it out and get it into Draftin. Then another while, hours, lots of minutes, to get it to where I wanted to post it. Once posted, I’ve gone back and edited it, probably dozens of times, making changes as it has continued to peroclate.

    • I loved the flashing between reality and a story he is telling himself in his head. That’s me about 90% of the time. lol

      I would also just like to add, that all creationists aren’t young earth creationists. There are a lot of different theories. Take the gap theory and theistic evolution for example. Then you have people who take it as a literal six days and others who don’t because of the bible verse that says “a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day”. Then, there are two different meanings to the word “day” if you look at the translation of the bible from Hebrew to English. So there is argument over which version of the word “day” is being used sense one can be taken literally and the other figuratively. There are literally of books written on these subjects, with Christians arguing amongst themselves over which is right. I have actually meet very few people who think the way the reverend in this story does, especially sense when you go to seminary they teach you how to not look like an idiot in these situations.

      I think It’s important to remember when you’re writing Christians (or any group that often gets stereotyped) that they are not stereotypes. I’ve written atheists and it’s really easy just to make them injured people who are angry at God and dissatisfied with life, but that’s just not the reality. A lot of atheists know their stuff and have good reason for their beliefs. The same applies to Christians. If you still want to debunk the Christian in the end, I’m totally cool with it. I would just say, have the Christian have a better argument then “God put the fossils their like that”. Make it harder for your main character to debunk him, create more conflict, and make us cheer him on all the more when he wins.

      Just thought that was worth mentioning. All in all, the piece is very well written.

      • Gary G Little

        Assumption: Pastors and or reverends have been to seminary. Not true. In the Southern Baptist Convention, at least when I was in the SBC, pastors were not assigned by the convention, nor was any kind of, pre or post graduate, pastoral education required. Pastors were called by the local church, without guidance from the convention, and could easily not even have finished high school. There are many churches that have no affiliation with any established denomination, and therefore call whomever they want as their pastor.

        • Oh, yes, you handled POV nicely. I’m just the kind of person that will comment on every part of the story. And I’m sorry if the comment was too much, or you didn’t find it helpful. I just tend to say what I think. But for the exercise you did a good job on the POV.

          • Gary G Little

            Oh the comment wasn’t too much. After 68 years my hide is pretty tough and criticism I tend to take in a constructive manner and/or with a grain of salt.

            But you assumed something in your comment that, in my experience is simply not true. In my experience, the pastors that had graduated college, let alone ever attended seminary were zero. My denomination, at the time, was lucky to have pastors that finished high school.

          • 68 years, wow that’s a lot of time and experience! You have the respect of a young Padawan.

            You’re right. I was looking at it from a United Methodist view point (sense that’s the denomination I belong to). Our denomination is pretty strict with schooling and is very organized when it comes to chain of command. I discounted the fact that not all denominations and churches are like mine. My current pastor actually has a PhD and really knows what he’s talking about, so were lucky in that. I’ve also grown up in a home where ignorance isn’t tolerated. We learn about our religion (and everything else we can learn about) and are not victims of blind acceptance.

            I’m sorry you had experiences with uneducated pastors. I hope they weren’t all as bad as the one in the story. If they were, then that stinks. And I do realize that there are, sadly, some pastors like the one from your story who don’t have very good arguments when it comes to the science of their faith. But I also hope that people know that all Christians aren’t, to put it frankly, stupid.

          • Gary G Little

            Again, assumptions. Christianity was never equated to stupidity, and above all else no attempt to equate uneducated to stupid was ever made. In all those 68 years I have seen incredibly educated people, read that doctorates, that were, above all else, stupid. I have also encountered uneducated people that could best be described as genius.

            Birch was, at best, unprepared. His fault, Murphy’s fault, irrelevant, not what I was striving for. It was simply the vehicle used to convey POV switching from character to character. Birch could have been Islamic and quoting the Torah.

  • Orlando José Alejos

    I wrote for 20 minutes before I realized it, so here’s what I got.

    “Okay, calm down, calm down. You must get a hold of yourself” I murmured frantically to myself, I had to calm down before I blew another hole through the wall, or worse. I sat still on the hard floor, and I still couldn’t believe what had happened, it didn’t make sense at all, but there was evidence of it right before my eyes: a brick wall that now had a wide circle in its middle, still glowing hot from what I had done. Yet it was nothing compared to the silver glow that came from my hands, it felt strange, alien yet oddly comfortable, like I was wearing a glove while sparks coursed throug my arms.

