Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Importance of Sticking to Your POV

From deep in the trenches of my editing cave, I am peaking my head out.  I have been over my head in revisions for "Nameless" and sorta trying to figure out what to do with the companion novel I'm still writing.  My CP finished critiquing "Nameless" and she pointed out that I'm missing a few things.  A clear resolution, a plot which ends in this novel not just continues in the second, a goal for my protagonist which is clearer.  Yeah.  I have a ways to go.  Most of my revising has consisted of this:

Yep.  Not really getting much done.  But my CP did point out (at least twenty times) when I made a boo-boo with my point-of-view.  I didn't think much about it.  When you write in third person you can use any person right?  Umm... no.

Super quick overview of Point-Of-View (POV):

First person - I, me
Second person - you
Third person - She/he

Example of what you cannot do:

The minds of the young children were swirling with the thoughts of such a delicious feast. They continued to ask her questions until Dalia seemed uninterested.  Edom guessed she was homesick. 

Unless Edom can read their minds – this is a POV shift – more omniscient then limited in the first sentence.  Then it almost feels like Dalia's POV in the second and finally to Edom.  The majority of the novel is from his POV, except when I make big mistakes like that.  Oops. 

Last night, I was reading a book and I became super confused.  The book is written in third-person from the POV of Julia.  All of a sudden, the new chapter started out referring to "he" and the readers gets his actions only and his thoughts.  It took two pages to figure out which male the "he" was referring to.  No mention of Julia until halfway through the chapter when it awkwardly transitions back to Julia's POV.  Umm.... yeah, that didn't work out.

Ways to Prevent Misuse of Point-Of-View

1.  Pick your point-of-view and stick with it
Yes, you are free to change your point-of-view in the revision process, but it has to be consistent throughout the story.  If the story is written in third-person from a certain character, keep it the same throughout.

2.  If you want to use the POV from different characters, make sure it is clearly marked.
Many authors will write each chapter from the voice of a different character, switching back and forth.  Jodi Picoult writes each chapter in such a fashion.  It's a doable technique.  I personally cannot read Jodi Picoult because that POV switching annoys me and I can't read it.  But it can be done.

3.  Remember, you can never be the head of two characters at the same time (exception: omniscient POV)
Edom thinks Dalia is cute.  Dalia thinks Edom is annoying.  It cannot be the same point-of-view.  Edom can guess Dalia's emotions by her behaviors, but he cannot be inside her head.  This isn't Twilight and most people can't read minds.

4.  Find the POV you are most comfortable writing in
Personally, I've written in third person and first person.  Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but both can be strong writing if they are well-written.  If you write in second person, more power to you.  I can't do that.

What are other ways to prevent misuse of point-of-view?  Have you discovered any books where there is POV switching and it is confusing?


  1. I stay in POV easier by putting a movie camera in my MC's hand. If I were filming something, the only things I would be able to film would be what was only in my lens...only what I see.

    So it's the same with the character who is "telling" the story. Only "tell" what the character with the movie camera can see.

    Great post!

    1. I like the idea of putting a camera in the MC's hand! I might have to try that as I'm revising.

      My problem is I have too much "telling" and not enough showing. Frustrating.

  2. Good tips! I occasionally do POV shifts by mistake. Thankfully, my CPs always spot them lol!

    1. It's so helpful to have another set of eyes find those mistakes! CPs are lifesavers!

  3. You've provided some great tips.

    I did Neverlove from 3 character's POV. But I did this from one chapter to the next, alternating. I named the chapter the name of the character to immediately prepare readers for the shift so they can smoothly transition. Also, naming each chapter kept me, the writer, in the right character's head from chapter to chapter.

    1. Thanks Angela!

      It's a great idea to label each chapter so the reader knows and so the writer remembers which head they dwell in. :)

  4. Wonderful post Kirsta. This isn't Twilight and most people can't read minds! Beautiful! I love it. Points of view really do matter.

  5. I am writing a book that does a little head jumping (as I call it). The book has a narrator that is seperate from the character -and and the author establishes the shift in POV early on and sticks with it. But I find it distracting!

    These are some great tips! I find that writing a tight limited 3rd POV can be difficult but the result is a deeper connection between reader and the character. So I think it is worth the effort.

    1. Head jumping is a good way of thinking of it. It sounds like a difficult way to write, but a good challenge!

      I'm hoping it will be worth it if I can every get through it. :)

  6. I do most of what I do like Stare Cat. And I get very easily distracted. Not good. It can be quite difficult not to switch. I've never really understood second person and have not encountered many stories that use it, I think that may be why :) x

    1. I get distracted pretty easily too! It really is hard not to switch since as the author we know the minds of all the characters at once. They like to escape.

      Second person is way too confusing!