No narrative voice is “easy”. Each presents its own particular challenges. So when you are about to get to work on a new idea, how do you choose the best POV for your story?
- Respect the voice in which the story occurs to you. Be true to your creative self.
- Do what comes naturally, but also do your homework. Storytelling is a gift; writing is a craft. Learn how to write strong Third Person Limited – it’s the most important voice to master if you want to write popular fiction.
- Think about which voice will best serve the interests of your story and main character(s). Unless you are writing in the First Person, you will usually choose Third Person Limited (restricted to one or two protagonists) or Multiple Third Person Limited (the rotating viewpoints of a number of protagonists). If characterization and character differentiation are strengths of yours, Multiple Third Person Limited could work well for you. If you want to keep the reader’s focus most tightly on your main two characters (especially in a romance), your best choice is probably Third Person Limited.
- Be practical. It’s better to build one or two very strong characters than a whole cast of weak ones. Your choice of narrative voice, and POV choices within scenes and chapters, can help or hamper your characterization efforts.
- Impose discipline. A novel is not a democracy: most scenes belong – emotionally and dramatically – to one character, maybe two, more than any others. Viewpoint shifts should reflect this “ownership” and keep readers invested in your most important character(s).
- Don’t use an unsuitable voice for your story just to seem “different” or “clever” – readers pick up on anything that feels pretentious or inauthentic.
- Play to your strengths; don’t showcase your weaknesses. Choose the voice that allows you to look your best.
As an editor, I am always looking for that magical something in the art of the narrative and the truth of the story that makes an author’s work unique and distinctive. This quality is easily crushed if an author becomes paralyzed by ‘rules’ at the expense of her creativity.
When you’ve chosen the voice for your story, avoid making distracting errors, then relax. Most authors can get away with more than they think, so long as their choices are in step with the artistic integrity of their stories.