    I kept staring at my hands for a long time, trying to find some explanation for what had happened, it couldn’t have been me who did that, I wasn’t that special, I didn’t have some special blood, nor had I gone through any experiment, I didn’t even fit in any origin story of any Super. I was sure of that, I had even taken the tests at the Dome.

    “This can’t be happening!” I screamed, letting loose all the emotions I had tried to hold back. “ARGGGHhhh!”

    Then, it happened again, the room was bathed again in a silver hue as another silver beam left my hands and destroyed the wall a bit more, leaving behind only one third of what had been an sturdy wall once. That flash had confirmed my fears, this was the reality I had been the one to destroy the wall. I was angry, scared and happy at the same time, these emotions clashing one against the other as I witnessed the destruction I had wrecked in less than 10 minutes.

    A grave sound pierced the old room I was in, it sounded like a lament, a sorrowful lament from a strange lonely monster. It only lasted a few seconds, and then, a piece of the roof fell about 5 meters from me. It was followed by another one, and another one bigger than the first two. Soon the whole roof was falling in, and fear once again took a hold of me. I was going to die, I knew I was going to die, buried beneath the rubis of the room.

    “I, I don’t want to die” I screamed with all the force of my lungs while I tried to protect my head with my hands, I knew it wasn’t going to be enough, it wasn’t going to be enough if I wanted to live. I want to live. That thought was the last one I had before a surge of power coursed through my body, engulfing my vision in a white blanket before I passed out.

    When I woke up, I felt groggy, moving my body was hard, and the air was packed with dust. But I didn’t hurt anywhere, not did I feel like I was buried under something. I slowly made my way to my knees, looking at myself for any sign of injuries, but there was none, in fact except for the dust my clothes were exactly the same as they had been before the fall in.

    “This is impossible” I said out loud to no on, but how did this happen? I thought I was done for sure. It was only then that I looked around me and I was shocked for the fifth time that day.

    There wasn’t any rubis near me, no for a meter around me. Was that possible? How?

    • Gary G Little

      Well done. There are a couple of times where the protagonist is thinking, not speaking. It would help to clarify that like using italics, or at least quoting.

      • Orlando José Alejos

        Thanks for the advice- I usually use italics when it comes to thoughts, but I wasn’t sure if they were going to copy that way from writer. So I’ll try to use them next time.

  • Kenneth M. Harris

    I wrote one short story in the first person POV twenty five years ago. I never tried it again. Since I decided to face my fears, here I go again.

    I had just opened my eyes and before I could see clearly, I was standing next to the bed jumping up and down. All of a sudden, i was standing next to the dresser drawer. did I run? I had so much energy. It seemed as if I had four cups of coffee and six energy pills. I looked across the room at the hamper. The hamper was empty and the clothes that were stuffed there were clean and folded. Last night the hamper was full of dirty clothes..
    I head a soft voice that sounded like mine. “Esther, you now have super human power. The clothes were washed and folded last night. If you go to the kitchen, there is no longer a pile of dirty dishes. They have all be washed and put away. That’s all I have to say.”
    “What are you talking about? Who are you?” Suddenly, I was jumping up and down next to my dresser drawer.. I paused and looked into my mirror. I still looked the same. A long braid with a hair pin fastened to the left close to may ear. I did feel energized. At once I felt like I needed or wanted to run. I walked down the stairs toward the front door. The moment that i stepped out. I had dashed down the block, turned to the right and dashed down that block and Paused, standing in right in from of me was me. she looked exactly like me. She had a long braid that was pinned to the side like i did. She was wearing a light tan tee-shirt and black short shorts, blue gym shoes. Just like I am wearing. We both stood there, sweating, jumping up and down as though there were springs.under our shoes.
    ” Who are you?”
    ” I just you told you when we were in the house.”
    Then, she said
    “I’ll just tell you this much. Let’s race back to the house and up the stairs and stand next to the bed. Whoever get there first wins.
    “Win what,”
    “You’ll find out.” she dashed past me to the right. I spun back around so fast that I became dizzy. I dashed down the block and turned left. Before I knew it, I was in the kitchen. Mama was there.
    I was downstairs sitting at the table with her.
    “I am impressed. you have fixed breakfast and washed the dishes and I see you have been running.”
    Thanks mama, I said.
    Then in my mind and my ear I heard my own voice.
    There are two Esther. The one who procrastinate and don”t get things done and the one that get things done immediately without being told..
    Then mama looked at me and smiled. She never smiles in the morning. but today, she did. She said, well today you cooked the breakfast and washed the dishes without waiting until you got home from school. I like this part of you, Esther.
    Then, I knew what had happened, KEN Well, there it is. Now, this means that I have used the first person again. I feel okay because, even if it’s terrible. I tried.

