Think of your POV character as your camera. He/She walks through the story giving you a personal glimpse of what’s happening. If your POV character can’t see it, you can’t describe it for your readers. If he can’t hear it, you can’t let your readers hear it. If your POV character doesn’t know it, you can’t tell it. You are bound to your POV character.
Character can’t see it
Suzy stood staring straight ahead. Her ex stood behind her, his arms crossed over his chest, his blue eyes scowling.
- Problem Unless she has a mirror in front of her, she can’t see her ex standing behind her. She wouldn’t know his arms were crossed and he was scowling.
- Fix Use other senses. She can smell him, she can hear him, and she can imagine what he is doing.
Character can’t hear it
Suzy walked down the dark hall. Several floors down, another set of footsteps echoed in the darkness. Suzy had no idea she was being followed.
- Problem For the purpose of this example, we’re assuming she can’t hear two floors down. If she can’t hear it, she can’t describe it. Moreover, if she didn’t suspect it, who is telling the reader this information? It’s not Suzy.
- Fix Set the mood that hints at what you want the reader to fear. You can also have your character imagine the worst.
Character doesn’t know that
Suzy’s ex stood behind the door with a gun, waiting for her to enter. As she approached, she had no idea what was waiting on the other side.
- Problem To be a true third person, you can’t write what your POV doesn’t know. The POV police refer to this as omniscient voice or author voice.
- Fix Your POV can suspect, sense something isn’t right, have a funny feeling, or if her ex is heavy handed with the Old Spice, she may smell him. I think you get the picture.
Other omniscient or author slips
- Suzy got out of her car and headed for the gym. She never realized she had left her keys in the ignition.
- Suzy accepted the date. She wouldn’t find out for several months that it was the worst decision she would ever make.
- Suzy walked by the window and never noticed that someone had left it opened.
I am guilty of committing all of these POV sins. I hope this post helps you as much as it helped me.