You’ve done all the prewriting for your Light Novel (LN) and sit down to finally start writing it for real.
But you hesitate.
At the last second, memories from elementary school come flooding to the surface and you remember the convoluted concept of ‘Point of View’.
Every piece of fiction features a specific point of view (POV). And the Author must’ve spent a great deal of time deciding which one would best fit their story. So, you have to as well, right?
Indeed. POV is not something you can change willy-nilly throughout the course of your LN without consequence. Readers love consistency and any unexpected changes in POV will only serve to annoy them.
You need to decide which POV your LN will feature before you start writing. You could always change it during the editing process, but that would require more-or-less writing your whole LN over again.
But which one is the best for your LN? You’ll be stuck with it for the entire series, so it’s not a decision to take lightly.
Thus, we’ll be taking a walk down memory lane and examining the different POVs in fiction, defining them, and listing their pros and cons.
But first, let’s start with the basics and ask this fundamental question:
What is Point of View When Writing Light Novels?
LNs can be and have been told from every variety of POV. There is no correct answer when choosing yours. Whether a LN becomes a bestseller or not has nothing to do with the POV, but rather how well the Author employs his chosen POV.
But exactly what is Point of View in reference to writing Light Novels?
Point of view is the viewpoint or perspective from which you tell your Light Novel’s story. It’s the voice you use to talk to your readers. That voice typically belongs to the narrator of the story. And the point of view determines that narrator’s relationship to your story.
Which POV you choose ultimately decides how your readers both:
- Connect to your story.
- Receive information.
Each type of POV drastically alters both. And which POV is best for your LN will largely depend on how you want your readers to connect to your story and receive information.
We’ll go through each so you have a firm grasp on their strengths and weaknesses before asking some important questions that will make it ten times easier for you to pick a POV and start writing!
You might’ve thought I’d start with 1st Person POV, seeing as it’s well, first. But. Everyone else does that and it’s better to start with the most popular POV and work our way down. Feel free to skip around and come back if it annoys you.
What Is the Third-Person Perspective When Writing Light Novels?
Third-person perspective/POV (TPP) features a narrator who exists outside the story. And I’ll detail it further, but an example works best upfront:
A muffled scream resounds down the hall. Yosuke knows the enemy is in the area. But they shouldn’t know how to reach the hideout. “What’s going on?!” He kicks the door down, dust flies as it collapses to the dirt floor. A man clad in desert camouflage and an iron mask presses a knife to Yukari’s uncovered throat.
TPP allows you to tell a story about any character from any perspective. Much like in a TV show or film, you can bounce from character to character, the narrator functioning as a floating camera. Rather than see the story unfold from a character’s eyes, the narrator exists outside the story.
Hence the use of character’s names (Yosuke, Yukari) and pronouns (He, She, Him, Her) in the prose.
However, there are two varieties of TPP.
The first is as you just saw, Third-Person Limited (TPL). In which, the narrator is focused on one character’s perspective.
We see the story solely through Yosuke’s perspective. At least for this particular scene. Even if using TPPL, you can swap to another character’s limited perspective in the next chapter or scene.
The second is called Third-Person Omniscient (TPO). Again, an example is best (we’ll continue and transform the above story):
Yukari didn’t expect the enemy to come up through the floor and into her room. She wonders if he dug a tunnel just to get to her? If not for the knife nibbling her neck, she’d be glad to see Yosuke come to rescue her. But it’s hopeless. He’s walked right into a trap.
TPO gives the narrator complete knowledge of every character’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. Not only can you relay Yosuke’s thoughts on the situation, but also Yukari’s—all in the same scene. The ‘camera’ doesn’t cut to another scene, but simply moves behind someone else.
You should never switch from TPL to TPO whenever you feel like it (like I just did). Once you establish whether your narrator is limited or omniscient in their knowledge, you’ll want to stick with it for your entire story. You can switch between chapters, but it’s far too jarring for the vast majority of readers, so don’t bother.
Anyway, I personally despise writing in TPP, but it is the most popular POV for LNs for multiple reasons.
