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October 22, 2018
By Betty Kelly Sargent
Editor Betty Kelly Sargent answers writing questions submitted by readers. This month, she takes a look at the difference between point of view and perspective in fiction.

Dear Editor:

Could you please explain the difference between point of view and perspective in fiction? —James K.

As I see it, point of view refers to the format the author has chosen for the narration (who is speaking), whereas perspective refers to the worldview of a character (how she is feeling and thinking). Most novels are written from either a first-person POV or a third-person POV. Writing in the second person is difficult to pull off in fiction.

A first-person narrative can feel intimate because the reader knows what the narrator feels and believes. It can be limiting though, because the narrator may have a lopsided take on things and may not be good at characterizing herself.

Third-person narratives can be limited (one character’s point of view prevails throughout the story) or omniscient (there are many characters, and the narrator knows everything about them, past, present, and future). The latter reduces the narrator’s intimacy with the reader but gives her the freedom to interpret the importance of events, as well as the characters’ reactions to them.

Whether you choose a first- or third-person point of view, getting the perspective of each of your characters down pat is essential. Try to walk their walk and talk their talk. Getting a firm grip on the perspective of each of your characters can make a big difference in the success of your novel.

Betty Kelly Sargent is the founder and CEO of BookWorks.

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