Writing Advice: Viewpoint

by Matt on August 6, 2012

“Howdy!” says I in my native tongue. 
How many of you are writing books? Pretty much all of you on this blog, right? Well, if you’re writing a book, you’re definitely going to have some sort of viewpoint. 
As all – or, most – of you know, there are three types of viewpoint: 
1) First Person. For example, the PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS series is written in first person, from the viewpoint of the main character, Percy. Instead of saying “Percy said” it says “I said.”
2) Second Person. Second person is rarely ever used. Those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books are examples of second person. Instead of saying “They said” or “I said”, second person uses “You said”. 
3) Third Person. Third person is the main type of viewpoint for fantasy, unless you’re reading Patrick Rothfuss’s books. This is the type of viewpoint that says “They said”. 
Third person is most commonly used among fantasy. There are two halves to this type of viewpoint, and those are: 
1) Limited. Limited is typically used in third person. Limited is when you are writing from one character and you’re only in their head. 
2) Omnition. Omnition is rare, at least to me. When you’re writing in omnition, you’re basically playing God with the characters. You get inside all of their heads, rather than just one character. 
These are just things to consider when writing viewpoint. Now, some tips: 
First person is best for MG/YA books. For MG, it’s usually first person, past tense. Most recently, YA books have been first person, present tense, like THE HUNGER GAMES. This also works for science fiction novels. 
Third person is best for fantasy, or even MG books. MG goes both ways like that. Rarely should you ever write a fantasy in first person. Rothfuss was quite ambitious, but you will sometimes see books like this. I, for one, enjoy fantasy in third person, as it’s most common, and it feels more comfortable. 
Second person. Try to stay away from this. I would not write my first novel in second person if I were you, because you will fail miserably. Don’t try it until you’ve mastered first person and third person. Even then, don’t write an entire novel write away. Write a short story first, just to practice with it. 
That’s just about as much as I can give on this topic right now. Talk to you next week!

Aside from all this, what are you guys reading and writing? I’m reading SERVANT OF A DARK GOD by John Brown, and I just completed 2,000 words for a new chapter I’m writing! 

-Matt

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Jared Peterson August 6, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Very insightful! Yeah, second person is just weird . . . 😉

Jeff Hargett August 6, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Reading "Daughter of Hauk" by (online writing buddy) KateMarie Collins. Just getting started in it though because I'm also critiquing another book for another friend.

Another good fantasy series written from first person POV was the Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb. Highly recommended (by me anyway.)

Matt Hayes August 6, 2012 at 6:33 pm

Second-person viewpoint is not very popular, much less publishable. I think there's only like, 10 published second-person books in the entire history of the world. :p

-Matt

Matt Hayes August 6, 2012 at 6:34 pm

I've heard of Robbin Hobb. I need to get her books. Apparently she's the nicest author ever in person but she does the most evil things to her characters.

-Matt

Patrick Stahl August 6, 2012 at 6:36 pm

I've written some second-person horror, but only flash fiction. I think it gives it a nice edge.

Nick Hight August 6, 2012 at 7:41 pm

I saw one piece of fiction written in second person before, and it was really effective. So it can be used, but it's difficult to make it work well most of the time, so not many people do.

Matt Hayes August 6, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Ooh, that actually sounds cool. Second-person horror actually sounds like it would work.

-Matt

Matt Hayes August 6, 2012 at 7:47 pm

I never have. Like I said, it takes a very experienced (or very patient) person to write something in second person. Those who are able to are very talented, and I give them credit.

-Matt

Patrick Stahl August 6, 2012 at 8:39 pm

I can email you two pieces if you'd like. They're really short.

Matt Hayes August 6, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Sure! Don't remember if you have my e-mail. If you don't, I have a page up there where you can see my contact information.

Thanks!

-Matt

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