Previously I explained how to write smoother transitions. There was a brief explanation about the different types of writing voices that you can use. In today's blog, I will specifically cover how you can decide which voice to use in your writing.
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As there are many writing courses on the internet from experienced writers explaining the differences between writing points of view with their advantages and disadvantages, I will only briefly touch on those points. The highlight of my blog is for webnovel writers who are venturing into e-fiction without prior writing experience.
Before we begin, here are some materials I would need you to read so you know what I'm talking about.
Once you have read them, let's begin.
Remember how Webnovel is split into two main genres? We have ML (male-lead), and FL (female-lead), which basically stands for romance-related (FL) and non-romance-related (ML) works.
Most romance novels are written in first-person POV as it allows readers to become more easily emotionally attached to the thrill of falling in love from the main character's point of view. It allows a more shared experience with the reader who can easily imagine themselves as that main character. It's an ego thing called self-insert but that's the reason why they read the book. First-person is extremely useful in gaining empathy with the reader and relating the emotions back using thoughts.
However, that's not to say it is limited to romance genres. Romance genres can also be written with a third-person POV as writers tend to switch between writing male and female leads.
On the other hand, using first-person POV for adventure genres can be a great asset to view the world from the main character's eyes. I used that in the first season of Ball of Nothing. You can do something similar but keep in mind the limitations of not being able to use certain descriptions and know certain knowledge about the world that the main character has not learned about.
Some examples of first-person writing in Webnovels:
This is from Ball of Nothing by yours truly.
Now that you have an idea how a first-person voice can be used, let's take a look at third person.
If you read reading material (b), you will know that there are three kinds of 3rd POV in writing. The first is something that gives you absolute knowledge and control as a narrator watching over your children from the skies. The second is like a guardian angel or shadow constantly following your main character. The third is the ghost that jumps from character to character, whichever is more interesting throughout the book.
There are no right and wrongs for any of these three perspectives and you don't need to strictly stick to the 3rd POV you have chosen because it is written in a voice that is neutral. HOWEVER! You have to apply good writing techniques to ensure the reader can easily follow your writing when you switch voices and focus. Refer back to my previous blog on tips for writing smoother transitions.
To help you learn how these POVs work, I will select some examples from webnovel. They can be FL or ML. There aren't any restrictions here. In fact, this is the voice most authors prefer to use thanks to the flexibility. What's more, if you are a fan of comedy and breaking the fourth wall, this is perfect for creating that opportunity.
Notice how at the top of the chapter, Aimee introduces the POV of her character and the voice she is writing it in? This is a very clean and easy-to-follow example. It doesn't disrupt the pace of the plot either, and throughout the chapter, she keeps it to that POV.
As you can see, while the genre is a factor in helping you decide what voice to use, both are possible. It depends on how deep a connection you want to forge with your readers.
#2: Frequency of Switching
No, I'm not talking about top or bottom in a smut scene or BDSM concept. Get your mind out of the gutter! I'm talking about how often you must jump from one character's head into another's.
As seen above, the 3rd POV makes that easier to do so. It isn't to say that you cannot do it in a 1st POV. If anyone has read Twilight (it might not be a favourite, but I don't only read favourites) there was a part that switched from Bella's POV into Jacob's. There are no hard and fast rules as long as the reader can follow along easily.
If you are unconfident about your writing abilities to switch fluently and maintain that consistency, I would suggest using a regular neutral 3rd POV that is omniscient because that gives you more flexibility and avoids the common plot pitfalls when writing. It isn't to say that you can 'head-chop' to the other character abruptly in a scene. Writing preference and writing techniques are not the same thing. Everyone can have a different writing preference as a wordsmith. But at the end of the book, you need to master the various writing techniques to create an enjoyable masterpiece for the readers.
Not many people take the main character's personality into consideration when choosing a writing POV. I'd say there isn't a hard and fast rule, but according to personal experience, I would recommend these.
Everyone should know by now that the 1st POV is more immersive in thoughts and emotions through the personal eyes and experience of a character. However, did you know that the 1st POV can also give detailed sensations of an experience? Good 1st POV writings can invoke bodily reactions in the reader similar to the main character. If a character is feeling the fear of getting discovered by the serial murderer just a few steps away from her hiding spot, there is a difference between the 1st and 3rd POV depending on the personality of this character.
Let me give you an example so you know what I'm blabbing about.