Those of which I will cover below along with some cons in an attempt to fill the world with more First-Person Perspective LNs…
The Pros and Cons of Writing Your Light Novel in Third-Person Point of View
There are many benefits to using TPP, each related to how much control you gain over your story by employing it.
However, each of those supposed benefits can harm your story if used incorrectly.
Let’s take a look at each:
Contrasting Points of View
TPP allows you to tell your LN’s story from as many perspectives as you like. And not being stuck with one character is useful for three reasons:
- If using TPO, you can offer multiple perspectives on the same scene (Sakuya might have no idea Kaito is hitting on her, but Hiyori does).
- You can bounce between totally different locations at will. Chapter 7 might follow your protagonist, while chapter 8 could reveal what the antagonist has in store for her.
- Your story will rarely be called boring. Because your able to utilize different viewpoints, which have unique voices and opinions, you don’t run the risk of boring readers by leaving them with one character’s POV for the entire LN.
While you wouldn’t easily be able to establish unique ‘voices’ for every character using TPO, you can with TPL. The latter of which is the golden standard for LNs.
The following is in reference to TPL.
For every character and POV you have, you’ll want each of them to be unique, or at least distinct from one another. Needless to say, this is difficult if you have a million POVs.
On average, LNs don’t exceed 50,000 words, so you don’t have a lot of room to develop more than a handful of your character’s voices. Because of this, LNs rarely feature more than 2 or 3 POVs during a volume. Many don’t exceed 1 despite using TPP.
TPP requires expertly-executed character development to avoid having your characters called ‘under-developed’.
I outright avoid novels that have more than two POVs because I know at least 33% of the novel is going to bore me to tears.
Unless you are 100% positive you can make the character whose eyes we are seeing through genuinely interesting to read about, don’t waste your readers’ time.
A Far Greater Scope of Your Story
Not only can you give readers access to the knowledge of multiple characters, you can also provide knowledge your characters don’t have if using TPO.
If only looking through one character’s POV, the reader misses out on a lot of information.
Yosuke might not see his comrade training his sniper rifle on Yukari’s captor, but in TPO, the narrator does and can relay that information to the audience.
This greater scope allows you to provide plenty of details about your story and world that a first-person narrator wouldn’t be privy to.
Any mysteries your characters fail to solve or important clues they miss won’t harm the reader because the TPP narrator can solve or point them out at any time.
Telling your audience everything, however, has the negative side effect of yoinking them out of your story at Mach 5.
If we see something your characters can’t, we’re subconsciously reminded that we’re reading a story. The proverbial camera zooms far out and we no longer see from one character’s perspective, but the narrator’s, who we understand to exist outside the story. And by extension—outside the action.
This damages a reader’s immersion every time you do it and will eventually destroy it altogether. You can avoid this by strictly using TPL or not oversharing the information you possess using TPO.
Your Reader Trusts What You’re Telling Them
TPP implicitly tells readers that any information relayed is 100% true.
A narrator who exists outside the story knows everything happening within the story and has no benefit to lie to the readers. There’s a benefit to not telling readers everything for the sake of tension or mystery, but only a character within the story would gain anything from outright lying to readers.
This isn’t necessarily a pro, but is worth noting as your narrator is obligated to tell the truth at all times. Unreliable narrators only work in First-Person Perspective (FPP).
Your narrator has to tell the truth 100% of the time. Not the whole truth, but you cannot lie.
In FPP, an unreliable narrator can pull the rug out from under the audience and be respected for it. Readers will be prompted to go back through the novel and try to figure out what is and isn’t true.
Conversely, if a TPP narrator lies, then readers have to assume everything in your entire LN could be a lie, which completely ruins their immersion and can make them feel like you’ve wasted their time.
Allows for Greater Tension
Because you can swap to the antagonist’s POV at any time, you can reveal information your characters won’t know until it’s too late.
This is one of the most effective ways to build tension in your LN. The reader knows something bad will happen and no choice but to watch helplessly as disaster falls upon your characters.