    f

  • My go to POV is 3rd Person, limited.

    Oops!! Just realized I completely blew the prompt.

    Oh well … back to he drawing board (or computer).

  • Grant Jonsson

    The first time it happened took me by surprise. It would anyone wouldn’t it? I was standing in line at the grocery store
    with my mom. I was tapping my foot to
    the beat of my own boredom, impatiently waiting for the guy ahead of us to move
    his cart; which if you ask me he didn’t even need. I added in some finger snaps. 1…2…and…3.
    The third snap brought with it an echo.
    When I looked around, I wasn’t in the grocery store anymore. I was in a cave.

    I had waited for my eyes to adjust to the dark. The only light that was coming through was a
    small crack far ahead of me to my left side.
    I looked down at my feet for a path.
    Right in front of me the rock I was standing on dropped off into an
    abyss of black. Behind me stood the edge
    of the cave. I remember
    hyperventilating. I was so scared I
    couldn’t move. I started snapping my
    fingers again and said out loud, “think, think, think,” matching my snaps to
    the words in my head. On the third snap,
    I was back in the grocery store. Police
    were there talking with my mother. I had
    been gone a long time.

    After that day I tried experimenting with my new formed
    ability. I started thinking of specific
    places that I wanted to visit; I wanted to see if I could control it. After a few failed attempts ending up in
    grungy basements, restaurant cooler storages, and an actor’s cottage, I got a
    hold of the pattern.

    The success of my teleportation was contingent on my ability
    to breathe evenly. I needed to remain
    completely calm. When I realized that my
    ability was never going away, my excitement is what kept me from perfection. Failure after failure brought an increased
    frustration with myself.

    • Wolf271

      It’s good. You haven’t overdone anything. You’ve shown what happened through your character really well. I particularly like the line “dropped off into an abyss of black.”

  • Wolf271

    This was my attempt at using 2nd person. I rarely use it. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you 🙂

    “Now what can you tell me about God? Anybody? Yes, yes, um Alice?”
    “Alicia, Miss. God is often described with the three Os. He is omnipotent, all powerful, omnipresent, everywhere and omniscient, all knowing.” You suppress a groan.
    “Which textbook did she swallow to spew that out?” you whisper to your friend. She giggles quietly.
    “Shhhh,” she replies. You sigh and put your head on the table. You’ve been stuck in this stuffy classroom for half an hour and you really won’t last for another half. You can practically eat religion in this school.

    “Hey you, you, sleepy child,” the teacher says. For a moment you’re confused but then your friend nudges you and you realise the woman is talking to you. ‘Can’t she learn our names?’ you think.
    “Yes, Miss?” you dare to risk saying.
    “What can you tell me about God?” she asks. ‘Oh for God’s sake,’ you think before realising the irony.
    “Um,” you reply. You could almost swear that time was slowing down. Everyone’s eyes turn towards you almost in slow motion before they stop as if frozen. You wish the ground would hurry up and swallow you. It takes you a moment to realise that no one is blinking.
    “Hello?” you say, hoping you don’t sound like an idiot. Nobody responds. ‘Okay, this is really creepy.’ You poke your friend but she doesn’t move. A bead of sweat trickles down your forehead that has nothing to do with the heat. What is going on? A cold feeling washes over you and you sit back in your seat feeling dizzy. You try to control your breathing but it is rapid and coming in gasps. You glance at the clock only to see that the second hand has stopped moving. Hands clammy, you glare at it willing it to move. Millimetre by millimetre it does. You sigh with relief when everybody’s movement resumes only to find yourself under the scrutiny of 30 pairs of eyes.

