POV-Common Mistakes

0e3e1fc513972cdcccbdac6802ebb6acThink 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.

-Jan R

POV-Common Mistakes

Head Hopping/Inconsistent Point Of View

So I just had a section of the first chapter of the novel I’ve written critiqued by members of Scribofile. Everyone came back and said I had problems with my POV. I was head hopping. I couldn’t believe it. I thought I had figured that one out. I know there’s first person, second person, and third person.

What I was doing was writing like my story was third person omniscient when in actuality it is third person limited. Which means I can’t be in everybody’s head whenever I want to be, I have to choose certain POV characters and stay out of the heads of the rest of my cast, and I have to limit POV switches.

If you switch POV characters to quickly or dive into the heads of too many characters at once, it can Jar the reader and break the intimacy with the scenes main character. In other words, going back and forth between POV characters, can give a reader whiplash.

So how do I fix this? One suggestion I’ve gotten is to actually assign POV Characters( the main characters in your story). Write at least a full chapter from ones POV before switching to the next one.

Another suggestion that breaks it down even further is to read the passage in question, go back and highlight all of the POV words in that section, and change them to match the primary POV that has already been established. For example- If I’m writing in third person, my pronouns should be she/he or her/his not I,me,my or you, yours.

I’m heading back to the drawing board so to speak and attempting to get this POV in order. I would love to hear any other suggestions on POV that may help me in this endeavor.

Please consider joining me on this journey. I blog twice a week with an occasional reedit. You will receive emails notifying you whenever I make a new or revised entry. It is my endeavor to provide useful information and hopefully help you to avoid the same mistakes I have made.

-Jan R


Head Hopping/Inconsistent Point Of View