The most famous example is a scenario posed by Alfred Hitchcock that goes something like this:
There’s a bomb under the table. The audience knows it will go off in five minutes, but the people sitting at the table talking don’t.
Thus, the audience is filled with dread, wondering if they’ll discover the bomb in time or if it will blow them to smithereens.
This sky-high tension, of course, keeps them glued to the screen until the end.
The above trick definitely works. It’s easy to use and can be used over and over again with no real consequence.
That said, it can all feel a bit trite after you’ve been reading LNs for a while.
I mean, if I know there’s a bomb in Michiru’s backpack, I’m subconsciously left with only two conclusions.
- She gonna’ die.
- She not gonna’ die.
There are obviously other factors at play (Will there be other victims? How will she disarm it? Will someone else save her?), but no matter the method, there are still only two real outcomes.
Personally, upon encountering this narrative trick, all I can think about is skipping to end to see whether or not she died. I mean, technically, I already know what’s going to happen, why bother reading any more than I have to?
Yes, yes, call me lazy, but I’ve encountered legions of readers who claim to skip every fight scene they come across just to see who won so they can get on with the story.
Mastering this trick requires that you make your readers really care about the outcome. Fights only get skipped when they’re just fights. A fight full of character interaction or introspection that adds to the story as a whole demands to be read.
Focus and Control
TPP allows the narrator to direct readers exactly where you want them to go. There’s an implicit understanding that everything the narrator notes is worth noting—that it’s important to your LN’s story.
This gives you greater focus and control over your LN as a whole. Just like a film where only the best or most important scenes make it to the final edit, so too does using TPP allow you to deliver a highly-curated experience.
This makes your LN feel much tighter and well-paced overall.
However, when you deliver that curated experience, it can harm the reader’s personal experience with your LN.
Mysteries are fun because the reader spends much of the reading experience trying to solve the mystery on their own. They immerse themselves in your story by taking on the role of detective.
But when you spoon feed readers everything they need to know, there’s no more guesswork and their immersion suffers as a result. Rather than be in the story, the reader feels as if he is floating above it.
You can of course deliver a story full of intrigue in TPP, but it’s far simpler to pull off when using FPP where the narrator has limited access to information.
Should You Use Third-Person Limited or Third-Person Omniscient in Your Light Novel?
As you might’ve noticed, the pros and cons of TPP differ depending on whether you’re using TPL or TPO. So, which is better for your LN?
The answer depends on your story’s specific needs, but I would go with Third-Person Limited every time.
The vast majority of LNs are writing in TPL for two key reasons.
- A singular protagonist is instrumental to the story and is present in every volume.
- TPL offers a more intimate connection with the story compared to TPO, so it’s easier for readers to insert themselves into the role of protagonist (who is typically a blank slate to make that insertion process easier i.e. any harem protagonist)
TPL is instrumental in delivering a story that is seen primarily from the eyes of a single character.
TPO is useful when a lot of different characters are integral to delivering your story. However, most LNs are short in length and therefore don’t allow space for so many unique perspectives.
All that said, I’d still like to dissuade you from employing TPP at all if your story is going to be focused primarily on one character’s POV.
I’ve encountered many LNs where TPL is used, but only one character’s POV is utilized for about 90% of the LN. Only when the protagonist is rendered unconscious or the author wants to add some tension by cutting to the villains discussing their plans does the POV switch.
So, I have to ask—what’s the point?
If 90% of your LN is shown from the protagonist’s POV anyway, why not just use First-Person Perspective and double down on immersion?
You should use TPPOV if you have a genuine need to share multiple POVs, but why bother if you only have ten pages worth?
Obviously, this is my bias talking, but one I’m going to back up in the next section.
Let’s dive into in ins and outs of First-Person Perspective.
What is First-Person Perspective When Writing Light Novels?
The First-Person Perspective/POV (FPP) is used when telling your LN’s story solely through the eyes of your narrator. You relay only that single character’s thoughts and feelings.