    “Well?” asks the teacher. Suddenly desperate, you look at the clock and wonder if you can make time go faster.

  • Impervious007

    Who’s point of view;

    So there’s this guy, this one guy I never liked, he’s constantly stealing my ideas, getting credit for the success, or if the idea fails, that’s when he throws me under the bus. Oh it’s so aggravating when he takes the words right outta my mouth, when I try to participate in the discussion, he cuts me off, I swear he thinks he knows everything he’s talking about.
    Oh, yeah and he’s always making an ass out of me, no matter what it is, especially at every work party.
    This guy thinks he’s so slick, two steps ahead of everyone, but he’s not quick, I know every move he’s gonna make before he makes them.
    It’s also extremely embarrassing he always seems to wear what I have on, then to hear people say how good he looks, I swear his heads swelling from the compliments.
    Have you seen him? That car he’s driving, that watch he’s wearing, his house, and kids, and his wife, most people only dream of marrying. He has everything I ever wanted, yet he takes it all for granted, he won’t let anyone else enjoy the spot light, like it’s impossible for him to share it.
    He never talks to me, which makes it that much more awkward, because I always see him in the bathroom, and every time I wash my hands, there he is, just starring, blocking my reflection. When I try to move, he moves too, it’s so obvious he’s doing it on purpose, but I don’t like drama, quite frankly his demeanor makes me a little nervous. So I just ignore it, I’m starting to wonder if I should report him, but what if the boss thinks I’m jealous? I much rather prefer waiting until the day he quits, or who knows maybe he’ll get fired, I just hope he’s not still here up until the day that I retire.

  • B. Gladstone

    Until the age of five almost six, I thought everyone could figure out how to walk through walls. The morning my mom was walking me to my first day of school she broke the news to me. Once we reached the first intersection, and we were standing at the corner waiting for the light to change, she first asked me, “Maddy, remember that I mentioned to you every person in the world is unique?” I nodded while I kept my eye on the street light. “and what did I say was so unique about you?” “That I have three freckles on my nose.” “Maddy! Not that but the one thing nobody can tell by looking at you.” I looked up at her and said, “That I am a smart kid and I figured out that walls don’t divide or separate?”

  • Impervious007

    Chapbook 25

    Last night I was scared, I had another bad dream I just wanted my mommy there but she was in another room asleep. It was a nightmare, the one I often have, about a monster, who’s over 6ft. He chases me down, grabs me by my hair, thrown me into walls, I don’t know why he’s so angry, he’s even kicked me down the stairs.

    I woke up sweating, my eyes filled with tears, and what scared me the most was bruises had appeared. They covered me from head to toe, I couldn’t hide them underneath my clothes. Today I was supposed start my first day of school, but mommy said I couldn’t go.

    Back to sleep, I don’t even remember getting ready for bed, I just blacked out, when I woke up a pain filled my head. My dream had some how become real, there was the monster, standing over my body, breathing, and grunting, where is my mommy. Why doesn’t she come and help, why isn’t she protecting me, can’t she hear me if I yell.

    Can anyone hear me, why can’t anyone figure it out, I wish my daddy was here, but mommy won’t let him around. When will this nightmare finally end, what will it take for him to leave, one of us dead, or broken and bleeding?

    Years have gone by, I’m learning to deal, he’s still in our lives, drinking his meal. He is always mad always drunk, never caring, incapable of feeling love. Beating satisfies a need inside him, one that reminds him he’s alive, he’s in control, that everyone’s beneath him, we do as were told.

    My other siblings have dealt with it their own way, my oldest sibling has different personality traits. One minute he’s him, by the next someone else, he swears one day he’ll be free of this hell, and when he does he never wants to see any of us again, he disowns our family, he can’t be my friend. The pain is so much more than anyone should take, it won’t be long from now till one of us breaks.

    It finally happened, as I began to prepare my food, cutting up vegetables, trying not to listen to them argue, but low and behold i couldnt ignore the thump, at that very moment I snapped into somebody else.

    Someone stronger than who I thought I’d become, with a knife in one hand, and a plan in the other, I made my way to the second floor, and found the that thud was my mother. As the plaster in the wall shaped like her head, I looked for the monster, and seen him covered in red.

