Close Point of View, Getting Personal with Your Characters

November 9, 2011 | Writing Craft, Point of View

Close point of view, also called limited point of view, gets you up close and personal with the character who is telling the story. You are in his head. You hear his thoughts and know his opinions. With close point of view, you are able to really get in that character’s body and live the story as this character. Which is why close or limited point of view is so popular with readers today and why I personally love it so much.  Close point of view does have a couple of drawbacks. Both drawbacks/potential pitfalls come with the names close and limited. Read on to learn more about the benefits and drawbacks of the close point of view and how to use it well.

close point of view limited point of view

Example – Why Choose Close Point of View

Recently I was reading a book by one of my favorite authors. This author has a series that I love, and I would without question say he is a fabulous writer. So when I saw he had books out in a series I haven’t read yet, I snapped them up.

And I was shocked to discover that this new series is missing pretty much everything that I love about the other series.

Don’t get me wrong, he is still a fabulous writer, but where the other series felt vibrant and sucked me right in, this new one felt cold and flat. I struggled to get through the pages and kept waiting to feel a connection to the story or the characters—something!

Because I am a big believer that different people like different things, I went to Goodreads to see how other fans had reacted to this book. Well, the bad news for this author is that most fans had the same feeling of let down and disappointment that I’d had.

Flat, cardboard characters. Action that didn’t matter. Those were the types of comments I found.

So what was different? Why did this series not work for so many of this author’s loyal fans? How could he be so good at creating one world and miss the mark so thoroughly with another?

The answer is easy. Characters and the point of view he chose.

The great series, the one I and so many others love, is told in first person point of view. The new series is told in third person point of view. That in itself isn’t or shouldn’t be an issue. (While I personally love first person point of view books, many of my favorite stories are told in third.)

But this new series wasn’t just third. It was third person objective point of view. The reader wasn’t allowed in anyone’s head. We were left floating around above the characters (an ensemble cast) not knowing who we were supposed to latch onto, whose fight we were fighting, or who we should really care about.

And so we didn’t—care that is.

Use Close Point of View to Make Readers Care

When teaching, I see this a lot. Writers spend a lot of time thinking about setting up the scene and perfecting their dialogue, but when it comes to getting deep into a character’s perspective they balk.

Don’t—at least not if you want readers to relate to your characters and care about them. Which for the most part I’m guessing you do. (With the possible exception of a prologue or say a serial killer’s point of view dropped in for dramatic effect.)

Example Objective Point of View

Unsure what I mean when I say get close? Here’s the first few paragraphs from my book Guardian’s Keep edited to take out the internal thoughts and feelings of the character:


The wind howled and leaves slapped against branches. The smell of damp earth and animals was everywhere. Fenrir strode on.

“Garm,” a voice boomed.

Fenrir ground to a halt, the length of chain he held knocking against his knee at his sudden stop. He gripped the links more firmly in his fist.

“Let him go,” he called out.

“Will you come?” the voice asked again.

“Let me see him.” Fenrir demanded.

“If we do, and he’s safe, you’ll come with us?”

Fenrir hesitated. Lifting his chin, he replied, “I’ll come.”


Example Close Point of View

Now the way it is in the book:


The wind howled and leaves slapped against branches. The smell of damp earth and animals panicked by what was roaming the forest tonight was everywhere. Fenrir, the cause of their fear, strode on.

What was his had been taken, and he would stop at nothing to save it.

“Garm,” a voice boomed.

Fenrir ground to a halt, the length of chain he held knocking against his knee at his sudden stop. He gripped the links more firmly in his fist, readied himself to use the makeshift weapon when his opponent decided to show himself.

“Let him go,” he called out, the chain heavy and hot in his hand, his heartbeat slowing as he let his senses travel over the surrounding woods, searching for those who had stolen what was his.

“Will you come?” the voice asked again.

“Let me see him.” A demand this time. Fenrir didn’t believe in playing meek, didn’t know how.

“If we do, and he’s safe, you’ll come with us?”

Fenrir hesitated, his mind going back to Aesa, her face pale, drawn, worried. If he went with them, would he see her again? But…his fist tightened around the chain…if he didn’t, if they went through with their threats? That would kill her…kill him too.

Lifting his chin, he replied, “I’ll come.”


In both of these you get the general idea of what is happening, but in the second example, it is clear who I (the author) want you to latch onto. You also get a look at Fenrir’s motivation that you just can’t get without being pulled in with a close point of view. (Something I really wanted to do for Fenrir as he wasn’t portrayed as a sympathetic character in Norse myth and I wanted to play with what his side of the story might have been.)

Drawbacks and Potential Pitfalls of Close or Limited Point of View

I mentioned in the beginning that there are a couple of pitfalls to close or limited point of view. Both are summed up in those two words: Close and Limited. For this type of point of view to work. You have to be able to narrate the story in that way. You have to be comfortable being close to your character, writing from inside that character’s head. If you want the reader to live the story as that character, you have to too. Can you do that?

The second pitfall is that when you are living as a character, you can only live as that one character. You are limited to that character’s point of view. You can make assumptions as to what other characters are thinking or saying, but only as your point of view character would make those. And it needs to be clear that that is what you are doing. Really, it is like real life. I can guess what you are thinking as you read this, but I can’t know without you tell me. I can’t jump into your head. And with limited or close point of view, you can’t either. You are limited to that one point of view, limited to being inside that one head.

Now, how about how to do all of this? There is one simple trick for those who find it challenging.

Want to play at getting closer to your characters?

Try the old and simple trick of writing your scene in first person point of view first. Really put yourself in the character’s mind and let the story flow. Then later go back and do a simple search for all of the “I” and “me” references to see if they need to be swapped out.

Do this until you get comfortable living as that character.

Worried about getting too close? Remember, you can always cut out some thoughts and emotions later, but my guess? You won’t want to.


Lori Devoti is the multi-published author of romantic comedy, paranormal romance and urban fantasy. She also writes the Dusty Deals Mystery series under the pen name Rae Davies. Look for her workshops at Write by the Lake (DCS University of Wisconsin), at writing conferences, and here at the How To Write Shop. For more information, visit her website.



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