Personality: Timid damsel in distress
No... don't come any closer! I covered my mouth with my trembling hand. He was so close that I could smell his sweat from under the bed.
Wait, no. That's the smell of my sweat. Please don't make a sound... please don't make a sound... It's over if he hears me. With how soft my legs have become, there's no way I can run if he drags me out of here.
Somebody! Anybody! Can someone please get me out of here?
Personality: Timid damsel in distress
Footsteps echoed in the bedroom. There was not a stir in the air as the murderer entered. Ellie remained under her bed and held back tears. She even held her breath and covered her mouth with one hand, too afraid to exist.
The man was flipping things in her room in search of her, and every clattering sound made her tremble more. Her legs had long ceased to function, turning into noodles from the fear as he got even closer to her bed.
If he found her and dragged her out from underneath her last line of defence, it would be over.
Screwing her eyes shut in a silent scream for salvation, Ellie prayed.
Now compare these with a different sort of protagonist.
Personality: Calculating heroine
Here he is! After so many weeks of preparing, that man finally showed up at my door. I didn't expect him to disarm the locks so quickly. Then again, I should have expected that. He is a well-known serial murderer the police couldn't catch.
It's ok. I got this. I just have to make sure he doesn't find me here. Who would have thought it would be so dusty underneath a bed? If I had known, I would have vacuumed it before he showed up. It's a little too late now.
Tightening my hold of the baseball bat under the bed, I listened to his footsteps coming up the stairs. The man is very silent but not silent enough. I can still tell where he is even with the sound of my heart in my ears. He should enter my room in no time, and that's where I will break his ankles!
Personality: Calculating heroine
Ellie bit her bottom lip as she heard her locks getting disarmed at a record-breaking rate. She should have bought better locks if she knew he was so quick with them. It would have given her more time to get into position.
The bottom of her bed was caked in so much dust that the amateur sleuth had to battle sneezing and giving herself away. She tightened her hold on the baseball bat she borrowed from the neighbour's kid in exchange for candy. It was a little too late for regrets. She should have listened to her mother and cleaned her room when she had the chance.
Footsteps echoed in the silent house as the murderer came up the stairs. Ellie made sure to mutter quick prayers as the knob to her room turned. She held her breath and psyched herself.
After weeks of waiting, this was it. She would break both his ankles in one powerful swing and stun him with the taser. It's alright. She practised it.
There isn't a right and wrong with either POV. However, the voice that you tell it in matters. Which POV suits these individuals better? It's up to you as the writer to decide what would make your characters shine.
#4: Writing Style
As seen from the examples above, the writing styles differ from the first example of the timid damsel and the calculating heroine. If you are a writer leaning more into world-building like me, the 3rd POV is fantastic for slipping in details while writing. However, if you are a more character-oriented writer like SunScar9, the 1st POV or limited 3rd POV might work better for you. Deep POVs can work either way but it feels more personal from a 1st POV if that is your thing.
I would recommend checking out Sunscar's work Autopsy of a Mind for what it means to write Deep POV in 1st POV.
An excerpt from her book with Deep POV example in 1st POV:
#5: Plot Complexity
If you're not a planner type of writer, I don't think the POV matters. However, if you are a writer with an outline for your work, this might matter to you.
As a rule of thumb, more linear plots and slice of life type of content will go well with 1st POV because of its here-and-now moments. The spices lie in the details more than the actions. If the plot is set in a world that readers are familiar with, it can do well in 1st POV too.
If your plot requires new rules, laws and world-building that can be hard to explain without any prior introduction of the new concept to the readers, writing in a 3rd POV can be easier. Just be sure not to info dump when writing in a narrator's voice. There are obviously exceptions to this, but it is recommended that the more complex plots should be written in a 3rd POV for more writing flexibility.
The first and third-person voice is most commonly used in writing. I'd say that a general rule of thumb is to decide if your writing style revolves around the main character more in terms of action or emotions. The first-person voice is always good for an emotional connection with the reader. A third-person voice is great for exciting plots. Neither is wrong but try to maintain that consistency. Do not switch and overextend the limitations of that voice. If you're a more flexible writer who requires more POV switching while writing, stick to a neutral third-person voice that can zoom in like a camera narrator (omniscient) and back to the neutral voice for different characters.
If you have any other questions, you can do your research online or reach out to me. I would highly suggest you do your research first to avoid getting scolded by me. Links have been provided above, have fun!