The reader sees your story unfold the same way they experience their own lives. Not with the camera behind them, but being the camera themselves.
That said, there are two methods of delivering a story told in FPP.
The first is called ‘central’, in which the narrator is also the protagonist who is the primary focus of your story (the most common for LNs). An example:
An iron fortress blots out the night sky. The stink of death penetrates deep into my burning nostrils. I try to press onward, but fear glues me to the blood-soaked cobblestone floor. Why did I think a coward like me could save her?
Take note of the pronouns. ‘I’, ‘My’, and ‘Me’ are what you’ll be using in FPP. But you also need to remember to use ‘grouping’ words like ‘We’ and ‘Our’, which are first-person ‘pronouns’ even if you don’t think of them as such (like me). Example:
TPPOV: They reached the capital.
FPPOV: We reached the capital.
Simple stuff, but easy to forget if you’re not used to writing in FPP.
The second variety of writing in FPP is called ‘peripheral’, in which the narrator isn’t the protagonist, but instead tells the protagonist’s story.
This technique is useful for making the story’s focal point more mysterious or when you want to offer an unbiased perspective. Example:
I met Michio during our first year of university. He was an odd fellow, but hardly shy. Plenty of friends, a new girl on his arm every weekend, and a star member of several clubs. Which made his unfortunate turn toward madness all the more curious.
Right off the bat, we know the ‘I’ is Michio’s friend, but that the narrator’s story is largely irrelevant. He wishes only to tell Michio’s story and the Author has decided it is best told from a friend’s perspective rather than from Michio’s personal perspective.
This ‘peripheral’ style, however, is reserved primarily for anything but the LN genre.
Teenagers being the target audience for LNs, it’s better to have the story told from up close where the action and excitement is, rather than from a thoughtful distance.
And that’s about all there is to say regarding what exactly FPP is. However, don’t think you can only feature a single character’s POV through your entire LN.
Just because your story is told in FPP doesn’t prevent you from telling your story from multiple character’s POVs. Chapter 1 could feature Yukari describing the situation from her eyes, while chapter 2 could unveil it from Yosuke’s.
That said, you don’t have a lot of room to develop each POV, so I wouldn’t go over three unique perspectives in a single volume. I myself don’t dare go over just one.
Anyway, I adore FPPOV and will be happy to elucidate you on its many benefits. But they’re not easy to utilize effectively, so there are just as many cons I will
begrudgingly share with you as well.
The Pros and Cons of Writing Your Light Novel in First-Person Perspective
All the pros of using FPP stem from its inherently immersive qualities.
However, immersion is difficult to achieve in general and even harder to maintain, so FPP can be a double-edged sword.
Let’s look at each benefit and its potential drawbacks to see if using FPPOV is right for your LN.
Intimacy and Immersion
Upon encountering personal pronouns, readers will feel a sense of immediate intimacy with your protagonist. Rather than from far away like in TPPOV, we see the story directly from his eyes. On a subconscious level, the reader is ‘physically’ close to your protagonist.
This is useful for LNs in particular for two reasons:
- It creates instant immersion. The reader is smack-dab in the middle of the action and is able to experience your story unfold from up close.
- If using a blank-slate protagonist, readers will more easily insert themselves into your LN if they see personal pronouns. When the reader reads ‘I’, they don’t read it as your protagonist’s ‘I’, but their own. As far as their subconscious is concerned, they are in the story.
Obviously, this allows readers to more easily immerse themselves in your world.
Plus, any tension or strong emotions your protagonist experiences are imparted onto the reader. If well-written, when your protagonist experiences anxiety, fear, or joy, your readers will too. Every emotion you hope to manifest in your readers will be twice as potent in FPP.
This intimacy only works if you have a truly interesting narrator. Immersing readers is only possible if they’re interested in your story to begin with. And if the character telling the story delivers it in a boring way or is boring themselves, readers will barely have their toes in, much less be fully immersed.
So, while blank-slate protags are common, I strongly advise against them. There’s no real benefit to having one. Readers are easily able to insert themselves into the character of James Bond who is anything but boring.
