Here you are at your partner’s work Christmas party, martini in hand and biting your tongue. Your partner is entertaining their boss with a story about that one time you dyed all of their work shirts a splotchy pink because you left a red sock in the wash. You know, ha ha, that time the big clients were in town.
You throw back your drink and keep your mouth shut because you don’t want to make the love of your life look bad in front of the person who writes their annual performance review.
However, your partner is not a reliable narrator. At all.
They don’t mention that they were the one who did that load of laundry… that it was their own damn fault for waiting till the last minute… that they bought those bright red, non-color fast socks… that they didn’t sort the laundry before washing.
The values, goals, and information known by the storyteller influence their narrative. If you have ever accused someone of telling the story wrong or leaving out the best parts, you have experienced this yourself.
This makes the selection of your story’s point of view (POV) character a critical choice. The story belongs to your POV character, and a poor choice here diminishes your ability to tell your tale.
The POV character needs to be someone the audience cares about, be it the protagonist, antagonist, main character, or the narrator. They need to be important to the story and able to move it forward.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when considering who to make your POV character:
- Who knows critical information?
- Who will be in your story right through the very last scene?
- Which character has to make the hardest decisions?
- Whose voice will set the correct emotional tone?
- Who will create the most suspense?
- Which character’s goals match the theme of the story?
- Who has the most skin in the game?
- If your book became a series, who would you want to keep writing about?
- Who will the readers identify with?
- What gets left out if we don’t get into a character’s head?
- Who is your story about?
- Who has needed memories?
- Does the POV character distract or focus the reader?
- Which character is the least boring?
- Who can help the reader understand what’s going on?
- Which character will be the most transformed by the end of the story?
- Who can help you best conceal a plot twist?
- Who can reveal secrets or lies?
- What does your genre assume about your POV character?
The answers to these questions can also help you decide if you need more than one POV character in your story.