Point of view means the character whose eyes are observing what happens in the story. A consistent point of view helps a manuscript maintain focus.
There are three types of point of view focus–first person (“I”), second person (“you”), and third person (“he/she”). I have read many books where each of these was utilized successfully, but to break the rules, you first have to understand them.
In this post, I’m focusing on a POV called omniscient third person. (Read this article for information on limited third person.)
Omniscient third person means that a reader gets to view the story from multiple points of view instead of just one. The narrator is, therefore, omniscient, meaning he or she can see all characters at all times. Using omniscient instead of limited can be tricky for the author because it means that there is less of an opportunity for readers to connect with individual characters.
When there is one POV through which the story is seen, readers connect singularly with that character. But when you have 2 or 3 or 4+ characters to see the story from, it becomes easier for the characters to all sound alike.
Another concern with omniscient third person POV is inconsistency and confusion. The story can become confusing if you don’t tie up the loose ends properly.
When omniscient POV works
Omniscient POV is useful when, for example, you are writing a suspenseful novel and you want to show both the protagonist and have shorter scenes showing the evil genius kidnapper. Or, let’s use Harry Potter as another example. JK Rowling used omniscient third person to have scenes from Harry’s point of view and also Voldemort’s.
No matter which you choose, writers and readers alike agree that your point of view needs to remain consistent and be grounded in the world you’ve created. You can’t decide you want to insert a new character’s point of view halfway through the book. It needs to be clear from the beginning whether readers are going to get one or multiple points of view.