POV, baby

POV (Point of View).For a long time, I thought this only meant two things.First, whether you’re using first or third.Second, headhopping is bad.I knew I used third unlimited (more than one character gets a POV) and I did my best not to headhop.At least consciously.

Turns out, there’s a world more information about POV that I was in dire need of.Here’s what I’ve learned about POV from a couple of really great books (I’ll include two of my recommendations at the end of this post) and the wonderful critique group I joined.Boy, they keep me honest about POV.(For the sake of my sanity, I am only referring to third person.If you don’t know what that is, check this out.)

  1. A character can’t know something they don’t experience.They can’t know who came into the room behind them until they turn around, they can’t know that another character is confused (unless you SHOW them behaving in a confused way), and they can’t tell you what another character is experiencing.Sorry, not possible.Unless your character is psychic, I suppose.But mine aren’t so… moving on.
  2. It’s important to delve into what’s called deep POV so you can express what the character is feeling, thinking, etc.If we’re going to be in someone’s head, and we can only experience what they experience, we should be getting the full treatment, at least.
  3. No headhopping.Yeah, I already said that, but it bears repeating.The temptation to headhop is to tell the reaction of a different character to what is happening.So, really, it’s the temptation to tell instead of show.I don’t need to hear that Sue is angry.She can storm from the room and slam the door.Hey, I get it.Sue is pissed.
  4. POV characters have to matter.This from Orson Scott Card’s Character & Viewpoint.It’s easier for the reader to make the transition in POV if they already know the character and know the character is important.So be careful not to hand out POV scenes like candy.This is serious business.It’s more like handing out your credit card.

Books referenced in this post include Revision And Self-Editing (Write Great Fiction) by James Scott Bell and Elements of Writing Fiction – Characters & Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing) by Orson Scott Card.


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