Point of View Tips

It was through writing critique groups that I learned about POV--probably one of the most difficult concepts in all of the craft of writing. The only thing I knew about point-of-view when I began was that everyone had one.

In writing, everyone has one too, but it's far better if you as the author decide ahead of time through whose point-of-view are you going to be telling the story. Of course it could be the narrator's point-of-view but then you are distancing the main character(s) from the reader.

Using first person is the easiest POV to use, but even that can be tricky. The main thing to remember is you need to establish who that "I" person is right away; from whose eyes are we seeing this story through.

My favorite is close third person. In my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries, the story is always viewed through her. She's the one who is experiencing everything that's going on. In the narration, everything is what she's doing, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, thinking. When writing these mysteries, I try to climb inside her and see through her eyes. Once in awhile I might do one chapter from another's point-of-view like I did in Invisible Path. The very first chapter is told in first person by one of the main character's in that particular story. It seemed the best way to get his back-story across. From the second chapter on, everything that happened came through Tempe in third person.

In my Rocky Bluff P.D. series I use multiple points-of-view--but only one per scene. In this series I have an ensemble cast of characters. In each book, the reader learns what is happening to the police officers of Rocky Bluff P.D. and to their families and how the job affects the family and what's going on at home affects the job.

In one chapter I may have several scenes to show what is happening to each character at more or less the same time. But each of these scenes is handled as close third person, with the POV character being the one who is telling and experiencing what is going on.

No matter how you do it, the POV character should always be the one who has the most at stake in that particular scene.

Remember, your POV character only knows what he or she thinks, he can't know what anyone else is thinking. He or she can assume, or guess or figure out, but can never know what thoughts are inside another person's head. Also, the POV character can't see himself. He can't see tears welling in his own eyes, but he can feel them. He can't see his cheeks turning red, but he can feel his face warming.

Head-hopping is when the author jumps from one person's POV to the next. Some romance writers do this a lot, especially in love scenes--and I have to admit some do it quite well. But for most of us, it's far better to remain in one POV for an entire scene.

Hope this is helpful.



Phoenixgirl said…
Thank you, Marilyn. I was up so many times during the night trying to figure out what to do, and I think I'm going to take Shirley's suggestion and use Chapter 12 as my Chapter 1 instead. I'm going to investigate close first person POV more today and hopefully I'll get it right. :) Thanks for all your input and help.
Holli said…
I write in close 3rd person, and also use different points of view, but also only use one pov in the same scene. I find head hopping, even in most romance novels, to be a little distracting, but it could be that I was "taught" it was a cardinal sin so I'm predisposed to think it is bad writing.

One of the things I do when I edit is make sure I haven't accidentally shifted my point of views. For example, describing a feeling of a character that the pov character wouldn't know. Most of the time it's easy not to bleed into another pov, but I find in moments of anger, such of heated arguments, or in romantic scenes, sometimes my pov will slip for a sentence or two and I have to read carefully to weed it out.

Holli Castillo
Gumbo Justice
Linda Leszczuk said…
I guess I'm a bit odd. As a reader, I love "headhopping". As long as the writer is clear on whose head we're in at any given moment, I enjoy seeing the scene through different pairs of eyes. Not surprisingly, I like to write the same way, but I have accepted the advice of pretty much everyone and stick to close 3rd person instead.
Hi, Lisa, I hope this helped.

Yes, Holli, it is easy to slip out of someone's POV and I do sometimes too.

And Linda, yes it works if you actually can tell right away who the next POV character is, but if you can't then it can be confusing.


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