I often say that I’m a literary omnivore—I’ll read almost anything. But, of course, even with tastes as broad as mine there are exceptions. There are biases. And we all have them, even if we don’t hold a single genre above all others.
I’ve been thinking about a specific preference of mine while reading Leigh Bardugo’s excellent Six of Crows. The story is told in a multi-point-of-view third person. Meaning, each chapter is told in the third but with a skew toward one character or another, and, in this case, the character’s name is at the top of each chapter.
Taken all together, Six of Crows has that sort of dramatic irony that is completely delicious. Yes, delicious. Because it’s “meaty” when we get so see so many sides at once. For example, this is exactly why the Game of Thrones books are so enticing—you are constantly getting another side of a very intricate story.
When it’s done well, multi-POV third can feel like a movie, because that’s sort of how it’s written—a collection of scenes from different view points that make a full and captivating story when combined.
Now, back to biases. I realized when I was reading this book that I almost never prefer books from third person that have a single point of view. Maybe this is bias from writing exactly that way when I was in newspapers. But most of the time, I just think, “Why not just write this in first person?” I feel like third person’s greatest benefit is the ability to have the reader see more than one side of the story. And if there’s one problem it’s that the voice can feel distant as compared to first person.
All that said, it’s not that I don’t like single-POV third person—in fact, if it’s done well, I won’t notice the distance and I’ll feel as close to the main character as if they were telling their story in the first person. (Shout out to my Pitch Wars mentees who have achieved this!)
Do you have a preferred POV? Is it different for writing as for reading or are they the same?