POV and Perspective | What’s the 411?

POV vs. Perspective Illustration

As a member of the #WritingCommunity on Twitter, there’s always interesting and fun tweets to be read. I especially enjoy the questions that fellow authors and artists ask one another. One of the questions I’ve seen more than once has been about point of view (POV). Is it ok to use more than one POV in the same story, novel, etc.? My answer is a resounding yes!

I remember struggling with this same question as I was working on my craft in various workshops and during my MFA program. Is it ok? If so, how many? Does it depend on the number of characters? As these are all follow up questions I’ve seen in these types of tweets, I know all too well the inner dilemma. I’m used to first and third person POV. Then, I was introduced to second person POV, and I haven’t been the same since.

I read Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney and was intrigued by how the use of ‘you’ put me in the head space of the main character. I was finishing up my Master of Arts in English at Arcadia by taking an online course about the craft of fiction when I had to pick a book to write about. I found it at the library’s main branch downtown for the assignment and couldn’t put it down. There’s a lot of criticism about how it showcases the non-sober Manhattan lifestyle of its alleged playboy author, but I haven’t read another book to use ‘you’ consistently.

It’s both engaging and jarring. It’s the main reason I decided to first try using it in a short story and other smaller works before picking that as a way to write Forever and One Day. Trotting out various prompt responses and chapters in workshops in my MFA program was met with the same praise and criticism I imagine Mr. McInerney experienced firsthand many years ago. I wasn’t fazed by the criticism about the choice of POV because it was more subjective aka “I didn’t like it” or “I don’t like the use of ‘you’ because it’s imperative like you’re yelling at someone and telling them what to do or feel or think”. Notes about syntax, descriptions, and sometimes plot continuity issues were welcome among other points of craft. But the part of the use of second person and only being imperative told me more about the reader and their personal perspective than about any flaws in my writing.

Anytime a person tells you something from a subjective point of view/perspective, it’s usually about judgment or some insecurity on their part. Why do I say this? Because, much like Savannah avoids any sort of deep exploration of her inner issues in the novel, so do many people. Savannah lacks the capacity to examine her feelings and takes things so personally. This is why I chose to use second person because, on one hand, she is detached from herself and the world around her out of insecurity/fear. On the other hand, I wanted the reader to feel and think more deeply about someone else’s perspective in life. Perhaps, exploring these emotions involving the varied scenarios would engage the reader on a meta level.

Why do I (the reader) feel this so deeply? Have I experienced some sort of loss of love in my own life? Do I still carry around these inner wounds? Does Savannah make any changes? Better yet, do I want to make changes so as not to end up like Savannah?

As true as it is that people can only meet you as deeply as they’ve met themselves, it is also true for readers because, after all, readers bring their own life experiences with them as the lens through which they filter your writing. So, yes, I am all about utilizing more than one POV in writing just as I do in my own work because as my own perspective expands, I hope to facilitate a much needed expansion in readers of my work as well.

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