    Like a bull I charged toward him, digging the knife in his gut, 1,2,3 times ain’t enough. Like the monster he’s always been, courage from his bottle, the pierces in his side didn’t stop him, he was numb from the booze, and like a mad man, he retaliated, nothing could keep him from trying to kill me.

    I just woke up from a terrible dream, just to find myself in a worse reality. Laying at the bottom if the stair case, in a puddle of my own blood, flashing lights reassured me help had finally come, but I couldn’t move, my body paralyzed, what had I done? I see my mother screaming she is covered in blood, Then I seen the monster sitting up with tape across his abdomen arms crossed in cuffs, finally he will get what he deserves, but what does this mean or us?

    The only girl out of eight kids, the second eldest of the bunch, I thought we stuck together this long, and through such hell, we’d most likely stay together, but only time could tell. If only the words for what’s felt could every truly be spoken, perhaps only then could anyone listening would know just what was dealt, but sometimes you can’t mutter out the words that would allow others to understand what kind of welt gets lashed across a tiny body when beaten with a belt.

    Even after hundreds of beatings, thousands of black and blue marks, fractured bones like ribs and wrists, almost on a daily basis. I bet your thinking how the hell does this go on for so long, when a parent allows another adult to enter their home, use them for everything they own, get drunk and stands by as that person takes their angers and frustration out on the innocent lives they should be protecting. When a mother or father chooses a stranger over their own little ducklings. That is how monsters get away with it so long, because an active parent allows it to go on.

    The truth is of all the afflictions none bare as much pain as the very thought that a mother could prefer a stranger, a monster, putting her babies in danger, actually acts like she doesn’t see what she did wrong. She won’t acknowledge her errors, and the ultimate worst, the day she would choose another guy over us, again, this guy just another monster, and yet he is her life, treats her like crap, calls her an asset, not as his wife. Let her keep him, and the life she’s made, I have my own daughter now, I will never allow her to grow up this way, I will be nothing like my momster, this is the ultimate promise I make, and would die before I’d ever let it break.

    • Gary G Little

      Great piece about a super villain, and how this kind of thing does not happen in a vacuum. Your POV was consistent, first person, but there are places where you need to highlight that these are the thoughts of the protagonist. Italics would work, or even quotes.

  • LouieX

    I only just came across this site today an I was immediately intrigued. I’ve always been self conscious about my writing but I like the idea of being about to just practice like this and get genuine feedback. Anyway I wrote mine in third person limited, I trying to practice how to use better descriptions without overdoing it and getting to fluffy. Here goes..

    I remember the day Melissandra first told me she had superpowers. I would have laughed right then and there if I hadn’t learned to recognize the tension burrowed between her brows. Her pale youthful skin now sagged to that of a woman three times her age. The bags beneath her eyebrows had become so swollen and dark you would have thought she hadn’t slept in weeks. The dark shadows behind her eyes gave way to little life. She hunched over me, her body twitching like little jolts of electricity pulsed through her.
    In health classes we had often seen videos of the effects of hard drugs on addicts, the way they scratched and clawed, itching to escape their bodies. Could she had gotten herself into hard drugs?
    No, I definitely would have noticed. This was something worse, as a tenth grader living in the suburbs true terror had never struck me very hard, but the fear that gripped her eyes sent a chill through my spine.

    “Mel, is everything okay?” I ask as we push our way through the crowded cafeteria.

    Mel leans in close looking over her shoulder with unease checking to see that no one else is listening. She whispers, almost inaudibly.

    “I think I have superpowers Suz.”

    Laughter roars through my belly, which is quickly stifled by the lifeless expression on her face. I’ve never seen her so afraid.

    “I’m sorry, did you say superpowers Mel?” I ask in disbelief.

    Her eyes fix on me with a cold hard expression, there’s no laughter in her eyes, no punch line at the end of this story.

    She lowers her voice as she begins to explain.

    “Last night I went for a climb on Bears Peak. I must of got 150 feet when I lost my footing on the rocks. I was so sure I had all my ropes secured, but as I started to fall nothing caught. In that moment I thought I was going to die. Than, just before my body hit the ground I stopped. My body just suspended, hovering in mid air. It wasn’t long, only a moment, a few seconds at best, but enough time for my body to correct itself and find its footing on the ground.”

    I stare at her in bewilderment, she’s not saying what I think she is, is she.