Despite there being very few men who can relate to such a character, they can immerse themselves with ease because of the Author’s excellent writing.
Hence the con, you must be able to create an interesting narrator and write them well. Failure to do so can negate any sense of intimacy.
Ability to Control Information
When your story is told from a singular POV, you give up the power to tell readers everything going on in your story.
Just like you yourself, your narrator can interpret things only from her perspective. She is incapable of knowing what other characters are thinking or what might be happening outside of her view.
This provides endless opportunities for mystery and intrigue in your LN. Just as your protag is left in the dark regarding the antagonist’s true intentions, so are your readers. You can freely control what information readers are privy to by filtering your story from a singular POV.
In TPP, readers don’t necessarily expect to have everything spelled out for them, but will be annoyed if you withhold important information until the very end. They’ll feel as though you robbed them of information necessary to enjoy the story.
Conversely, FPP allows for just that. The readers cannot feel robbed if your character wasn’t granted the information either. They are equals.
Furthermore, you can utilize the ‘unreliable narrator’ trick. Because your character has their own unique perspective and biases, the story she delivers may not be the whole truth. She is capable of withholding information or outright lying to readers or herself. A common trope being ‘the protagonist was the true culprit all along’.
Readers won’t feel robbed, but cleverly deceived and will want to go back through your story and look for clues leading them to the truth.
Both TPP and FPP allow for different forms of information control, but it’s easier to craft a mystery told in the latter.
But all that power comes with responsibility.
All the information you withhold from your narrator will eventually have to come out in order for your story to make sense. The more you withhold, the harder it will be to make convincing and meaningful when the end arrives.
Nothing is worse than pulling a ‘deus ex machina’ and calling it done. You can because its not like your characters or readers would know any better, but cheap is cheap and should be avoided at all costs.
You can circumvent this by having your protag gain bits of information or come across clues that point to the truth throughout your LN. But managing and balancing that can prove challenging for fledgling Authors.
And in regards to using an unreliable narrator, you MUST provide plenty of clues and foreshadowing throughout the text to suggest your narrator might not be telling us the whole truth.
If you tell readers he’s the true murderer in the last chapter without a single line of text suggesting it up to that point, they will be very, very upset.
When manipulating the flow of information, you have to be extra careful to make sure every detail is accounted for.
Offers a Unique Voice
When writing your story from a specific character’s perspective, you tell it in that character’s unique voice.
In TPP, the story is relayed through ‘the Author’s’ voice. The writing style and word choice are the same regardless of whose POV we’re following.
But in FPP, you can tell your story from a more unique, distinctive voice. Your protag is a unique individual with his own history and biases. The way he experiences the world is totally different than an omniscient narrator’s dry, fact-driven delivery. Let’s look at an example comparing the two:
TPP: A deafening gunshot resounds. Yukari’s face twists in horror as her captor’s head explodes seconds before sinking his knife into her neck. Yosuke dives, dragging Yukari down with him as he prays the sniper is on their side.
FPP: Boom! And then a sickening pop. The freak’s head explodes like a watermelon dropped off a skyscraper. A sniper. Friend? Foe? Doesn’t matter. I hit the deck, taking Yukari down with me. Please, please let it be Hayato.
Both work, but the latter reveals so much more about Yosuke’s character. The way he interprets a situation is totally different from the other characters. And you can reveal that so much more easily by utilizing FPP.
Crafting a unique voice for your narrator can prevent readers from getting bored if your story isn’t particularly compelling. They may not care what’s happening, but enjoy seeing how your protag reacts to it.
In telling your story through one character’s voice, you naturally have no choice but to keep using it.
This can prove difficult for a couple reasons:
One, you must make them interesting. A boring FPP narrator is far worse than any dry omniscient one.
Unless you establish your narrator as interesting or capable of telling your story in an interesting way, readers will dread being stuck with them for an entire LN.
And two—you cannot break character.
Let’s say your protag has an overly strong sense of justice. His decisions and the way he looks at the world must reflect that even if you yourself don’t agree with him.
