POV: One Protagonist, Two Protagonist, Three…


     NARRATING A STORY short or long defines how a story evolves. No two people write the same way. So in a strange way, if every author wrote a book on the same premise, none would be the same.

With that in mind let’s look at narrative POV. Who is telling the story? How many characters? What function do they serve? It can get confusing as soon as you step away from convention, and there are narrative types I wasn’t even aware of until recently as I went through a minor aneursym trying to reconfigure parts of a story having noticed inconsistent POVs.

First Person. Usually the narrator is in the story e.g. “I clambered out of the wreckage…” By placing the reader in the mindset of the protagonist forms a more natural way of taking in the story that reflects real life. First Person is the most involved as we feel every hit, sense everything in the surroundings and are immersed within the characters headspace. That also requires a strong character to carry an entire book.

Second Person (unusual). “You drive down the street and stop at the take-away joint. Opening your window you yell at Denny who’s boxing up a pizza.”

Supposedly very tough to pull of successfully and I can see why. There’s a detachment to the narration, more of being directed towards the end of the story than experiencing it first hand making it hard to feel engaged.

Third Person

Omniscient (TPO). “He went down the alleyway and never came back…” “She walked through the crowd and they stared at her outlandish clothing…” An easy way to understand TPO is that as narrator you are the God of the story. You know everything that is happening providing a way to easily narrate the story due to the 360 degree viewpoint. You know what every character thinks, why they move and behave the way they do providing my favourite way to link in all storylines.

Multiple (TPM). This allows the reader to follow multiple characters and know their thoughts and feelings, the way you would follow a hero and villain through a murder mystery. You can have a back and forth between multiple characters but they must never know what the other character is thinking. Essentially an expanded First Person POV. “I hated his guts, staring him down.” – “Trevor stared at me with all the hatred in the world.”

Limited (TPL). A scaled down version of TPO. We know the thoughts and feelings of the main protagonist, but their actions and thinking are limited to them and nobody else, meaning all other characters can harbour motives and emotions the protagonist can only guess at. “Do they think I’m a terrible parent?” It makes for good use in thrillers as you are placed in the shoes of a character limited to the knowledge they themselves glean meaning there are lots of deductions to be made. Who can I trust? What makes sense? Of all the suspects, who did it? “Mrs. Marple on the Monopoly board! How?”

P.S. I hope that made sense…


lion around 2

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39 thoughts on “POV: One Protagonist, Two Protagonist, Three…

  1. Good post. I try to be very careful with POV.

  2. Every story I write tells me how it wishes to be told, and I go with that. POV is important in a story, and how you handle it. I have seen writers switch POV back and forth constantly in a scene, and that’s a no-no…too confusing for a reader to keep up with who is saying and thinking what. The mistake I see most often in beginning writers (and I did it myself) is switching back and forth between past and present tense…gotta pick one and stick with it. The only exception I make is maybe starting and/or ending a story in present tense (as in prologue and epilogue), and the bulk of the story being past tense.

    1. I never gave POV too much thought until my recent project. I jump from First Person in the opening scenes, to TPO for the remainder. It fits the story but the post stemmed from a moment of angst when I wondered if it would be too jarring but it serves a function so hopefully it works out.

      1. If it works for the story, I say go for it. In my almost-ready WIP, I use both first and third person. I use first with the main character, and third with the secondary. I break them up with chapters, every chapter either one or the other so as not to confuse readers.

      2. Cool. Any clue on what it’s about? 🙂

      3. Witches and snarled-up families, with a Southern setting, of course. 🙂

      4. Sounds good. You do the South really well. Sins of Our Fathers captured the accent and the rest really nicely.

      5. Thank you, Lion. South is what I know best. 🙂

  3. monkey wonder if lionaround have favorite 1st person narrator of all. monkey like nick carraway & pip pirrip from 2 great books. that little bit joke there monkey make.

    1. No idea lol I never tend to categorise books by the pov.
      Whats your favourite? Chiquita? Del Monte?

      1. monkey more partial to hot dog.

  4. Thanks so much for commenting on my poem, “The Flight.” I tried to respond and it deleted and I have no idea why…technology these days! I’ve always like the Omniscient narrator, sounds so powerful, plus I think I just like the sound of it :). Great writing post.

    1. It does sound good doesnt it? I can almost hear the mwu-ha-ha-ha whenever I see the word.

  5. Great chart. A brief but clear explanation.

    1. The funny thing is in my years of reading and writing I never really gave pov much thought, it just happened in a story or by my own hand. I only became aware of the different povs fairly recently like an amateur.

  6. Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog and commented:
    Here is some great information on point of view in your writing.

  7. That’s really helpful for developing stories. I reflected back on my writing and I think I use First Person and TPO often. Should try the others! 😊😊

    1. I think those are the most common ones, same ones I tend to use also.

      1. Yes Sir! 🙋*salute* (couldn’t find a saluting one! 😂😂)

      2. Is that little Adolf? You are surprisingly right wing Syeda… 🙂 😉

      3. Ohh my goodness! Lol! 😱😱😨😨
        I didn’t think that way for sure, Lion. You out on a preying mode??

      4. So either by your stories or by comments, you are out to wind me up! 😨😨😨

      5. Oh I can understand. The Lion’s appetite seems . . . . (ahemm ahem)

  8. Some clear and useful points here. Great chart, too!
    I usually go for Third person, although I do experiment with First person sometimes. The novel I’m working on is in Limited, at the moment. Enjoying it but we’ll see how it goes!

    1. Cheers.
      Its funny because I never actively opted for one particular POV, it seems to arrive organically dependent on the story.

  9. Nice flowchart!

  10. I like the Multiple Characters POV in a longer story. It seems to be the most versatile. Great chart!

    1. They all have their uses. Omniscient is what I tend to use and it has its good and bad points, but for a thriller I don’t need emotion and character as much as the storyline.

  11. I do not know how to narrate third person, which limits me. I have to learn. Your chart is interesting. I wish you’d email it to me.

    1. It’s fairly straight forward 🙂
      Think every scene is narrated by: He, They, She etc.
      As for the chart just copy and save (right click on it).

  12. And which perspective do you prefer? 🙂

    1. TPO – at least that’s what I’ve gravitated towards naturally in book writing, short stories probably more First Person. how about you?

      1. Yeah, first perspective fits the limited narrative of short stories really well I find!
        I generally prefer third person objective or limited when writing longer narratives. I find it’s perhaps the easiest medium to use

      2. They all serve a function, just depends on your natural style as much as anything I think.
        Thanks for droppjng by Nam.

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