    “Suzan!” she exclaims as her eyes show a flicker of light. “Last night I flew.”

  • LouieX

    I just discovered this site tonight, I like it already. I wrote mine in third person limited.

    I remember the day Melissandra first told me she had superpowers. I would have laughed right then and there if I hadn’t learned to recognize the tension burrowed between her brows. Her pale youthful skin now sagged to that of a woman three times her age. The bags beneath her eyes had become so swollen and dark you would have thought she hadn’t slept in weeks. The dark shadows behind her eyes gave way to little life. She hunched over me, her body twitching like little jolts of electricity pulsed through her.
    In health classes we had often seen videos of the effects of hard drugs on addicts, the way they scratched and clawed, itching to escape their bodies. Could she had gotten herself into hard drugs?
    No, I definitely would have noticed. This was something worse, as a tenth grader living in the suburbs true terror had never struck me very hard, but the fear that gripped her eyes sent a chill through my spine.

    “Mel, is everything okay?” I ask as we push our way through the crowded cafeteria.

    Mel leans in close looking over her shoulder with unease checking to see that no one else is listening. She whispers, almost inaudibly.

    “I think I have superpowers Suz.”

    Laughter roars through my belly, which is quickly stifled by the lifeless expression on her face. I’ve never seen her so afraid.

    “I’m sorry, did you say superpowers Mel?” I ask in disbelief.

    Her eyes fix on me with a cold hard expression, there’s no laughter in her eyes, no punch line at the end of this story.

    She lowers her voice as she begins to explain.

    “Last night I went for a climb on Bears Peak. I must of got 150 feet when I lost my footing on the rocks. I was so sure I had all my ropes secured, but as I started to fall nothing caught. In that moment I thought I was going to die. Than, just before my body hit the ground I stopped. My body just suspended, hovering in mid air. It wasn’t long, only a moment, a few seconds at best, but enough time for my body to correct itself and find its footing on the ground.”

    I stare at her in bewilderment, she’s not saying what I think she is, is she.

    “Suzan!” she exclaims as her eyes show a flicker of light. “Last night I flew.”

  • Deena

    Great article, Joe! I really appreciate the detail you went into. You made the different points of view so clear. The breadth of your knowledge of literature is awesome, and your two graphics were helpful and concise.

    Katherine Rebekah, great story! You did the second-person POV seamlessly.

    All the best, Deena

  • Gina Salamon

    My genre is romantic suspense, or romantic thrillers, if you will. I always write third person point of view, omniscient, and steer clear of first person for exactly the reasons you’ve stated above. I find first person too limited and stifling. When I read a novel written in first person I find myself distracted, wondering what the other main character(s) are thinking or feeling. Particuarly in a romance – I don’t want to spend my entire reading experience wondering: Is he feeling the same way way or she on her own here?

    Granted, the authors that I habitually read do not typically write in first person, but when they do, I will admit, they’re pretty good at showing me the thoughts and feelings of the other party without actually going into their POV. But, I would say it is a tough thing to accomplish, and only the best writers do.

  • David

    Any feedback would be nice, thanks!

    There are no more villains to fight you. No more evil-doers
    who wish to challenge your right—the right the people gave you to defend their
    lives. The monument that watched over the city like an old father is the
    tribute they built for you. The responsibility that you now stand in. Watching
    over them. An extraterrestrial guardian.

    You look up to see grey clouds swirling, forming some odd
    shape. You take flight, and burst through the glass pane, as people below begin
    to chant your name. The clouds merge with one another, swirling in and out of
    each other. With your vision you can see the faces of the ones you swore to
    protect, even at the cost of your life. Some are smiles, the faces of those
    that believe in you—the ones if they could would join you without a second
    thought. Others had grief-stricken eyes; doubt lined their faces. How could you
    protect them forever? Surely someone greater than you, stronger than you would
    destroy everything that you deemed worth saving. Maybe there was someone that
    could take your place, someone that made all this easier. Hopefully.

    No. Your chest bursts out and the veins in your arms feel
    ready to explode. Your fists clench tighter with each breath. Your eyes narrow.
    Never will you doubt yourself ever again. A crash of lightning hit a nearby
    building, signifying your resolve. You charge into the vortex still swallowing
    the sky. The mass of clouds block your path and out the whirlwind a humanoid
    shape takes form. You. You face off against yourself. “Of course. A hero’s
    greatest challenge is his or herself,” you say.