Or, let’s say he’s uneducated, your word choice will be severely limited as it wouldn’t make sense for him to use college-level vocabulary.
A unique voice is great for developing your protag, but can prove challenging to maintain in the long run.
(Seemingly) Easier to Employ
I’m inclined to doubt this claim given the amount of TPP fiction in existence, but apparently, beginning Authors find it far easier to write in FPP.
The reason is obvious. You live your real life in first-person and filter everything through first-person pronouns, so writing it comes naturally.
I agree completely as I’m near incapable of writing in TPP. I just don’t understand how to distance myself from the story. To write it, I have to be in it.
Writing from a floating camera’s perspective doesn’t flow as well as writing it from ‘my’ perspective.
If you have a similar outlook, I recommend you stick to FPP. There are many who would tell you to challenge yourself to overcome your weaknesses and write in TPP. But I say do the opposite.
Why work on your weaknesses only to become average? Why not focus on your strengths and become an expert?
If you prefer FPP, use it. If you prefer TPP, use it. It’s as simple as that.
Did you notice that ‘Seemingly’? That’s right. Writing in FPP may be easy, but writing well is anything but.
In fact, many Authors use TPP even if they don’t like it because they were told it’s easier and less risky. This is true.
And I could tell you exactly why utilizing FPPOV well is so hard, but it would be another 5,000 words. Instead, I will link this reddit post that provides a deep dive into how to use FPPOV correctly.
In short, you have to do a ton of extra work to immerse readers, not break character, and manage information. Problems more easily avoided when using TPP.
What is the Second-Person Perspective When Writing Light Novels?
Alright, we’ve reached the final stop in our
overlong journey. One at which we will not be staying for long.
The Second-Person Perspective/POV (SPP) in writing is when the protagonist or character in the story is explicitly the reader. Yes, a story told from second person is referring to you, the reader.
I’ll provide two examples:
A cacophony of boiling eats all sound. Your feet burn as your eyes open wide. Rivers of blood bubble and dance, pulling you beneath ruby waves. Your skin cracks and warps as it’s dyed that hideous color. But before all is lost, you wake. In an empty room, you lie upon white tiles, no pain, but your skin remains the same scarlet hue.
SPP puts you into the story. It works well with horror or other dream-like scenarios. And while it’s certainly unique and is the ultimate form of immersion given it literally shoves the reader into the story, it’s difficult to utilize effectively.
It can work and has worked in fiction, but I would avoid it entirely or only use it in short bursts. Unless perfectly executed in every way, SPP will rarely be seen as anything more than a gimmick.
But it’s not completely worthless as a POV.
The second example is this entire article. I rarely refer to an abstract entity, but to you, dear reader. When suggesting what actions to take, I tell you specifically to do them.
And this is where SPP shines brightest. Not in fiction, but non-fiction. Self-help books and online tutorials are the most common examples.
Basically, don’t bother with SPP when it comes to LNs. I’ve never come across it while reading LNs and have trouble imagining a single instance where it would come in handy.
Which Point of View Should You Use in Your Light Novel?
Decision time has come. The only way to get on with writing your LN is to pick a POV from which to tell your story.
And if you somehow didn’t reach an answer after combing through above wall of text, there’s no need to fret. It’s an important decision as you’ll be forced to stick with it for your entire series. I don’t want you to take it lightly which is why I tried to provide as much information as possible.
So, here’s some questions to ask that will help in choosing your POV:
- What POV am I most comfortable writing in? Do some practice runs.
- How many characters should be telling the story? One, two, ten? Are you able to make them all interesting enough to warrant their input?
- How much control do I want over the story? Do I want readers in the dark or well-aware of what’s going on?
- Am I aiming for contrast or immersion?
- Do I want readers emotionally close or distant to my story?
Once you’ve answered those questions, take a look back through the pros and cons of each POV and you should know which one is best for your LN.
Your chosen POV isn’t as important as writing well, but choosing the right one for you will make writing a bestseller so much easier.