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.
You definitely need to know what point of view you will be writing your novel in before you begin. The most common point of view is Third Person. That is the one I have chosen although I have veered from it a time or two.
What is point of view? It’s the way the author allows you to “see” and “hear” what’s going on. Veteran editor Dave Lambert says, “No decision you make will impact the shape and texture of your story more than choice of Point of View.”
There are three points of view:
- First Person – When a character in your story narrates the story with I-me-my-mine in his or her speech. Harper Lee’s novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is told using this POV. We see everything through Scout’s eyes.
- Second Person – You rarely see books written in this POV. The author uses you and your to draw the reader into the story making them a part of the action. This POV is considered to be a daring choice and only recommended in certain situations.
- Third Person – Is the view of an outsider looking in. There is third-person omniscient, in which the thoughts of every character are open to the reader, or third-person limited, in which readers enter only one character’s mind. The difference between third-person limited and first-person, is in third person limited the voice you hear is the author’s not the character’s.
The secret to making your POV work is limiting it to one perspective per scene, chapter or book. When you start jumping around from one POV character to another in the same scene/sentence/paragraph you have committed a cardinal sin. Agents call it head bopping (being in the head of more than one character at a time). I’m familiar with this one because it’s one of the most prevalent problem’s in aspiring authors. I have gotten dinged for this. The literary agent will kick it back.
If you are writing in Third Person and Lauren is your POV character, you can’t write “Lauren said she would meet Janie at the mall but Janie didn’t believe her” because you only know what your POV character (Lauren) knows. You don’t know what Janie thinks but you may have an idea. You can say, “Lauren said she would meet Janie at the mall, but she could tell from her friend’s response that she didn’t believe her.”
Hope this helped somebody. There is a lot more information on POV on the internet. This was a hard one for me to grasp.
I would love to read your comment on this post or any of my others. The purpose of this blog is to build my platform but also to help you avoid the mistakes that I made.