  • How I hate head-hopping! This is a common mistake my students make – and an easy one that can slip into our drafts. Hence, the importance of revision and beta readers.

    Thank you for this thorough discussion of such an important element of story!

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  • Beth

    The worst limitation I find writing in first person is exactly what Joe pointed out, that you cannot be everywhere at once.
    I find myself getting frustrated at having to switch POV’s between characters in order to be able to tell the story better and show how different characters are feeling because of certain situations; or in my story’s case: one very sinister character.

    But since I’m using my past experiences as a means to write the way I do, I kind of need to stay in first person.
    It’s both a blessing and a curse.

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  • Mimi Demps

    How interesting that a man who has written a 7000-page story is the author of a bestselling book about writing a short story. 😉

  • john t.

    “Tina, what the heck. Put me down.”

    “Sorry Charlie, I just ate a spinach salad.”

    “Clever, but not humorous. Popeye wouldn’t be so frivolous. What if mom and dad had seen you showing off, or worse, if one of the Dancings is spying on us.”

    “You’re no fun, you’re boring and paranoid. Brother or not, I may look for another partner”

    “Be my guest. I’ll find someone who takes our mission seriously. Who won’t jeopardize
    our friends and family out of boredom, and the childish need for attention. Grow up a little. You’re sixteen years old.”

    “And, you’re eighteen going on eighty. It’s true what they say about friends and family.”

    “Whose they?

    “Idiot. They’re the consensus.”

    “What does the consensus have to say on the subject?”

    “Family is the luck of the draw. Friends are deliberate choices.”

    “I’d mention a few of your choices but that won’t get this conversation on track. I, we, need to find out what the Dancings are up to. You need to get close enough to read their daughter’s mind. I’ve got a plan. It could work if you can augment your powers with a dash of maturity.”

    My sister Tina and I were abducted a month ago while hiking in the Grand Canyon. If I had the words to describe the aliens or their vessel, I’d share them, but I don’t. They were spirits as much as anything and I may have been sedated somehow. They separated us. Apparently Tina was more qualified for mental and physical superpowers than I was. She can read minds and has the strength of The Hulk. My power is cooler though. My eyes shoot lasers when I squint and concentrate. If it was just a matter of squinting, the neighborhood would be ablaze. My vision is less than perfect. I’ve been squinting for years. Maybe that’s why I got this power? Whatever. If the Dancings are building a dirty bomb in their basement, I may need to set fire to them and their house. Soon maybe. First, I need to know that my suspicions are warranted.

    Tina needed to befriend the Dancing’s daughter Tanya, an introvert who spoke to no one at school. If she couldn’t befriend her, Tina at least needed to sit by her at lunch, hopefully to learn something from her thoughts. My sister gets bored easily, so sitting near a person who won’t acknowledge her was going to be a challenge. That’s why I was so irritated with Tina and her circus tricks just now. I’m convinced our neighbors are terrorists. But I can’t just burn their house down. What if somebody died and I was wrong? It was time for my sister to step up and put her powers to good use.

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  • La McCoy

    Appreciate the write up Joe. Laura

  • I am having a lot of difficulty with point of view. For instance, Let’s say you have a Memoir or “Diary” type fiction. You want to it to be from the point of view of the person writing the diary; however, you need your reader to know facts about the characters the speaker interacts with that he couldn’t possible know. (perhaps he just met them, etc.) How can you give the reader information about a person that the speaker deosn’t know yet?

  • Richard

    One question I have in regards to POV and which to choose, is suppose you’re writing a story about something that’s already happened. The story is being told by the main character in the story, years later after the story is “over” (kind of like in a journal of what happened, how it ended- to a certain point- leaving out what has happened to the main character due to his choices made). But, one of the unique situations is that the main character is not just one person, but a person literally divided into 3 separate selves. He himself is the Present self, the other two are what has already happened (past- alternate choice of reality) and the last one is “what could be if” situation” (future). The main (present) is part of the three, but only knows the whole story after it’s happened and how the other two responded to events as they occurred. How would the story be told in what point of view? Both first and third? I know it probably sounds confusing; so if you’re willing to give me advice and need some clarification I can do that. Thanks.